If you regularly bring your little learner to her day care center 20 minutes late, simply because you don’t think a 3-year-old really knows the difference, then chances are you don’t understand the importance of her school’s daily routine. While day cares don’t stick to a strict bell schedule like your 12-year-old’s middle school does, the importance of the repetitive, step-by-step pattern that is your preschooler’s day is something you should understand and respect.
Schedules vs. Routines
While you might think of a schedule and a routine as completely synonymous, these two ways of looking at time do have some differences. A schedule typically includes set times for events to occur, while a routine is more of a regular pattern of events. For example, a day care schedule may include breakfast at 9 a.m., free play at 9:30, a bathroom break at 10 and lunch at 11. On the other hand, a routine may look more like, regular play-time after breakfast and nap-times every afternoon. While both schedules and routines do have their merits, the national early childhood organization Zero to Three cautions parents against using a center that forces very young children to eat or sleep at specific set times.
Knowing What to Expect
The unknown doesn’t exactly feel comfortable to most young children, or older kids and adults for that matter. The daily routines at your child’s day care center can help him to understand what to expect and let him know what comes next. For example, if your preschooler knows that he will eat directly after art time, he is less likely to pitch a fit when he starts to feel the late morning “hungries” sneak up. Instead, he will expect that lunch-time is right around the corner, just like it is every day.
Your toddler or preschooler’s routine isn’t just important to her, it’s also key to your peace of mind and sanity. Just like your young child wants to know what to expect, it’s likely that you do too. Understanding that drop off is at 8 a.m. and pick up is at 3 p.m. each and every day can help you to plan out your own schedule, and feel comfortable scheduling that mid-morning appointment — knowing that it won’t conflict with your preschooler’s day. Additionally, knowing the school routine can help you to plan for special events or occasions. For example, if you are bringing in a birthday cake — or whatever celebration treat the school allows — you can use the center’s daily routine to gauge what time you should show up.
Kids who aren’t used to moving from one activity to another, and even some of those who are, can get out of sorts when it comes to transition times. A daily routine in your little one’s day care will prepare her for those entirely not fun times when she needs to stop one activity and move on to the next. A well thought-out routine, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, can minimize transitions and make the day easier for the young learners. For example, a daily routine that includes arrival, breakfast, center time, clean up and lunch allows for a minimal amount of transitions. If this schedule were to change by the day and feature more transitions to other activities, chances are that your child will find it much more confusing and difficult to follow.