Thursday, April 24, 2008

The importance of a routine for kids

The differences in the nature of children in the same family never ceases to amaze me. Cinderella (4) is very organised - down to putting her clothes for the next day out on the end of her bed before she goes to sleep. It's not something we've taught her do do, it's just part of who she is. As Cinderella and Little Mermaid (2) share a bedroom, I think some organisation skills are rubbing off onto Little Mermaid, although it's a bit hard to see where she falls at the moment.

The Engineer (6), on the other hand, while not disorganised, is very easily distracted from a task he has no interest in. No matter how early we got up in the morning, no matter how much nagging, escalating to yelling I did, we would still have a mad rush to get him ready for school. Except of course, if there was something exciting on at school that day, in which case he'd be ready to go at 7:00am!

We've tried a number of approaches to improving The Engineer's focus - threatening to take him to school in his pyjamas (he'd get dressed but leave his shoes and socks off), reward chart, telly off and so on. None of them made much of a difference. I was still yelling at 8:45 to get him out the door. I'm sure the neighbours think I am some kind of crazy woman :-)

After a chat with his teacher, we decided to give him a small, written routine that he has to follow each morning. This is something I learnt was useful for myself, but for some reason it never occurred to me to do a written one for the kids. I went one step further and did one for after school as well (yes, we were also squeezing in the homework at 8:30am). Here's what they consist of:

Morning Routine

Get up and have a cuddle with Mum and Dad
Eat my breakfast
Make my bed
Get dressed to the shoes
Brush my teeth
Brush my hair
Make sure my reader and lunchbox are in my bag
Have a play

After School Routine

Unpack my bag
Have a snack
Practice my spelling
Read my reader
Have a play

As you can see, they are simple and there is a major drawcard at the end of each one - PLAY.

Now all The Engineer needs to think of in the morning is to look at his routine. He doesn't have to try to maintain the list in his head, where it would inevitably be competing with a bunch of other much more interesting things. If he forgets where he's up to, he just needs to go back to the piece of paper and he's off on the right track again. So far it's working wonders. He's taking a maximum of 20 minutes to get ready (after cuddle time). And you can tell when he's up to the last item on the routine because a huge grin crosses his face. Sooo much better than having me yell at him all morning!


Anonymous said...

Hi Journeyer

I just found your blog and you've got some really interesting posts here. We struggle with the morning routine with our oldest daughter (nearly 5) too. Every day I seem to be nagging and nagging her to get ready for school and homework in the afternoons. I'm going to try out your written routine idea and see if it helps. Thanks for the tip!

Journeyer said...

Thanks Guera. We still have the odd hiccup, but there has been a really visable improvement. He has decided to take the routine with him when we go away this weekend! I hope a written routine helps with your daughter.

PlanningQueen said...

For some children it is so much easiter for them to get organised if they have a visual prompt. My eldest was (and can still be) like this, so we do a very similar thing at our house.