Why routine is important for your child’s development

Posted on 23 December 2019

You might not have time to paint or build a puzzle with your child every day, but you do have time to ensure they brush their teeth. These routine activities are the perfect way to help your child feel a sense of accomplishment – and will benefit them in other ways in the long run.

Structured bedtimes, mealtimes and playtime will benefit your child not only when they start school, but later in life too. “Children have not yet had the opportunity to learn cognitive and emotional coping strategies to compensate for not feeling safe,” says Lo-Mari Victor, an occupational therapist at Mediclinic Worcester. “A child that doesn’t feel safe and secure will inevitably use negative behaviours, such as acting out and having meltdowns, to show their discomfort with the situation. A routine will help prevent, or at least minimise, your child’s need to use these negative behaviours, as they will be more content.”

As Victor adds, your child’s home is their first frame of reference and the blueprint to how they understand the world. “If routine is something that is introduced and enforced at home, it will be a much smoother transition for your child to adapt to routines elsewhere.”

Routine helps children feel safe and secure. “It helps them know what is to come throughout the day and what is expected of them,” Victor explains. “Any change or stressors, such as divorce, death, or illness in the family brings a lot of uncertainty and unpredictability which can lead your child to feel anxious. If they have a structured routine, they have something to hold on to, something familiar and something to help them cope with the stress and changes around them.”

Waking times, sleeping times, nap times, bath time, mealtime, playtime, family time and homework time all help to set boundaries for your child. “These help them understand how the world works and what their place and role is in it, as well as what is unacceptable,” Victor adds. “It helps them to know how to act, to comply with expectations and how to navigate their way through the day.”

Routines also help establish constructive habits. Children who practise these skills will be able to better manage their time in the future. As they age, they’ll have more self-discipline in terms of healthy grooming and eating habits, along with studying and cleaning their rooms.

Plus, a routine is not only good for your child – it helps you too. “Young children can’t manage routine without their parents,” Victor says. “Committing to a routine means you  need to work together to achieve a common goal. The bonus side effect is that you’ll become even more involved in your child’s daily life.”

Having a set routine also creates the opportunity for children to navigate around issues when something prevents the routine from running smoothly. “Without routine, there would never be the opportunity to teach this flexibility,” Victor concludes.


In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.