The thing about routines…..

I’ve been involved in a pretty heated discussion on a forum (what’s new I hear some asking?!)…… around routines and early childhood settings.

I’m intrigued by the comparisons of in childcare and in school – but even more so, that of at home.  People saying and agreeing that children should be in regimented routines, because they have routines at home. It’s my experience that a lot of home routines are actually built around the children’s needs. So what time meals might happen, etc. (in an ideal world where parents aren’t racing children off to care, etc). Different children in the household often have different bed times – because it’s what they need. Younger children might nap, older ones not. Many families give younger children a meal earlier because they need it then. Home routines are extremely flexible, and adapted to meet children’s needs.

I think sometimes the problem is, that people seem to think that if you allow children to follow their own rhythms, there is no order to the day.  Children make an order, they make routines, they make structure if they need it.  Just because it’s not the same as 20 other children, doesn’t mean it’s not there!

As children get older, they naturally fall into some similar rhythms when they are sharing a space. For instance – in our centre – our Toddlers eat all day every day, some 15 times a day (or maybe even more!). They eat when their bodies tell them they need it. And if you do the research, young children graze – they require small amounts of food frequently. THEY know what they need. And when they are given the freedom, they will do it.

 In our Preschool room – it’s a whole different story. While children are given the freedom to decide when they eat – they mostly eat in groups, and sometimes almost as a whole group.  It’s wonderful to see them negotiating routines with their peers – coming together to build common routines….. But regardless, they pretty much have 3 meal times. They come to this of their own volition. Their needs change, routines change. Most don’t need to sleep – so there are no beds for them all to lay on. The few who need to, find themselves a big pillow, or the couch…… and they have a rest or a sleep. Why should every child lay on a bed because a few need a sleep?
Fact is that as children age, the developmental gaps close. And they DO become more aligned in their needs.  There is far less developmental difference between a six year old and a seven year old, than there is between a two year old and a three year old.
Yes, children need routine.  I don’t disagree with that at all.  But their routine needs to be built on their own very specific needs – particularly when they are very young.  Our brains and our bodies come prewired for survival.  We don’t need somebody else telling us what we need when – if we listen to our body, IT will tell us.  This is what will provide optimal conditions for our body – for OUR body – not the person who lives next door.

And YET – here are people saying that ALL children, with very different needs, at different developmental stages need to do everything at the same time, and do what the adults deem to be best for them.

They say that they’ll need that “skill” for when they go to school.

And THEN people have the audacity to say they are putting children first……. It does make me wonder…….