Why routines matter

All of us benefit from having a sense of purpose and some structure in our lives. We feel more comfortable knowing when we might eat, sleep, work and play, and young children are no different, although their needs are different. Having good routines in place provides a sense of security for children and promotes wellbeing. Routines also support the development of positive parent/child relationships. Here’s some advice about routines for sleeping, eating and playing, and some of the pitfalls to avoid.

Between one and two years old, children’s development continues at pace. They’re emerging as little people with very definite likes and dislikes, and are also starting to develop an awareness of themselves as individuals. The frustration they sometimes feel may start to be expressed through more challenging behaviours or tantrums. Having clear routines can go some way to helping both of you manage this.

Routines for sleeping

Having good bedtime routines also means you’ll have the benefit of more ‘me time’ once your child is settled. Win-win!

  • Ensure your child still has naps during the day and good bedtime rituals, going to bed at a particular time everyday
  • Most children still need a minimum of 12 hours sleep each day, and some need more
  • Tired children are more likely to have temper tantrums
  • Tired children are also less likely to eat well, and eating enough good food is what helps children maintain their energy levels

Routines for eating

  • Keep to set meal times, even if your child’s going through a food refusal phase. It’s really common for two year olds to eat a lot one day but not so much the next
  • Avoid over snacking
  • Offer drinks at specific times throughout the day rather than having a ‘roving drink’. Toddlers who drink high calories drinks, such as frizzy drinks, all the time, won’t eat very well and are also more likely to experience tooth decay

Routines for playtime

Toddlers will happily play independently providing they have the security of knowing you’re not too far away. You do still need to make time to play games with them though, helping them to engage fully with their play. Play is how children make sense of the world around them and learn. You can’t expect your toddler to entertain themselves if you’re always on your phone without giving them attention – in fact they are more likely to play up. On the other hand, if you spend focused time with them, you’ll find their speech develops more easily and they’ll be more settled at night because their needs have been met during the day.

  • Don’t put all the toys out at once. It’s a good idea to put some away and then rotate them to keep  your child’s interest
  • Get a group of toys out together. It is normal for a child to play with a number of toys together, and to use them for things other than their purpose.
  • Encourage children to experiment with using toys and objects for different imaginative purposes – for example using a stacking cup as a drinking cup
  • Children who enjoy playing and have lots of opportunities to play will have fewer tantrums

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Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-19 years called Chat Health. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a public health nurse (health visitor/school nurse) within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens.

Should you require urgent health advice in the meantime, please contact your GP, visit an NHS walk-in centre or call NHS 111. For emergencies, dial 999 or visit A&E.

Leicester City: text 07520 615381

Leicestershire & Rutland: text 07520 615382

You can also call and speak to a public health nurse on our professional advice line: 0300 3000 007

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