How routines and structure help nurture young minds

Teachers are always working hard to create an environment where children can grow and develop in a healthy way. One powerful tool that can be used in achieving this is establishing routines and structure. In a childcare setting, routines refer to a predictable sequence of events or activities that occur regularly throughout the day. Routines provide a sense of order, consistency and familiarity for children, helping them feel secure and understand what is expected of them.   

Structure, on the other hand, is the overall organisation and framework within which activities and routines take place. It involves setting clear boundaries, rules and expectations for behaviour. Structure helps children understand what is acceptable, promotes a sense of safety and fosters positive social interactions. Examples of structure in a childcare setting include setting consistent rules, daily schedules and clear guidelines on what’s expected of children.  

Here are some of the benefits that routines and structure can bring to young children.  

Promotes a sense of order, security and stability 

Routines and structure provide a predictable and familiar environment for children in a childcare service. Predictability also allows teachers to create a positive and harmonious atmosphere by setting expectations and managing behaviour effectively. Consistent routines help children understand the boundaries and rules within the childcare service. Knowing what to expect throughout the day helps children feel safe and secure, reducing anxiety and promoting a sense of stability. This stability is especially important for children who may be transitioning from home to a childcare setting.  

A child in a window holding a rainbow painting while peeking above a poster that says #we got this

Transitioning between activities or from one area to another can be challenging for young children. A consistent routine helps children understand and anticipate these transitions, making them smoother and less stressful. Consistent routines provide opportunities for strengthening relationships through bonding and connection with caregivers. Some examples of routines: 

Morning arrival routines

  • Greeting each child individually 
  • Hanging up coats 
  • Settling into an activity 

Mealtime routines 

  • Washing hands 
  • Sitting at the table 
  • Engaging in conversation while eating 
  • Cleaning the table 

Naptime routines 

  • Quiet activities 
  • Calming music 
  • Designated sleep area 

Routines for transitioning between activities  

  • Cleanup time 
  • Putting away materials 
  • Moving to the next designated area 

Supports learning and development 

Structured activities provide opportunities for children to engage in various educational experiences, such as circle time, art activities, outdoor play or group games. These activities not only promote cognitive development but also enhance social skills, language acquisition and fine and gross motor skills. Opportunities for intentional learning and development are created through routines and structure. For example, through regular exposure to reading and storytelling, children expand their vocabulary and improve communication. 

A teacher showing a picture book to children in a childcare centre

Routines promote problem-solving and critical thinking as children encounter challenges and find solutions. The predictability of routines also enhances memory retention and reinforces learning. It further supports the development of skills such as attention, self-control and planning. By providing a stable framework for cognitive and social engagement, routines and structure contribute to overall learning and development. 

Develops essential life skills 

Following a set schedule teaches children self-discipline, responsibility and time management from an early age. By adhering to routines, children learn to prioritise tasks, manage their time effectively and understand the concept of waiting. These skills lay the foundation for future academic success, fostering independence and preparing them to handle responsibilities as they grow older. Children learn that their actions have consequences and develop a strong work ethic. 

This early exposure to structure empowers children to become more independent. They gain confidence in completing tasks on their own, whether dressing themselves, tidying up or practising good hygiene. Their sense of independence boosts self-esteem, preparing them for future academic and personal challenges. A structured environment also fosters collaboration among children during group activities, promoting social skills, teamwork and empathy. Structure in a childcare setting can be: 

Rules for 

  • Sharing toys 
  • Taking turns 
  • Using gentle hands 

Daily schedule, outlining activities 

  • Playtime 
  • Circle time 
  • Outdoor time 
  • Learning activities 

Clear guidelines for behaviour 

  • Using polite words 
  • Listening to others 
  • Following directions 

By establishing consistent routines and structure, families and teachers provide children with valuable life skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.  

Building bright futures for children 

Routine and structure play a vital role in childcare settings, providing numerous benefits for the well-being and development of young children. By establishing predictable routines, children know what to expect throughout the day, which helps them feel more at ease and confident. Following a routine also teaches them the importance of order and organisation, laying a strong foundation for future learning and success. 

A group of children in a childcare centre smiling at the camera

Clear boundaries and expectations for behaviour create a safe and supportive environment where children can thrive socially and emotionally. Consistent rules and guidelines foster positive social interactions, teaching children how to share, take turns and respect one another. Teacher platforms such as Playground can help you create and maintain structure for children with handy programming and planning features like Canvas that allow you to develop visual schedules and plans for children at your service.  

Routines and structure promote effective learning. Children have ample opportunities to explore, play and learn in a well-organised and stimulating environment. By implementing routines and structure, teachers create a nurturing and enriching environment that sets children up for success both in the present and in the future. 

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Zeus Martinez

Marketing Content Specialist

Wordsmith and storyteller at heart. Writing professionally since 2005. Living and breathing in the childcare education sector as a marketing copywriter for Discover by Xplor.

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