Frank Schofield, superintendent, Logan City School District

Jonathan (not his real name) is a kindergarten student in the Logan City School District. At the beginning of the 2023 school year, Jonathan did not possess the early reading skills that a kindergarten student should have, and was reading significantly behind his peers. However, Jonathan’s teacher and her colleagues had recently participated in a series of rigorous, in-depth training sessions on the science of early literacy. Then, these same teachers spent a year learning and implementing a set of routines that would ensure the application of these principles in every classroom. Due to this combination of new knowledge and established routines, Jonathan ended the school year significantly above the typical level for a kindergarten student, which increased his self-confidence, positive attitude toward school,and his self-perception as a capable reader. Like many of his peers, Jonathan experienced the positive outcomes that occur when the application of new information is supported by a consistent routine.

All of us benefit from the existence of routines. Routines promote consistency, which can help us successfully manage the broad range of responsibilities adults fulfill. Routines aid in the application of new information and the establishment of new behaviors, both for children and adults. For our elementary teachers, routines helped them take the large volume of new information and organize it into manageable practices, allowing them to apply principles more fluidly and consistently.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Familiar activities can provide comfort for both adults and children during challenging and uncertain times. Just like adults, children feel more confident and secure when their daily activities are predictable and familiar.” For example, a consistent daily schedule and step-by-step routines give children a predictable day. These schedules and routines at home help children:

  • Feel in control of their environment
  • Feel safe, secure, and comfortable
  • Know what is happening now and what comes next
  • Know how to do an activity or task
  • Engage in learning

Additionally, as young children participate in familiar activities and routines, they develop relationships with the people they interact with and gain a sense of belonging and self-confidence. As the children grow and mature, consistent routines actually help them demonstrate emerging independence, and adjust to change more easily.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SCHEDULE AND A ROUTINE?

A schedule represents the big picture and includes the main activities that happen across the day (getting up, eating breakfast, going to school, etc), while routines are the steps needed to complete each part of the schedule. When my youngest son was a toddler, he enjoyed watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, in which the main characters would teach children routines that could help with basic tasks toddlers regularly completed. For example, “If you have to go potty, STOP, and go right away. Flush and wash and be on your way.” Or, “When you’re feeling mad, and you want to roar, take a deep breath, and count to four, 1-2-3-4.” These simple routines gave children specific instructions to follow in order to successfully complete a desired (or sometimes undesired) task. The routine makes the process manageable, which encourages the child’s success. Routines can be flexible, so if a routine changes due to special circumstances (bedtime is later because of visiting cousins), make sure that change is communicated to your child.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes the following guidance on establishing routines at home. Additional information can be found at cdc.gov.

IDENTIFY THE ROUTINES

  • Identify the task the child needs to complete and identify three or four steps the child will need to follow.
  • Be sure the routine works for the whole family.

EXPLAIN THE ROUTINES/RULES

  • Make sure your child knows what you want him to do and when you want him to do it.
  • Use simple charts with pictures to visually display the routines and rules.
  • Remember that young children often need reminders about what to do.

FOLLOW THE ROUTINES/RULES

  • All family members should try to follow the routine and family rules.
  • Your child and you may not always want to follow the routine or rules, so provide reminders and support to help both of you be consistent and successful.

USE CONSEQUENCES

  • Positive consequences like praise occur when you let your child know you like how she follows the routine. Negative consequences like losing a privilege, time out, or removal from the situation occur when the routine is not followed.
  • The consequences for not following the routine should be clear to you and your child and given immediately.