Having a routine for your child to follow may seem like simple common sense, but even the experts agree that in order to feel secure, your preschooler really needs a daily routine.
"Routine is to a child what walls are to a house; it gives boundaries and dimension to his life," says Rudolf Dreikurs, child psychiatrist and author of Children: the Challenge (Plume).
During the preschool years, a child is highly receptive to routines and as she learns to follow them, she'll gain more confidence and self-esteem. "Routines give a child a sense of mastery," says Dr. William Sears, author and pediatrician.
A familiar routine gives children the opportunity to make their own contributions to the flow of events. Once a child knows what to expect, he can take a more active role in the family. For example, a preschooler who wakes before everyone else and heads to the kitchen to get out the bowls and spoons for cereal is actually taking great strides toward independence and learning the importance of teamwork at the same time. This is a clear example of the power of routine to release your child's potential.
A routine isn't necessarily a rigid timetable, but rather a predictable sequence of events followed day after day. Children feel secure when they know what to expect: playtime follows breakfast, naps are usually after lunch, we clean up after supper, and bedtime usually includes a story and prayers.
Since life with a preschooler is filled with unexpected events, leave room for flexibility. When it's clear your child's routine will change a bit, talk to her ahead of time: "Mommy's going to visit Grandma for a few days, and Daddy will be here with you while I'm gone. You can call me after you get dressed and before you go to bed." With enough information, a preschooler with a regular routine is likely to handle changes easily.1