A routine is anything that we do with regularity. For example, a bedtime routine for a young child could include the following: milk, a bath, brush teeth, and read a story. Children thrive on routine and repetition. Routines create patterns that allow children to easily understand and predict their days. Routines are often repeated in a specific sequence, and this repetition builds an understanding of what is happening and what is coming next which often decreases the uncertainty that can cause anxiety and/or tantrums.
In addition, routines are great for creating independence in your toddler. If they know what is happening next, they can begin to initiate the next step. Routines are also great for language development and comprehension of basic sequences! Talk about the actions and objects within each step of your routine. For example, during your bedtime routine you can talk about getting milk and modeling the word and/or sign for “milk.” Encourage your child to sign or say “milk” to request it. Praise all attempts even if they are not accurate! Bath time is another great opportunity for language practice. Label verbs such as “wash” and “dry,” as well as body parts; e.g. nose, eyes, belly button, toes, etc.! You can also have your child point to body parts or imitate these verbs if they are not quite ready for verbal imitation. The more your toddler hears a word connected with a specific object or action the deeper their understanding of that word becomes. A fun addition to routines could be a visual schedule which often includes pictures of your child performing various activities within the routine, providing a visual cue for what comes next.
Adding routines to your day is easy! Include a specific routine, such as the bedtime routine mentioned earlier, or a loose, but consistent, structure to your day; e.g. wake up, eat breakfast, play, eat lunch, take a nap, play, eat dinner, go to bed. Once your child becomes familiar with the sequence routines become more natural, and they are a great opportunity to bond with your toddler and model language!
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Jessie Delos Reyes, MA, CF-SLP