7 March 2024

Why bother with routines

Early Learning
Why bother with routines
Why bother with routines
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The end of the school year: the summer holidays are ahead, families are spending time together, it is lighter later, there’s no school lunches to make, no rushing out the door, mealtimes and bedtimes seem more flexible – life has a different rhythm, and many routines go out the window.

Fast forward, and the school year has begun – in fact we are already into March – there are lunches to make, clothes to get ready and a whole list of things to do today before the tomorrow comes. Regular routines have begun again. Although we sometimes rally against the schedules, there is something comforting about routine for adults and children alike. What we love about holidays and long weekends is the letting go of routines, and yet, we seem to eagerly await the return of the schedule.

In early childhood, we value the importance of routines for many reasons, including that they provide children with some predictability, creating a sense of safety and reducing stress. This is especially important when there may be new challenges for children, such as starting school or kindergarten, moving house or the birth of a new baby – familiarity, reliability and knowing what to expect in other aspects of life can be very helpful for children.

Additionally, routines support the development of healthy habits, like cleaning your teeth, washing your hands and having a bath, for example. Rituals are a form of routine too, like around birthday celebrations or special Friday night dinners. These routines create a sense of belonging and togetherness.

Routines can also help children develop responsibility at home, such as by the setting the table for dinner or packing up toys. In the ELC, we have routines for children packing up together at the end of different periods of play, learning to work together in a shared task. Routines can help develop time management for older children, too. When children know what the routine is they can become more independent. In the ELC at the end of quiet time, children from the three-year-old groups are supported to pack up their quiet time bedding. We can already see developments in children’s independence since the start of the term in this routine task, and some children are even now supporting others.

Throughout the day in the ELC, we have established routines for gatherings for different types of activities, like having a story, coming together for a morning meeting, assembling to head to the art room, music room, library or hall – these are all important, as the routine around these events enables smoother transitions and helps children feel safe, secure and that some parts of life are predictable.

This week in the ELC, many children learnt a new type of routine gathering: gathering in central space for a visitor. Our visitor, Tom the beekeeper (Carey staff member and Head of Carey Zero), came to share his knowledge about bees with the children. It presented the opportunity for a new routine to develop, one where they sit as a group close to others, listen patiently and ask questions respectfully.

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Both the Victorian Early Years Framework (VEYLF) and the revised national Early Years Learning and Development Framework (vol2) reference the importance of routines helping children develop a sense of their own identity and help to build a strong sense of belonging. This is very much a goal for all children for throughout the year, but has particular emphasis in Term 1 as children settle into new rooms, get to know new educators and children and develop their sense of belonging to the ELC community.

Wendy Seidler
Director of ELC Kew

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