AUTHOR: AMANDA STROPES ; CLINICAL DIRECTOR
Back to School: Importance of Structure and Routine for Healthy Child Development
The summertime can mean relaxation from routine and structure for many families. This can mean different wake-up times and different evening activities and schedules. But as the summer comes to an end and the school year comes back into full swing, it is important for families to begin to again focus on structure and routines.
Why is structure and routine so important to developing children?
- Cognitive Development: One of the most significant outcomes of healthy structure and routines for children is enhanced cognitive development. Cognitive skills are the core skills the brain uses to think, read, learn, remember, reason and pay attention. A consistent bedtime and enough hours of sleep each night are very important for healthy brain development.
- Independence: Routines can also help children become more independent. Children need a sense of direction to function. Children like to know what is going to happen and when because it makes them feel like they have some sense of control. The sense of what to expect in daily routine helps foster this independence.
- Coping Skills: Children also learn healthy coping skills through structure and routine. Children feel secure and comfortable when they have routine which allows them to cope more effectively when something stressful is occurring as they still have consistency in their day to day routines.
- Success: Finally, routines are the basis of success. Time management is a skill that is learned through a consistent routine. Children that have daily chores understand what it means to be responsible. Structure also aids children in establishing important healthy habits such as brushing their teeth and waking up on schedule.
What are some ways that consistent routines and structure can be developed in the home? The following are some good starting points and ideas for setting expectations in the home:
- Morning: Set a consistent time to get up remember that children need 9-10 hours of sleep each night to be at their best, brush teeth, and have a healthy breakfast.
- After School: Allow time for a nutritious after-school snack, a short play break and then a set amount of time to complete homework. You can also create daily chores that are age appropriate for your child such as setting the table, feeding pets, and cleaning their bedroom.
- Bedtime: Have your children get in the routine of taking a bath/shower, pick out their clothes for the next day, read a book and most importantly-have a set bedtime.
Tips for parents include checking and preparing backpacks the night before, packing lunches, deciding breakfast and ensuring shoes are by the door