Consistent schedules and routines are essential in an early childcare classroom because they influence a child’s emotional, cognitive, and social development. They help children feel secure and comfortable. They help children understand the expectations of the environment. They help reduce the frequency of behavior concerns, and support children to develop greater autonomy, responsibility, and self-control. Consistent routines and schedules can result in higher rates of child engagement.
The terms routines and schedules are often used interchangeably. Schedules represent the big picture—the main activities to be completed daily. While routines represent the steps done to complete the schedule.
The routine consists of activities and procedures that occur regularly. Preschool routines typically include:
- Arrival time
- Bathroom time
- Cleanup time
- Rest time
- Snack time
An example of a story time routine would involve:
- Gathering in a circle on a floor mat
- Calm bodies
- Listening and engaging with the book read
- Looking and talking about the pictures in a storybook
- Answering questions
The Daily Schedule is the block of time for classroom activities. It establishes a sequence for routines and experiences. Preschool schedules typically include:
- Group meeting
- Choice time
- Small groups
- Outdoor choice
Let’s review the purpose of a large group meeting:
- Establish a classroom community with a welcome song, graph the number of children at school, and job charts
- Invite children to share any news, discuss the question of the day and record their answers
- Introduce new materials added to the interest areas
- Review social rules to teach expectations of the community and how to be a part of the social environment
We all know that expectations at home and school may be different. Therefore, we must teach children the school routine and schedule. Talk to the children about the routines and rules and have them repeat them back to you. Use simple charts with pictures to visually display the routines and rules. When changes are necessary, prepare children ahead of time. Provide children who have difficulty following the schedule individual support. Keep in mind that young children often need reminders about what to do.
A good schedule is balanced. It offers choices and a range of activities, some initiated by the children and others planned by the teacher. The following guidelines will ensure that your daily schedule will meet the needs of all children in the classroom.
- Develop a schedule that promotes child engagement and success
- Include a variety of activities:
- active and quiet\
- small group and large group
- teacher-directed and child-directed
- structure activities so there is a clear beginning, middle and end
- Balance of activities—offer activities that differ in noise level, pace, person leading (child vs. adult), and location (indoor vs. outdoor)
- Number of activities available—variety so all children find something that sparks their interest
- Number of adults available—for supervision and facilitation of skill development
- Child’s attention span—high-interest materials and activities
- Child’s level of alertness—some children are more active and alert at certain times of the day
- Child’s cultural and linguistic background—activities and materials that represent the children in your care
- Longer play periods result in increased play behaviors—consider how long children have to truly become engaged in an activity
- Work periods should be long enough to give children an opportunity to select materials and activities, plan what they want to do, explore freely, and clean up afterward without feeling rushed
As the new school year is getting into full swing, remember that developing and teaching children the routines and schedules will create a classroom community where every child will thrive. Repetitive schedules and routines help children learn classroom activities. Children are able to predict what will happen next and this helps them feel secure and prepared. Classrooms with consistent schedules and routines facilitate children’s understanding of the learning environment expectations. Children who are familiar with classroom schedules and routines are more likely to be engaged, attentive, and learn new knowledge. Every child will be an important part of the classroom community!