To a little one in preschool, the hustle of a day can be quite overwhelming. What makes it not quite so scary for them is knowing what to expect from their day and what is going to happen next. They may not know it or be able to tell you, but preschoolers thrive off of structure. It’s crucial for their daily functioning and key to their long-term success. Often times, it’s also the only thing standing between them and a full-on meltdown.
The question most parents want to know is, why? Why does structure and routine matter so much on a daily basis? Do they even realize there is a specific schedule set in place for them? How does a sense of routine help preschool-aged children to function properly? Here are three reasons why preschool-aged children need structure.
As the parent in their life, it’s important that your preschooler trusts you. They need to feel a sense of safety from you. They need to know that, no matter what, you are going to come through with all of the things that they need each day. By keeping their life on a consistent schedule, you are meeting their basic needs and managing their expectations. While there is already a baseline of trust because you are their parent, a consistent schedule helps to increase their sense of safety. For a child in preschool, feeling safe is everything.
It also should be noted that structure and routine allow children to feel an increased sense of trust when you have to leave them in the hands of other people temporarily. Whether it’s a babysitter or their grandparents’ house for the weekend, when children have the structure of a normal schedule to follow, they feel a sense of trust with them as well because it feels like home.
Communicating with a preschool-aged child can be difficult at times. It can be difficult for you to articulate what you need from them, simply because they don’t fully understand. It is just as difficult for them to articulate their feelings and needs to you. The good news is, structure is a universal language. You and your preschooler both have the ability to speak it fluently and, therefore, better understand one another.
When you train your child to wake up every day and get dressed for school, chances are they are going to start to do that on their own. If they know that their bedtime routine includes going potty and brushing their teeth, there’s little room for temper tantrums because they know exactly what’s expected of them. It becomes a nightly routine they can start doing autonomously that also requires less reminding and repeating from you as the parent. When their routine is the same every day, there’s no question of what they should do next. They’re able to better cooperate with you because they understand your daily expectations of them.
Even preschoolers need to feel empowered to be independent. As they start to learn more in school about all sorts of different subjects, their need for independence grows. They feel successful and confident when they can dress themselves or even get their own snack. By having your child on a consistent schedule, it creates a sense of empowerment because it allows them to flex that independence and begin to take responsibility for their actions and behaviors. To them, the very first time they’re able to dress themselves in the morning and run in to the kitchen to show you is a monumental moment.
Just picture it for a minute: Your little one standing there with a big smile on her face as she sports her (likely mismatched) but well-thought-out outfit for the day. The reason she knew to do that in the morning was because of the routine you set in place for her. The pride she feels in her accomplishment is because you have given her the opportunity to do something independently. The moment she opened her eyes that morning, she knew she needed to get dressed. Not only did she know it, but she felt empowered to do it, even without you being there! Routines help you to raise confident, empowered, and independent children.
Structure = Success
As parents, you want to raise children that trust you, that are confident in their own abilities, and that feel empowered to act independently. The first step in getting your child to embody all of these characteristics is to create a consistent schedule that provides structure in their life. Being in preschool is fun and exciting for your little one because they are learning something new every single day. However, it can be overwhelming for them as well. With a consistent sense of structure, they are better able to function and succeed in their daily tasks with minimal frustration.
Don’t go overboard when beginning to add structure into their schedule. Start simply and add in two or three expectations for the day. It doesn’t have to be complicated, for you or them. It simply needs to be consistent!