The weather is glorious and so much is changing with the season -- it’s the perfect day to take your budding scientist outside on a walk. You expertly scheduled this day out, and somehow all you can manage to do in your allotted time is get your toddler to put his shoes on the wrong feet and walk half a block. We’ve been there. Time works differently for tiny humans, but we’re here to invite you to embrace it, as much as you can.
How, you ask? By changing your mindset and moving away from a schedule dictated by time to a routine guided by benchmarks.
First, let’s talk about the difference between routine and schedule.
Schedules are time driven; think following a scripted timeline. At 8:00 a.m. you eat breakfast. At 8:30, you brush your teeth. At 9:00, you put on shoes. You get the point.
If you are having a great conversation or exploring a cool leaf outside, you may have to cut it short to meet the schedule. Caring for young children on a schedule can be very triggering… for both the grownups and the kiddos. Children often feel their goals and tasks are interrupted, which can cause tantrums and moods that bleed into the rest of the day. Grownups always feel behind and have to deal with the aftermath of a disappointed, interrupted kiddo.
Routines are based on benchmarks; which is more like following a checklist. First you eat breakfast, then you brush your teeth, then you put your shoes on. If you’re having a great conversation or exploring a leaf outside, you finish the task and make up the time later (if you have to).
Here's the deal
When you are working with, caring for, or watching children, we recommend mustering as much flexibility as possible within a predictable routine. Every day (or most days) you do the same thing, in the same order every day, but the amount of time on each task varies depending on the day and activity. This means that you may not eat lunch at the same time every day, depending on what happened in that day’s routine.
Having a predictable but flexible routine allows for children to more fully explore their interests, environment and world, while still giving everyone the wiggle room that mediates meltdowns and difficult transitions.
A couple things to note! We’re not saying kiddos run the day. You are still the grownup. Even with a routine, we have to transition through the rest of our day. Unfortunately, no one can paint pumpkins ALL DAY.
As a grownup, it is our job and role to give kiddos boundaries and time limits. However, with a routine, you give yourself and your kiddos flexibility. When they want five more minutes, they can have it without making you feel late. When you find something cool on a nature walk, you can add 30 minutes to outside time.
Changing your mindset from a schedule to a routine actually means you have more control of the day, so you can focus on the important stuff -- keeping your family happy, healthy, and learning!