Keeping Kids Entertained in Daily Routines
It is important for your children to have routines, because they help build discipline and organization in a gentle but effective way, giving children skills they need for later life. They emphasize that you are in charge, and they give children a sense of security, making each day seem predictable and safe. But despite all these benefits, getting kids to stick to them can be tough. There are always distractions. This article sets out techniques you can use to add elements of fun to your daily routines and make them about cooperation rather than confrontation.
Eating routines are particularly important for helping your kids to develop healthy metabolisms. Providing a nutritious diet may mean serving up some foods that kids don’t traditionally like, but that doesn’t have to be a battle. Although they are more sensitive than adults to bitter flavors and may reject some vegetables, most children are naturally drawn to crunchy foods, so serving things like carrots, cucumber, and even broccoli al dente can be a great way to get them to eat up. You can also cut foods like these into fun shapes. Fruits also provide lots of nutrients and have sweet flavors and bright colors to make them appealing, and there are a lot of nutrients in potatoes, which you can serve in all sorts of creative ways. Regularly serving dessert but making it conditional on eating up everything else provides a good reward motive for making an effort with the first course.
Bedtime is much easier for everyone if it happens at the same time every night, changing only as children get older. They’re more likely to cooperate with this if they know they’ll get a story when they get there or, when they’re older, will be allowed to read for a set period. Allowing them to watch TV in bed is a bad idea as the light and noise often make kids feel wide-awake again.
Like adults, some children struggle with actually getting to sleep, so they should never be disciplined for this. Instead, work with them to find solutions, and ensure that bed isn’t an unhappy place to be, for instance by ensuring they have favorite plushies for company or putting glowing stars on the ceiling so they can fantasize about outer space until they fall asleep.
When the emphasis is on being clean and well presented, having a bath is a chore. When it’s on playing in the water, having a bath is fun. Of course, you don’t want water and soap suds all over the bathroom, so you still need a bit of discipline. Providing some good waterproof bath toys provides an alternative to splash-related play, and it’s surprisingly easy to get children’s hair washed and scrub them clean while bath toys are distracting them.
Studies have found that kids and adults alike find it easier to stick to routines when there’s a game-like element involved. That can include, for example, collecting points for following rules over the course of the day and getting a reward shortly before bedtime, which could be a favorite snack or something as simple as a gold star on a chart. If you watch films together as a family at the weekend, the family member who has collected the most stars could get to choose it. Approaches like this are not only fun in themselves, but help children to understand that small, positive day-to-day actions can benefit them over the long-term.
The big picture
It’s important for children to learn, as they grow up, that some things that don’t feel very rewarding in the immediate term can make it possible for them to attain long-term goals – for instance, doing homework so that it’s possible to get good grades at school and get into college. To appreciate this, they need to start learning early on that there are reasons why they’re asked to do things a certain way. Following rules for no reason is understandably frustrating. Following rules that have been explained positively is much easier to do and makes children feel empowered. It can also be made into entertainment – for instance, doing the recycling to help the environment could be followed by drawing pictures of animals together or reading a story about nature. Taking this approach helps day-to-day routines not only do good but also feel good in the immediate term. It can also provide great bonding opportunities for the family.