Once you understand, it makes perfect sense.
If there's one thing I know from nearly ten years of having a daycare, it's toddlers need consistency.
This was one of the fundamental elements I brought with me from my Montessori Training when setting up my business.
It's the most significant thing I do to emotionally stabilize the children who come into my care.
Even a one-year-old adjusts better with routine.
Living in an unpredictable world makes people frightened, anxious, frustrated, and angry.
Nobody thrives in chaos.
This is especially true for toddlers, and here are the top four reasons why:
- Toddlers create memory loops of experiences to draw upon. It gives them reliable data to draw conclusions about life and learn to act upon those conclusions. It allows them to sow the seeds of critical thinking, anticipate consequences, and act accordingly.
- It's orienting. When toddlers can reliably know what their day will look like, they can begin to orient themselves in time. A toddler can't tell time, so it means nothing to them. Consistency allows them to learn and begin to understand the concept.
- It's Calming. When we don't know what's going on, we feel scared and anxious. It's the fear of the unknown. A toddler doesn't know anything for sure; they have zero life experience. If they have no consistent cues, they won't know what to expect. When you go to work, you might never come back as far as they know. But if they can learn to expect certain things at given times, that can dial down their anxiety.
- Internal Order Comes From External Order. A toddler orders their inner world by using the external world. They take in what's going on around them and internalize it. Everything they experience in this early phase of life becomes a fundamental and profound part of their psyche. Toddlers living in chaos don't learn to order their internal world because they have nothing to mentally grasp. Being able to organize your thoughts, actions, and surroundings are all things that stem from being exposed to a consistent environment in toddlerhood.
Having consistency doesn't mean being a robot or Martha Stewart.
Your house doesn't have to be perfect, and you don't have to live by a timer.
It does mean trying to make every day have a similar flow. Doing some things is basically the same way, in the same order every day as much as possible.
Creating a few essential routines around certain activities gives your toddler the cues they need to feel safe, secure, and oriented.
It also helps them develop critical thinking skills and a sense of time.
In my daycare, we do the same things the same way every day. This helps new children adjust faster and stabilize children with anxiety and other issues.
Routines around any or all of these activities work well:
- Morning, when they first get up
- Morning, between 9–12 when they need exercise/outside free play
- After nap
- Post-dinner, between 5–7, when they need more exercise/outside free play
- Post-exercise wind-down
- Pre-bedtime wind-down
It's in these years that crucial inner development happens and lifelong habits become internalized. You can give your toddler a great head start if you implement a few simple routines.
Create a plan that follows the same path in roughly the same way every day, and your toddler will be happier and more emotionally stable.
If you've never had a routine, start with one small part of your day, maybe nap or lunch, create a routine that you can stick to every day and when that becomes automatic, move on to another area.
As you make your day more routine and consistent, you'll probably find your children becoming happier and more content as you create markers they can predict and anticipate.
It's good medicine that costs nothing.
You may even find that actually makes life easier for you too.