Rituals and Routines Save Your Sanity: Part III

Favorite Songs and Games for Transitions:  Part Three in a Four-Part Series on Rituals and Routines

So, when I had kids, I began to go about creating routines and rituals for our household, and I discovered that they shifted and changed growing as my children did.  Here are some of the favorites I have collected.  Most are ideas for creating routines, a few are both rituals and routines in a way, and there are few that are just simple tips I’ve added in to smooth transitions.  Some may even be familiar to you from the classroom.  I’d love to hear your ideas as well.

General Notes

Sing whenever you can.  Kids pay more attention when you sing.  Use Kindermusik songs and just change the words to fit.  Make things silly and playful.  Make transitions a game.  The more you can make routines fun, the more likely your child will cooperate and that you find what used to be a chore is now a time for you to connect with each other.

Wake-Up Routines

A big part of how you start the day has to do with how you wake up.  If you are greeted with lovely birds and bright sunshine you might feel better than if you are greeted with cold cereal and a grumpy brother, though some people are simply slower to wake up than others no matter what the circumstances.  Regardless, greeting your child with a smile and a cheerful attitude in the morning will help them have a better start.  Here are some other things you might try:

  • a hug
  • a smile
  • the smell of a hot breakfast (eggs, warm bread, or bacon)
  • a morning song – “Morning Song” from our current baby and toddler classes is perfect.  You could even add a verse with your child’s name.
  • a greeting that’s the same everyday – “Good Morning, Sunshine”

Diaper Change Routines

If you have a squirmy little one, a few routines can make getting a diaper change easier and sometimes even pave the way for potty training.  Try:

  • Any of your favorite fingerplays, body tickles, or finger/toe tickles from class.  These can definitely help keep a squirmy child from trying to flip over while you change them.
  • Make up a chant or song to signal it’s time to go for a change.  Maybe something like “Don’t you know it’s diaper time, diaper time, diaper time, Don’t you know it’s diaper time, Time to get a change” to the tune of “London Bridges.”
  • Add the American Sign Language Sign for CHANGE to you repertoire.
  • Hand your child a toy to keep them occupied at the changing table.

Getting Dressed Routines

Depending on your child’s age, the process of getting dressed can feel like battle.  Here are some short routines that might make this more fun:

  • “The Getting Dressed Hokey-Pokey”

You put your right arm in (wiggle it into a shirt)

You put your left arm in (wiggle it into a shirt)

When you have both arms in (because it usually takes more time)

Then you shake all about.

You do the hokey-pokey and you turn yourself around (either turn around with a standing child or roll arms/legs)

That’s what it’s all about (clap hands).

Repeat for other clothing articles.

  • Give your child choices:  “Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt?”
  • Lay out clothes the night before to make this go faster in the morning.
  • Hide and find body parts while dressing.  For example, put one arm in a sleeve and ask “Where did your hand go?  Can you find it?”  Go looking for it as you pull it all the way through.
  • Ask older toddlers/preschoolers:  “Do you put your pants on your head?  Do you put your pants on your ears?  Do you put your pants on your arm?”  (possibly even demonstrating the silliness)  “No?  Show me how you put your pants on.”

Mealtime Routines

Everything goes more smoothly with a song.

  • Get your older child to help set the table.
  • Provide toys to keep your child occupied.  Actually, this works well regardless of age, whether you have a baby or an 8 year old.  I know some folks ban toys at the table.  I know others who keep a small box of toys or books for outings at restaurants or even at home to help kids both young and old stay at the table for most of the meal.
  • Make a habit of having older kids wash hands before coming to the table.
  • Sing a clean-up song as you wipe faces and hands at the end of meal.  (My brother-in-law uses the Kindermusik song “Shake Your Eggs” but changed the words to “Wipe, wipe, wipe your hands, wipe, wipe, wipe your hands, wipe, wipe wipe your hands, and now let’s stop.”  You could just as easily sing “This is the way we wipe your face” to the tune of “The Mulberry Bush.”
  • If you begin meals with prayer, consider allowing the kids to pray in a special way, maybe a song or a special prayer of their own.
  • Consider having your children make (or pick out and purchase) placemats to indicate their special places at the table.  Even young toddlers love this idea, and many placemats either have activities on them or interesting things to talk about and identify.   My favorites are made by Crocodile Creek.
  • Practice saying “please” and “thank you” even if you’re just using the American Sign Language signs.

Cleanup Time Routines

Cleanup Time always makes me think of “Mary Poppins” and “A Spoonful of Sugar makes the medicine go down.”  What a wise woman!

  • Consider a song as your cue.  You’ve seen this work with “Instruments away” in class.  But you could also use:

Don’t you know it’s clean-up time

Clean-up time, clean-up time

Don’t you know it’s clean-up time

And everyone get’s to help!

(To the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”)

  • Put on some fun music.  I personal much prefer to do housecleaning to music, so why wouldn’t children feel the same way.
  • Make it a race.
  • Count things as you put them away.  “How many cars do we have?”  Another way to do this is “How high do you think I can count before you put all the stuffed animals away?  Do you think it will take to the count of 15?”
  • Use a toy to help you.  What if a favorite stuffed animal helps pick up all the blocks?  Or maybe he whispers in your ear that he and his friends are ready for bed.  Puppets are especially good cleanup helpers, though I have seen Thomas the Train give some great clean-up suggestions.
  • Play beat the timer.  Set a timer (with a microwave, digital, or egg timer) and see if you can get everything cleaned up before it goes off.
  • Take the opportunity to help your child learn to sort by color or shape or even size.  “Oh, let’s see if we can find all the blue dinosaurs first.”
  • Give your child choices:  “Do you want to start with your room or the playroom?  Should we put the books away first or the animals?”

Bathtime Routines

Last fall, I actually wrote a whole post about bathtime rituals and routines, but in case you need a couple of extra songs you might add another version of “This is the way we take a bath” with that good old’ “Mulberry Bush” tune or try “Wishy Washy Wee!” from the Our Time:  Wiggles and Giggles curriculum.  You could even use “Sing Together” from our current baby class but change the words to “Scrub, scrub together, merrily merrily scrub.”

Bedtime Routines

Again, we have a whole separate post on the topic of bedtime routines and sleep, simply because there can be real magic in bedtime routines.  However, here are some of my other favorite bedtime routine suggestions:

  • Create a special goodnight kiss, whether it’s a butterfly kiss, an eskimo kiss, or another kiss of your own invention.
  • Say the same words every night as you tuck your child into bed.  At our house we always say “I Love You.  See you in the a.m.”  My Dad always used to say “Sleep tight.  Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”
  • Go on a walk around your house or your child’s room turning out the lights.  You could even stop along the way to say “good night” to toys or other favorite things just like in the classic Good Night Moon.
  • Snuggle.  How did I leave this out the first time?  Wow.  Snuggling is different from intentional touch or massage.  I’m talking about those moments you’re just still, curled up together.
  • Use bedtime music or some form of white noise.  Each of our children has their own sleep music to cue them that it’s time to go on to sleep.  It really does aid the transition (in fact, now my hubby and I are trained and any time I hear this music I start to get sleepy and my heart rate goes down.)  Kindermusik makes great lullabies for this very thing and even has a couple of albums devoted to lullabies you can find at http://play.kindermusik.com.  However, I do caution you that some sleep experts recommend weaning your child off tools like this over time.  Likewise, there are some concerns that the use of white noise for sleep may cause speech delays.  There are trade-offs.  White noise does block out a lot of extra sound from the house, making bedrooms much quieter, which has proven very useful keeping one child asleep when another awakens at our house.

There are plenty of other great moments you can involve in your routines whether hellos and goodbyes at school or church, getting into and out of the carseat, or other regular parts of your day.  Use your creativity and a dose of fun, and you’re sure to create a more joyful day together.  Routines and rituals can only help.

Be Sociable, Share!
2 Responses to “Rituals and Routines Save Your Sanity: Part III”
  1. Erika
    04.06.2011

    Great ideas! Thanks, Joy!
    We also use the helper to do many things – “Would you like to help Mommy get dressed and then Mommy will help you get dressed?” “Can you hold the diaper and hand it to Daddy when he’s ready?” “Would you like to use the step stool to help do dishes?”

  2. admin
    04.06.2011

    Oh, yes. Being a “helper” can be a huge incentive for lots of kids! So glad you mentioned it.


Leave a Reply