Why are Routines so Important for Kids?

A new school year is a time of change for children and setting a routine can help them manage their stress and transition from the summer schedule to a new school routine.

We often struggle with change. As humans, we develop routines and derive a sense of security from knowing what to expect and when. Change can cause anxiety and uncertainty, resulting in stress. This is especially true for children. A new school year is a time of change for children and setting a routine can help them manage their stress and transition from the summer schedule to a new school routine.

Why are Routines so Powerful?

1. Set Expectations. Children often fear the unknown. Knowing what to expect and when to expect it provides them with consistency and reduces this fear. When a child knows what to expect, they become more confident, independent, and begin to learn responsibility. Even in the younger grades, children can be responsible for choosing their own clothes, brushing their teeth, and making sure everything they need is in their backpack.

family looking at floor plans2. Reduce Stress. Routines benefit the entire family. When everyone knows the routine, the household is generally calmer. Routines make sure daily tasks get completed in a timely manner and reduce the occurrence of forgotten tasks or last-minute crises. There are generally fewer power struggles as children accept that this is just the ways things are done.

3. Create Family Bonds. Routines can also be used to reinforce family bonds and develop family traditions and rituals. For example, older children may flinch at hugs and kisses when leaving for school but may find a special family handshake or fist bump acceptable.

calendar elements4. Easier to Manage Change. Routines should be consistent but flexible. No two days will be exactly the same, but minor changes are managed more easily within the structure of a routine. When setting a morning routine, build in extra time. There are always unexpected things that arise and a time buffer will make them less stressful.

A Getting Ready for School routine should start the night before. As part of the bedtime routine, a child may choose their clothes for the next day, make sure all needed school items are in their backpacks, and check the calendar for any unusual activities that may require a special outfit or signed permission slip. Everything should be placed together in an obvious place, so nothing is forgotten as they leave in the morning.

sleeping toddler5. Healthier. Making sure the child gets enough sleep is critical not only to the morning routine but to ensure the child has a productive school day. Bedtimes should be set to allow for adequate sleep. Alarm clocks allow the child to be in charge of waking up, but they may need a little nudging. When waking a child – be cheerful and upbeat. If the child likes to snuggle – build it into their morning routine.

Once children are up and moving around, create a routine for regular activities like getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing hair and teeth, and putting on shoes and socks. Younger children may need reminders and motivation. Again, be positive and upbeat and whenever possible, give the children age-appropriate choices. The goal is to give children a good start to their day.

Children tend to do better with structure provided by consistent, predictable routines. Routines help families organize their activities and reduce some of the uncertainty and stress inherent in any family. It’s worth the time to create and write a routine, posting it on the refrigerator so everyone has a visual reminder.

How to Help Children with Homework

Heading back to school, children may have anxiety about their new schedules and how to manage their homework.

Heading back to school, children may have anxiety about their new schedules and how to manage their homework. After becoming a teacher, I finally understood the benefits of students completing homework. Homework is designed to help students review key concepts and provide extra time to practice new skills.

Homework should be a review of what the student learned in class that day and is intended to be completed with little assistance. It is important for students to practice what they learned in class before coming to school the next day when the lessons likely expand on their skills. Therefore, if a student doesn’t complete his or her homework, not only will their grade suffer but they will begin to fall behind in future class lessons.

child studying

Since homework is intended to be completed independently, what is your role as a childcare provider? Your role is to facilitate the student’s learning as they complete the tasks assigned by his or her teacher. If written homework is not assigned that day from the teacher, students are still expected to practice reading and math skills. As a childcare provider, you will need to facilitate this practice by focusing on math activities and daily reading. You may need to have workbooks or create flashcards and math games.

Here are 5 factors to help students with homework:

Organizing the Environment

An important success factor is an organized and quiet student environment with all the needed supplies available. The student should have a hard surface to write on and a more comfortable spot on the floor or couch for reading. If the child likes to move around a lot, a clipboard can be used to write on. If the child likes music, keep the volume low to make sure that the environment isn’t distracting the student.

clockTime Management

On average, homework should take 10 minutes per grade level. So, if a child is in 2nd grade, they should have 20 minutes of homework and if they are in the 4th grade they should have 40 minutes of homework a night. In reality, homework may take longer or a shorter amount of time depending on the student. A child may be below grade level in a subject and need more time to complete the work.

Have the child work as much as they can before taking a break and allow the child to complete whichever assigned homework assignment they want to do first. If the child is having a hard time staying on task, set a timer for 10 minutes so that the student can see it. If a child is struggling with a problem, have them skip it and come back to it. Some schools require 30 minutes of reading each night in addition to assigned homework. This can be independent reading or partner reading depending on the age and skill level of the child.

Working Independently

It is very important for the child to complete his or her own homework independently. Homework is created to be a practice of the skills learned in class. If the student does not fully understand the homework, you may need to provide some assistance, but you should never do their homework for them. You can help the child by asking them to do the best they can and reviewing their work when they are finished with each problem. It is okay for the child to have to struggle a little bit. Remember that it is practice.

child making paper collageManaging Emotions

Try to put yourself in the child’s shoes. They have already been at school all day doing work. They may have had a great day or a bad day and this can influence their mood in the afternoon. Plus, not understanding how to do a task can be frustrating. Be patient with the child and try to gauge their attitude when you greet them and ask them how their day was. While working with the student give positive words of praise and reinforcement. Instead of “good job” use more direct words of reinforcement such as:

  • I like how you took your time on that problem
  • Great job remembering to do______
  • I like how you went back and corrected the pronunciation of that word

Taking Breaks

Children may need a break between homework assignments but be aware that some children may use this as an opportunity to avoid completing work. Keep breaks limited to 5 minutes and under 10 minutes of they are getting a snack. Continue to tell the child how much time they have left and use a visible timer. The following are great ideas to help a student clear their mind before refocusing:

  • Take a restroom break
  • Have a snack
  • Take a power walk around the room or hallway
  • Get up and stretch
  • Play a quick game of Simon says

Remember the age of the child and what attention span is developmentally appropriate. K-2nd students will have a much shorter attention span than 3rd grade and up. Keep this in mind when you are giving students breaks or pushing them to finish a task.

A childcare provider is a very important person in a child’s life and education. Children need assistance and a childcare provider with the proper training will be able to facilitate the student’s learning. By organizing the learning environment, being aware of time management, helping the students work independently, managing the child’s emotions, and providing appropriate breaks, the childcare provider will provide the needed assistance to help their charges complete homework and be prepared for the following school day.

To learn more, a Helping with Homework course is available with enrollment in the Advanced Childcare program.

About the Author: Chelsea Herndon has a Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education and an Educational Specialist in Elementary Education both from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is a certified teacher in grades pre-school through 6th grade. She was previously an elementary teacher in Alabama and Washington, DC and is currently a doctoral student at Auburn University.

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