Our morning routine goes something like this: my daughter wakes up, gives us a big hug, tells us about her dreams (quite often, she claims to dream of curtains), perches on the counter top while eating breakfast, goes potty, picks an outfit from two choices, brushes her teeth and hair, and comes along while I open the chicken coop door and drop our dog at the neighbor’s house. Then we get in the car and she fastens the top buckle of her carseat and I fasten the bottom. This must all take place in the correct order over roughly the same span of time.
We arrive a few minutes before school opens, so we wait in the lobby of the building with another early bird family. Nora and her friend run in circles, shrieking. Then, when school opens, Nora and I sit on a bench and do a countdown from five, then hop off the bench and run into school. I’ve tried skipping this step; but it’s countdown or meltdown.
We woke up a bit late this morning, so I tried to break the sequence of Nora’s morning routine in an effort to speed things up. I even tried to make up a song about hurrying. She sobbed like crazy and fought the entire process.
Sticking to routines is especially helpful when another person has to lead the child through an activity you normally handle. I was sick a day last week and my husband met with no problems when he brought Nora to school, as she followed her normal, running, screaming, countdown routine.
I just typed the words “why toddlers need routines” into Google and got 3,240,000 hits. So, well documented phenomenon! Suffice it to say, knowing what to expect helps toddlers cope with the frustration of not being in control of much in their lives. Skip routines at your peril.