Young children usually adapt to household routines easily.

The Importance of Structure & Routine for Children

by Karen Hollowell

Your toddler or preschooler turns into a terror when he misses his nap, right? Sleepiness explains some of his foul mood, but consider this, too: You interrupted his schedule. Most adults don't like last-minute changes either, but young children especially need a structured environment with a daily routine that builds a sense of security and bolsters physical, emotional and cognitive health.

1. Temperament

Routines and structure help create a calming atmosphere in your home. Of course, they won't guarantee your youngster will never throw a tantrum again -- wishful thinking, right? But the predictability and consistency of a daily schedule help young kids be less anxious. A child who isn't worried about what's coming next in his day is more likely to have a calm temperament that everybody in the house will appreciate.

2. Expectations

When your toddler or preschooler adapts to a routine, he is actually in a better position to look forward to special, nonscheduled events like a trip to the zoo or the park. This should be a tip-off that structure in your youngster's day is a good thing, not a way to quash spontaneity. Instead of seeing your child become regimented and robotic, you will watch him anticipate fun occasions while remaining secure in the knowledge that his normal routine will resume afterward.

3. Behavior

Self-discipline is one of the main advantages of establishing routines and a structured environment. Your child will be less likely to throw a fit when you turn off the television or run the bath because she will already be expecting these things to happen. A routine also teaches your child responsibility for the things she can do independently, such as brushing her teeth or picking up her toys. This can help put an end to many arguments in the future, speeding up bedtime and letting you kick back and relax a little bit sooner.

4. Ability to Adapt

Having structure and routine also benefits your child because it teaches him how to adjust to a schedule. This doesn't mean his every waking moment has to be planned with no deviation, but it will help him learn to get used to having specified meal times, quiet times and the all-important bedtime. He may have an easier time adapting to routines once he's in school since he's used to having one at home, too.

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