Thursday, 09 September 2021 01:28

Predictability and Routines

Predictability and Routine are two words that are vital for your child to thrive. We all develop routines for key moments of the day and for key life celebrations, it is a way of building healthy habits and for sharing our beliefs and values with our family and friends.

For children, predictability and routines are at the core for feeling safe and secure, for developing a sense of belonging to a family or group and for developing essential life skills. Routines ensure we brush our teeth, take our medicine and connect with our own body clock, helping us develop an understanding of when to eat, drink, play, rest and sleep.

Experiencing these regular and predictable routines enables children to develop their body awareness and understand their body’s own cues. It enables us as adults to reflect with children about how their body feels when they miss or delay any routine moments and help them notice the impact it has on their well-being. We can support them to notice the changes that occurred in their feelings and behaviour. We can use these moments to empower children, providing opportunities for them to become more self aware and confident by understanding that it was the slight change in routine that made them a little more emotional because they were hungry/tired etc. Yes we want our children to develop resilience, however to become resilient you need to develop an awareness of predictability, knowing that that things will eventually be ok again, realising that you still have some control of your body and the environment even though the routine let you down. Using routines as learning experiences is what helps children be prepared for future life challenges, through their understanding of belonging they can learn not to doubt their sense of self and believe in their sense of purpose in this world.

Through an ‘Erikson’ theory lens… Babies rely on routines to develop an understanding of who they can TRUST to meet their needs for survival and safety (versus MISTRUST). Toddlers need routines that acknowledge and support their INDEPENDENCE, allowing time for them to experience some control and showcase their physical skills to develop self-confidence and AUTONOMY, without feelings of SHAME or DOUBT creeping in. Preschoolers use routine moments to sense their value. When families and educators listen to the child’s voice and value their feelings, then children will experience more control and power in their environment, helping them to develop INITIATIVE and purpose. Without feeling like an important contributor to routines, 3-5 year olds can feel rejected and develop GUILT.

Through a ‘Bronfenbrenner’ theory lens… We need to consider the well-being of each individual in the family unit as well as their support systems and the broader influences on the family. The slightest change, disappointment or inconsistency can have a compounding affect throughout the whole family and impact the predictability of family routines as well as the well-being of all family members. This is where our team reflection sessions consider our relationships with families and combine it with our knowledge of the the BeYou framework to discuss potential elements that could be impacting our children's routines and their family routine. Through this reflective approach we can set up systems and opportunities to help support them, sometimes our chef Crisy will make meals for families to give them a break so they can spend more time together.

For parents and caregivers, well planned, regular and predictable routines should make family time together enjoyable and special. They should be designed to reduce stress. Think about your morning routine before you come to childcare and compare it to your morning routine on days you are not going to childcare. Do they look or feel similar? What is different? Why?

A predictable home environment and stable morning routine can help support your child’s separation at childcare each morning. While we have a predictable daily routine at childcare/preschool, we can only try our best to ensure predictability for children on arrivals. Unfortunately with rotating rosters and educator illness/absence, it won’t always be guaranteed that your child’s primary carer will be there to greet them. This is why we have developed our secondary care systems in each room and have regular familiar relief educators. These are all learning moments for your child to develop resilience, knowing that even though their special person isn’t on site, their daily routine will be the same and they will see their person again soon. 

What about when your child goes to sleep thinking they will scooter to childcare in the morning and then the morning routine has some hiccups and the scootering doesn’t eventuate, it can set the tone of their day, all of a sudden everything they thought was predictable is now in doubt. That seems small compared to big life events like a new baby, pet, house guest, illness, relationship breakdown or moving house. To a child, anything that throws their routine and predictability out the window is big, our families and educators have experienced the behavioural changes in children when this occurs. So how can we maintain predictability as our routines evolve?

Think about what the special ‘connection moments’ in your routines are. For me and my family it is mealtimes, as this is when we have our biggest chats about the world, our dreams and our well-being. So we cook meals together, serve meals together and eat together, we clean up together and make lunch boxes together, on the weekends we go out for breakfast together. These are fun predictable moments in our routine and if there is unpredictability ahead I let my child know in advance, “Mummy is going to work early before you wake up tomorrow, but Nan will be here and you can show her what to do and show her how you get dressed and can make breakfast all by yourself, if she does things a bit different that’s ok.” Our routine is continually evolving, especially considering my rotating work shifts, but it is important to note that my child is always part of that evolution, for example she wanted to swap out playing UNO before bed so that we could watch the olympics together and I thought that was a great idea. What made me smile most about this conversation was that she had come to me with a consultation mindset because she is beginning to understand the importance of working as ‘team family’. The fact that like most parents I can’t always get her to go to sleep at night is ok with me, because no matter what time she wakes up, she knows the routine to expect and we can talk about how she might be a little slower because her body didn’t get as much rest.

Sarah B our Bottlebrush Team Leader would also like to share her family routine with you…. Like Ollie, my family’s routine also evolves constantly. We split the week into 3 parts. The weekend, my home days and my working days. For my two children, we start each day working out which day of the week it is. If it’s a Monday or Tuesday both my sons know it’s “not a childcare day” which means I am not working. This indicates that our mornings are a little slower and more relaxed. We take our time to get ready but still follow a step by step routine of breakfast, getting dressed and organised for the day. 

On my working days we have a quicker paced routine which needs to be predictable to make it efficient. We use lots of verbal reminders and we also have a written routine on our kitchen wall for my 6 year old to use for cues. 

Our evening routine is fairly rigid in that we have dinner, playtime, bath, story and bed. On the weekend this will be more relaxed. 

As much as I know my children thrive on routine and minimal screen time, I’m a realistic person who sometimes uses bribery, incentives and any means necessary to get out the door. I’ve learnt that you have to do what works for you but predictability is key in our house. 

What works for Sarah's familiy is different to what works for my family and both will be different to what works for your family. Some family’s get organised the night before and others on the morning of. It is a tricky balance that involves including the strengths of all your family members in the routines you develop at home. No matter which family member you are, when we all know what to expect and we feel power and control with whatever our role is, we become a healthy functioning unit who can transition from day to day without drama and stress. Fairness, responsibility and turn taking are also key elements of a regular family routine. Don’t forget that as children develop they can help to plan your evolving family routines, your children’s ideas might even surprise you.

If things change at home or you need extra support from our end with separations, please let us know and remember we are a community and we are all in a routine together.

We know your arrival routines have changed at MICCC since COVID but here are just a few tips that may help make your morning separations more predictable and successful:

  • Time your drop off so it doesn’t feel rushed for you or your child
  • On your way to childcare engage in positive conversations about what they might do on arrival or who they might see
  • Do one quick and meaningful activity with your child before you leave, even if this is helping them put their bag away or put their sunscreen on
  • Make your child aware of the educators you can see on arrival and help them find an experience to separate with
  • Encourage your child to walk in by themselves carrying their own bag, this will become part of their independence routine
  • Avoid physically handing your child to an educator, instead ensure your child is at floor level or on a couch so we can keep within our health and safety policies/practices.
  • Never leave without saying goodbye and once you leave continue on your way so children can begin to predict the pattern of the drop off routine, we will settle your child. 


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