As families and communities, we are wading our way through masses of uncertainty at the minute, which can be quite stressful. What helps is having a regular routine or rhythm at home—this is good for us as parents but it’s especially important for our children. When they know the plan, they feel secure and this enables the freedom to explore, concentrate and learn.
Routine, however, is not always easy to both establish never mind maintain; especially at toddler age. Transitioning from one thing to the next (getting dressed, eating breakfast, then brushing teeth, putting on a coat and leaving the house) involves a lot of different steps in a time frame that might not make sense to a 3-year-old who wants to play longer or wear a summer dress in minus two-degree weather.
It’s tricky but there are a couple of things that are sure to make transitioning between tasks easier. The first is consistency and the second is choice.
Consistency: a consistent routine will go a long way to keeping this great wide overwhelming world somewhat in check for our children. Of course, not every day is the same and life does not always go according to plan but a general sense of rhythm means that children know what to expect in their day and they will learn to act according to that expectation.
Choice: children feel included and in control when they are able to participate in decisions, and we can facilitate this sense of autonomy by giving them tailored options— “Would you like to wear the blue jumper or the red one?”, “Can I help you with that or would you prefer to do it by yourself?”, “Would you like a story in mum’s room or in your room?”.
Popular amongst Montessori families is the use of routine cards as a tool to encourage patterns of behaviour at home. You could buy them or make your own but essentially, they are cards with words and pictures (photos of your child in action or simple images depicting an action) that describe the steps it takes to complete a particular routine. This could be getting ready in the morning, using the toilet, eating dinner…and so on.
You’d introduce the cards to your child at a quiet time when you know you won’t have to rush away. Together, you’ll choose the things that need to happen as part of the routine (so, in the morning: wake up, use the toilet, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, shoes & coat, leave home) and create a routine set with the cards—you could hang the cards up (peg them on a line), stick them on a board, laminate them and add them to binder rings like a little book.
The thinking is that when children are finding it tricky to transition from one step to another, you can refer back to the routine cards and remind them of the rhythm you created together. You may not need cards for every part of your day but they may be helpful for particular things or at times when your little one is tired or hungry.
We hope you have fun with this idea!