Rituals and Routines Save Your Sanity: Part I

Part One of a Series on Routines and Rituals

You may have heard it before, and it is indeed true – rituals and routines are great for kids (and grownups, too).  Routines help us feel safe.  Routines give us order.  Routines help us be productive rather than wasting time trying to think about what we need to do next.  And rituals?  Rituals help us connect to one another.  Rituals provide a rhythm to our days or years that is comforting.  Rituals help give our lives meaning.

Okay, that sounds all pretty, but let’s be a little more concrete.  Here are 3 things routines  and rituals will do for you:

  1. Routines make life more predictable, which in turn helps us feel more safe, secure, and competent and reduces tantrums (which can occur at times when children feel insecure or like life is out of their control).  In terms of classroom settings, we know that regular classroom routines setup an optimal learning environment for these very reasons.  When our brain doesn’t have to focus on asking “Am I safe?”, it can begin to work on other more important things.  At Home: Whether in class or at home, set a schedule for the rhythm of your day.  It doesn’t have to be carved in stone but knowing we eat, then have cleanup time, then have bath, then snuggles, then bedtime makes it all a little easier.
  2. Routines make transitions easier. Again, when your child knows what’s next, those transitions from one activity to another aren’t quite so hard.  In fact, I highly recommend creating routines/rituals for transition time, which can be a prime time for difficult behaviors.   At Home: If you have a “clean up song” or a “bathtime song” that you use all the time, your child is more likely to jump in with the routine as you may have noticed with our “clean up song” at Kindermusik.  Perhaps you need a good routine for goodbyes or hellos at daycare or Parent’s Day Out.  Maybe you could smooth the transition to leaving a favorite activity or place with a simple routine of counting down – 5 more minutes, 3 more minutes, 1 more minute, okay time to go!
  3. Rituals help children cooperate. Rituals often appear in the form of regular games, songs, rhymes, or activities that create moments of connection.  For grownups we often have greeting rituals (a handshake or a hug), birthday rituals (a special birthday meal perhaps), holiday rituals (going to see a special parade every year), or faith rituals (such as observing Lent).  For kids rituals are the activities you learn at Kindermusik, the butterfly kisses you give every time you pick them up from school, or the last words you say every night at bedtime “I’ll see you in the a.m.” or “I love you all the way to the moon and back.”  These moments help you provide that quality time to your child, that connection they so desperately desire, and studies show that 5 minutes a day of play that helps you connect to your child significantly improves compliance.  At Home: Think about favorite rituals from your childhood you’d like to share for birthdays or holidays.  Reflect on special nighttime rituals you remember whether sweet backrubs, repeated phrases, or a special kiss or hug.  And definitely use some of your favorite bounces or songs from your Kindermusik class.  Activities like lap bounces (Bazoo, Bazoo Butz or Baby-O ), fingerplays (Ten Fluffy Chicks or Wash the Dishes), and hide-and-seek games (I See You or Little Bo-Peep) are especially great for establishing this kind of connecting time for babies and toddlers.  Even preschoolers love revisiting some of these old activities or might find some of the same kind of connection through things like pretending to take pictures in the city with 1, 2, 3, Click! or hunting for the lost dog Bandit.

Read Part Two, in which we talk about setting up a routine to make getting through the day a whole lot easier.

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