In my many years working with early years program students, I know one thing for sure: young children need routine. They will thrive with schedules that are easy to understand and accomplish, and consistency is key to establishing security in their lives.
When children know and understand what is expected of them, they comply with the rules without question. They know what is happening next, and if their schedule is consistent, children will learn the patterns; there is no unknown, no anxiety. When there are too many unknowns, anxiety can build up and children start showing emotional reactions. For example, they may cry or become irritable.
INTL’s* Early Years Program teachers create routines and schedules for students. Teachers build trust with their students by explaining the routines, helping students to understand and feel safe in their environment.
Understandably, the beginning of the school year can be laden with anxiety; it’s a change in a child’s schedule, and it takes time to instill the new routine of a school day. Teachers spend the first few weeks of school going through the different events of the day with their students. Since children in the Early Years Program have yet to develop comprehensive reading skills, teachers take photos of the events, which are posted in chronological order and are used as helpful visual aids. Teachers establish a schedule that allows for a peaceful transition from one activity to the next.
It’s important for parents to be involved in establishing routines, and can help their child by going over the daily schedule with them. This helps to reinforce the routine and also serves to demonstrate a connection between parents and school life. Showing your child that you are invested in their learning and their time at school will pay off in dividends throughout their education.
Establishing schedules and routine at home is equally important, and here are two key moments when routine is imperative:
Morning is probably the most hectic time of the day, and I know this was certainly the case for me when my daughter was young. Creating a morning routine that works for your family can ease your child’s transition from waking up from sleep to starting his/her day at school. This is a critical time and can impact your child’s entire day.
Establishing a family dinner routine is essential. Notice I said “essential” and not “easy.” With crazy work schedules, activities, errands, and demands, it can be hard to schedule a set time for dinner each night and make it a priority to sit down with the entire family – but this can be one of the greatest gifts you give your family. As a working mom, it was hard for me to do this, but in our family, we made it a point of having at least one meal a day together. I can tell you, this made a huge difference. Dinner time allows for peaceful family discussions, and provides an opportunity for the child to share his/her day and discuss any issues from school.
*In 2020, the International School of the Peninsula (ISTP) formally changed its name to Silicon Valley International School (INTL) to better reflect its bilingual programs, location, and international values.