Four Tried and True Transition Routines
There are times of the day that are just more difficult for parents than other times. Even though we are well into January, I’ve had several parents report that they are still recovering from the holidays with temper tantrums a regular occurrence. Getting back into routine can play a vital role in helping the days go a bit more smoothly.
- We can’t all be morning people but having a consistent morning routine helps even the grouchiest of night owls have a better morning. Adding a little humor or activity that is specific to your family can prove helpful. When my kids were little, a “wake-up” song was key to avoiding fussiness upon waking. Instead of a harsh alarm clock or becoming annoyed at a parent’s voice or touch, our children woke to the song “Wake-Up” from Lazytown. (Wake Up Song) Fortunately with an established morning routine it’s easy to let some tasks just be on auto pilot. Children who prefer not to talk much in the morning can move through the expected transitions without a lot of verbal cues to overstimulate them because they know the routine. Having a picture schedule or checklist also helps children move through the morning. If your family would benefit from visual cues or a picture schedule, ask your SLP to help you create one tailored to your family’s routine.
- Tired and cranky kiddos and exhausted parents can make bedtime routines tricky to navigate. Many times, I was tempted to just skip it and throw the kids in bed BUT, that’s a recipe for a disastrous meltdown as any parent who has tried it knows. Children depend on the predictability of a bedtime routine to prepare both physically and emotionally for sleep. You can help them process the day and prepare for peaceful sleep by talking about and providing simple fill in the blank or either/or questions about what they enjoyed during daily activities and what they are looking forward to tomorrow. You don’t need to be rigid about sticking to your normal routine so long as you’re sure to run through all the steps. If your normal nightly routine takes 45 minutes which includes a 20-minute play in the bathtub, maybe you set the timer for just 10 minutes in the bath. Maybe you save a few more minutes by keeping the routine of two bedtime books but offering choices of books you know are short. With a little patience and creativity, it will be sweet dreams for the whole family in no time.
- For some reason, getting in and out of the car is the breaking point for many children. It seems all is well until the car door opens but without warning an unsuspecting parent can get waylaid with a barrage of emotion. Developing transition routines associated with getting in and out of the car is a great way to help kiddos who may experience of bit of sensory overload or struggle with that type of transition. Children are dependent upon the adult driving to a) choose the route and b) take them safely where they are supposed to go. I recommend taking some time to draft some verbal routines pertaining to the car to give children a bit of predictability and control that they normally don’t have in regard to travel. Scripts may include where you are going next, how long it will take to get there, something they may see on the way if they are paying attention (i.e. train, fire truck, deer, hot air balloon etc.) and something they can plan on doing once you arrive. As your child becomes accustomed to the routine of your travel scripts, you can allow them to provide some of the information by changing from scripted statements to some in the form of questions. One scripted routine we used has become a running joke with my now college-age children. In an attempt to avoid the “I’m not ready…I don’t want to go!” whiny fit that accompanied trips to the park, zoo, museum, and even grandma’s, my husband began to have our then toddler and preschooler repeat him in saying “Thank you for bringing me here, may we please come back another time?” Yes, its corny but they were so busy trying to repeat him they forgot to throw a fit. Soon, they could say it themselves and now they love to tease their parents by saying it after every trip for sushi.
Seat Work Routines
- Seat work is a term that children typically learn in preschool or kindergarten but it’s never too early to develop sustained attention through age appropriate seat work at home. A perfect time for seat work routines in a household with toddlers and preschoolers is during dinner prep. Parents have reported new found freedom using these routines to corral young ones in booster or highchairs while they get dinner prepped and cooking. Reserving toys for “seat work” time creates an excitement around the routine and will help children learn that some toys are for quiet, seated work while others are for more active play. For example, at set of puzzles or construction blocks that only come out during seat work teaches children that puzzles pieces and blocks stay in one place while playing and are not strung throughout the house. Likewise, crayons, markers, paints or play-doh are perfect seat work activities that give a child time for creative independence while saving your carpet and walls. Older children can use this time while sitting at the bar or kitchen table to work on homework confidently knowing mom or dad is close by to lend a hand if needed.
Does your family have one or more routines that have made your day go more smoothly? If so, please share a trick or two with us in the comments below.