Children Love Routines

Audrey Okaneko

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One of the reasons children will sing the same song over and over again is because they love routine.

Think of a preschool classroom. The children follow the same routine every day. They begin with hellos and independent play. Children know that day after day when they arrive they will have time to play. My own children hated the phrase “we are running late" when we were getting ready to leave for preschool. They wanted that play time.

From play time the kids move to circle time. For both of my kids, in two different schools, this was the morning routine, play time then circle time.

Now think of elementary school. The children quickly learn the classroom routine. Their papers are turned in at the same place daily. This might be the teacher’s desk, or it might be a bin in the back of the room, but for the entire year, the kids know that when they need to turn in papers they go in the same spot as yesterday. My kids knew which day of the week was library day, which day of the week was computer lab day and which day of the week the science specialist would visit their classroom.

I can even share a junior high routine story. At the junior high my kids attended, the kids had 6 classes each day. They had four before lunch and two after lunch. Once each semester the kids would have a “backwards day". All this meant was that the kids would attend their classes in reverse order. My kids loved this day. They wrote down their schedules, planned how they would get from class to class and talked on the phone for hours with their friends about this day. Even at junior high age, our kids are so accustomed to routine that breaking the routine for one day caused days of planning. Yes, it was fun, but it was reason for kids to plan ahead.

If preschool, elementary school and junior high school feel it’s important for a routine, wouldn’t it seem natural to try and have a routine at home? While we certainly can and do make spur of the moment decisions, we also have always had a lot of routine. For example, we leave the house at the same time every morning for school. There is never any question about what time we’ll be leaving. I’m going to ask every single morning if everyone has everything they need as there is no turning around. I’m going to ask what everyone wants for breakfast and lunch each and every morning. I’ll make everyone different sandwiches, and then stick in fruit, chips or a granola bar.

Dinner routines are also pretty standard in our home. We eat dinner about the same time every single night. After dinner, it’s homework time. When kids know what to expect and when to expect it, it takes a lot of stress out of their lives. There is no uncertainty about when or how things will happen.

Sport practices and dance classes can be part of the routine. If the kids know they practice on Tuesday of every week and when they get home, they will change and then have dinner, then homework, it’s a routine. It may be different than Monday’s routine but the kids know what to expect each and every week.

I have found that routines have helped create some calm in our home with everyone being a little less stressed.

Audrey Okaneko is mom to two girls. She can be reached at or visited at


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