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Creating Routines

Stéphanie Poulain, Speech Therapist (Orthophoniste)
Bien à la maison, bien dans mes routines. Routines are repetitive and predictable habits and actions that occur in your daily life. They are different depending on a person’s family life, priorities and plans. My intention is not to describe the perfect routine because there is none. My intention here is to tell you why your children need a routine, and how you can provide one
Why create routines ? 
  • Routines help structure time, for the day, for the week. It gives children a sense of time and helps them understand how the world works.
  • Routines provide reassurance: children know what to expect. They are not afraid of what to expect. They manage their emotions better, release their stress. Transitions become easier.
  • Routines provide a stable framework with rules for living at home and in the classroom.
  • Routines promote language development and memory.
  • Routines build independence by providing opportunities for repetitive learning in a natural, enjoyable but structured way. When your child understands the routine and can do it himself, or even complete it, his independence and self-esteem increase.
How do you create routines? 
  • By using a visual calendar to organize the day, weeks, months with pictures, symbols, words. There is one in every classroom at school, adapted to the age.
  • At home, it is actually a great craft activity to do with your kids. Add pictures of your kids doing each activity. Most kids like to participate in taking the pictures and sticking them on the schedule, making it "their schedule" instead of "your schedule.”
  • Daily routines are opportunities to talk with your child and help develop communication skills and language. Each routine consists of a series of small steps, such as opening the car door, climbing into the seat, sitting in the seat and then being buckled in. You can choose a specific routine that you break down into a series of small, consistent steps. Make sure to conduct the routine the same way each time, saying the same words at each step to help your child become familiar with how it works and with the language you are using: spatial and temporal prepositions, temporal adverbs, successive action verbs.
See an example of successive actions verbs useful in the hand washing routine (picture carousel on the right)
A Canadian speech-language pathologist explains in a podcast how to use 4 routine activities like laundry, dishes, cleaning and outdoor chores to stimulate language development.

Tell a bedtime story. Your child would benefit from sharing this time with you. It is a special time with communication and interaction around text/pictures. Your child feels valued. When the story begins, your child knows that bedtime comes next. Quiet reading is also a good way to fall asleep faster. EB's library is a great resource, full of wonderful books for all ages. I encourage you to pick some up during parent library time!

Routines can be updated, modified of course. Perhaps there is an eclipse you would like your child to see, and bedtime needs to be shifted a few hours so your child can have that rare experience. Maybe you're going on vacation, or someone is coming to visit, and daily routines will be temporarily different. In these cases, enjoy the spontaneity and new experiences!

Verbalizing the change, explaining what is happening and what to expect will help your child accept and adjust better.  Children sometimes have a hard time adapting to "non-routine" situations, which is understandable when you know why your child needs his routine so much!  

You can modify the routine as you learn what your child can handle and what he finds enjoyable. Routines can be made from anything a parent and child do together regularly. The best learning opportunities are the ones that are the most interactive and fun.

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