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Using routines to help children learn

Child development

Knowing what is going to happen next is the key to enhance babies’ and toddler’s security and emotional stability. 

Not only does it reinforce their trust that caring adults will provide what they need, it frees up their emotional tank and allows them to do all of the important “work” of childhood including playing, exploring and learning, said Goodstart Harristown Early Childhood Teacher Jane Whitney.  

We asked Ms Whitney some further questions on how she incorporates routines within her service to benefit the children.

What is a routine and how do you use them for positive outcomes at Goodstart Harristown? 

Routines a like instructions that guide a child’s actions toward a specific goal and they can be used for many reasons, but two of the most important are ensuring children’s health and safety, and helping children learn positive, responsible behaviour. 

For example, at Goodstart Harristown children wash hands before they have snack, or at home an established routine might be that they must hold an adult’s hand when crossing the street. 

Why are routines so important for young children within your service?

Within early years settings it’s crucial that all educators have a good sense of routine and how they benefit young children.

Through talking, taking turns, sharing toys, learning to wait, and helping others during their daily activities, young children learn important social skills that will help them later on in school.

As children grow and learn, routines help them to develop a sense of security and feel safe in what we often refer to as a stable learning environment. In other words, routines help integrate children’s learning with an “organised connection.”

When children are involved in a good routine not only do they feel confident and in control, they also learn to develop positive social skills as well as a sense of satisfaction in being able to do things for themselves. 

For example, during arrival and departure at childcare children learn important social skills such as saying hello, good morning and goodbye, and familiarising themselves with the importance of turn taking and participating in group time sessions. 

How do routines help children learn?

Routines provide children with a context for learning. Through effective use of routines and transitions children learn how their world is organised and what they need to do in order to interact successfully in it. 

For example, after they wake up they need to get dressed and have breakfast before getting ready to go to childcare. 

At childcare they need to hang up their jacket, say good morning to the teacher and then they will have time for some free play before sitting down together as a group. 

Routines provide children with a sense of continuity throughout the day as well as letting them know what to expect next.

When planned properly, routines also offer opportunities for children to learn methods associated with math and sequencing, including:
  • following an ordered sequence of activities,
  • determining relationships between elements,
  • counting,
  • making simple calculations.
Participating in common daily routines can also have a powerful effect on children’s language development, with many day-to-day activities providing excellent prompts for discussion.

Educators and parents can name items being used in the routine, discuss each action as it is being done and talk about what comes next. 

How do you demonstrate this within your centre- what daily routines or rituals do you follow that are particularly helpful or unique?

Welcome spaces have become a significant part of our centre’s everyday morning/afternoon routines and act as a significant means of support for both families and children with their transitions between home and day care. 

When children arrive in the morning it can make them feel calm and reassured to see a familiar educator’s face as well as some of their favourite activities on offer. 

Self-help skills are also encouraged throughout the centre, particularly as children progress into older rooms. 

Learning to prepare their own healthy snacks, setting the table for meals and washing up their own plates after eating are some of the ways we help children to develop a sense of agency. 

Meal times in the centre provide a solid base for children to begin engaging in positive interactions with each other as well as carry out meaningful conversations in which they can get to know each other more.

Outdoors, the children make it a daily ritual to assist with the care and maintenance of our beautiful gardens. 

In the younger rooms this involves assisting with watering the plants and in the older rooms, helping to weed, plant new seeds and harvest the lovely vegetables so that we can leave them in the foyer for our families to help themselves to. 

How has a child benefited or showed an improvement in an areas since adapting to a routine in your service? 

A few years back we had a young girl in our Kindergarten room who required ongoing love, care and support as she was living with not only a physical disability but also hearing impairment. 

Through developing a positive relationship with both the family and child we were able to successfully plan a solid routine for her. 

This included accessing funding so a support worker could be with her in the room on days when she was in attendance, as well as having an Occupational Therapist visit the centre and work with us on implementing specific strategies to support her in achieving her goals. 

The educators and children made every effort to learn basic sign language so that they could communicate with her and make her feel included in conversations and group time sessions. 

By the time she graduated, enough physical strength had been built up in her legs that she was able to ride a bike around outside and walk to the bathroom holding on to an educator’s hand. 

She was also speaking short but more fluent phrases and sentences.

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