Child's daily routine: a proper schedule can help your child grow

Apr 15, 2019

Do you find it hard to wake your child up in the morning, yet they cannot fall asleep in the evening? Does your child “boycott” their daily nap and dinner schedule? Many parents have encountered these problems. These issues do not stem from “bad upbringing” or disobedience, but rather from the lack of a proper daily regimen. Sooner or later all parents need to organize their child’s life and establish a daily routine. Let’s see how a proper sleep and work schedule can help your children grow, how we can help them become accustomed to it and how we can establish this schedule.

The importance of a proper daily routine

An appropriate daily regimen for a child should contain a reasonable duration and rotation of various types of activities and leisure. [1] A well-structured schedule can bring the time for study, sleep, rest, and food, as well as hygiene, in proper order.

Adults tend to make light of their own life schedule. Our modern life rhythm has its own rules: eat on the go, take the amount of sleep you can manage and spend leisure time passively. Naturally, a child starts to follow the rules they experience in their family. They have no choice but to follow their parents’ schedule, set as an example in front of their eyes.

An appropriate daily regimen for a child is not a strict “penitentiary” regimen, and it is not coercive in any way. It is simply an efficient tool to fulfill all the child’s needs.

So, why is a daily regimen so important?

1.   Basis for physical and mental health

The role of a daily regimen is not simply developing time management skills, it is also a solid base for the harmonious development of a child’s body and mind.

If a child sleeps properly, they grow active and curious and ready for “great endeavors”. Daily walks reinforce a child’s immune system and expand their horizons. By playing with peers, a child studies the world and learns to communicate. Balanced meals with a proper diet support the child’s health and well-being. Any developmental activities in the daily regimen give boost to the child’s cultural and intellectual growth.

2.   Self-confidence

A child’s nervous system is very flexible and it can quickly adapt to any external conditions. Nevertheless, a proper regimen is a foothold for a child to grow confident in themselves and their future. If a child knows what will happen tomorrow, or even after they finish their homework, they feel more relaxed and comfortable.

3.   Responsibility and discipline

Discipline, responsibility and self-management are important skills that are useful even in adulthood. Proper daily routine for children is a foundation for their development. A child learns to control their life and take responsibility for their actions.

4.   Establishing values

The daily routine is precisely the tool to teach the child all the important family values like playing, going for a walk or dining together. All the rituals in the daily regimen bring children and their parents closer.

5.   An easy way to develop useful habits

 

With a properly established regimen a child has no trouble adjusting to a new environment and forming useful habits. Children who have followed a proper daily routine find it easier to adapt to the school schedule.

Time to introduce a schedule

According to US pediatrician Marc Weissbluth, many children can start following a regimen as early as 3-4 months old. [2] At this age, a baby stops sleeping most of the day, starts playing and begins to eat at regular intervals.

A regimen for a baby would include a sleep schedule, an eating schedule, and a walk schedule. At the age of one, when a child can eat together with parents, you can start establishing a proper eating regimen including breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper, as well as healthy snacks during the day. By the age of 2 or 3 years a child can have developmental games and activities included in the schedule.

If you teach your child to follow a schedule early enough, by the age of 7 or 8 they will take responsibility for following their schedule themselves. Parents will not have to convince their child to sleep, finish their dinner or their homework. The child will have no trouble waking up on their own. Ideally the child should be responsible for organizing their time for eating, sleeping, and playing themselves. Parents will be able to supervise the compliance with the regimen.

 

However, if you haven’t managed to establish a timely regimen, you can suggest that your child take a course of the 7Spsy behavior modification technique. It is important to explain to them that after this course they will have less trouble following a schedule, which means more time for playing and other favorite activities.

Features of a sleep schedule

A proper sleep schedule is very important for a child’s growth and development. Children are very active and absorb a lot of information every day. During sleep, their bodies and nerve systems relax, allowing them to re-experience any positive and negative emotions from the previous day (disappointment, fear, excitement), thus avoiding emotional overload.

Sleeping standard

Pediatrician E. O. Komarovsky proposes the following standards for average sleep requirement for children: [3]

  • before 3 months: 16-20 hours;
  • 6 months: 14.5 hours;
  • 1 year: 13.5 hours;
  • 2-3 years: 13 hours;
  • 4-5 years: 11.5 hours;
  • 6-12 years: 9.5-10 hours;
  • older than 12 years: 8.5-9.5 hours.

Each child has their own individual need for sleep. Many factors influence the duration and quality of their sleep including general health condition, activity, business during the day, quality of food, emotional background in the family and the child’s surroundings. Children’s routines must be designed in a way that a child can have a deep sleep and wake up calm and rested.

Causes for sleeping difficulties

Various factors can cause the child to have trouble sleeping: [4]

  • emotional overload and stress (school problems, family conflicts, increased physical and psychological load);
  • improper daily regimen, without time allocated for sleeping and being awake;
  • health problems (asthma, hyperactivity, teeth-grinding, restless leg syndrome, bed-wetting);
  • frequent startling during the deep sleep phase;
  • frequent wakening, followed by trouble falling back to sleep;
  • nightmares;
  • talking in sleep and lunacy.

In most cases sleeping difficulties are not the signs of serious disorders, so they can be eliminated by introducing a proper schedule. It is normal for children, especially small ones, to whine and cry before going to bed, refuse to sleep without their parents and wake up during the night.

However, if your child has trouble sleeping even with a proper daily regimen, you should consult a specialist.

Around 25% of children experience problems with their sleep, from trouble falling asleep to lunacy. These disorders affect cognitive functions and the child’s behavior, leading to depression, anxiety, attention and memory deficit and nervousness. Some children may have slower physical growth than others. [4]

Advice from a psychologist

Accustoming a child to a sleep schedule is important. The quality of child’s sleep improves under following conditions:

 

  • Going to bed at the same time every day.
  • Proper sleep environment: 68-72°F (20-22°C), 60-70% humidity.
  • No active games for at least an hour before sleep.
  • If a child above 6 years old naps during the day, the length of this nap should not exceed one hour.
  • No products that contain caffeine after 4 PM (including chocolate, cocoa and soda).

Features of a day schedule

A wakefulness schedule directly affects a child’s sleep and their ability to acquire new information and useful habits.

Active hours standard

As your child grows, they will have longer waking hours: [3]

  • before 3 months: 1-1.5 hours;
  • 3-6 months: 1.5-2 hours;
  • 6-9 months: 2.5 hours;
  • 1 year: 3.5 hours;
  • 1-1.5 years: 3.5-4 hours;
  • 1.5-2 years: 4.5-5.5 hours;
  • 2-3 years: 5.5-6 hours;
  • 4-6 years: 6-6.5 hours;
  • 7-10 years: 12-14 hours;
  • 11-14 years: 14.5-15 hours.

Parents should find a proper middle ground when designing their child’s daily schedule. If a child has little activity during waking hours, they will have trouble falling asleep. However, hyperactivity will not lead to quality sleep either. Children’s waking hours should be productive, but not overloaded.

Advice from a psychologist

It is important to create a favorable environment to help a child explore the world around them and have quality time for their activities. Here are some rules:

 

  • A child should have a walk outside every day.
  • Every child needs interaction with peers.
  • Evenings should be devoted to calm entertainment.
  • Each child should have a comfortable area dedicated to their studies.
  • A child’s schedule should include enough time for both their homework and playing.
  • Children should not be overloaded with clubs and extracurricular classes.
  • If a child becomes exhausted, a schedule may feature a nap (no longer than one hour).
  • It is important to reduce their time in front of the TV, PC or any other device.

Features of an eating schedule

Proper eating is one of the most important factors of a child’s development at any age. Their food must feature all the necessary nutrients and vitamins that will prepare their body to grow and carry out the school’s demands.

If a person eats at certain times every day, they develop a particular reflex. At the time of eating their stomach starts producing digestive juices, which leads to a stronger appetite.

You can follow your own principles of a balanced diet when making food for your child. It is important to note that a child’s eating routine will depend on their school schedule and other extracurricular activities.

Basic rules of a healthy diet for pre-school and schoolchildren:

  • One of the most important rules: a child should eat at least four times a day from the age of 7. Ideally that would be first breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper.
  • Their diet must feature meat, fish, fruits and vegetables as well as dairy products. This will ensure that they receive all the necessary proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and other nutrients.
  • You should exclude any products that cause an allergic reaction in your child.
  • Any snacks between meals should be light and healthy, for example, fruits, some nuts etc.
  • It is important to minimize the number of sweets, fried, salty and spicy foods, as well as carbonated drinks.
  • Portions should be small.
  • A child must receive enough calories to replenish their activities during the day.
  • It is important to teach a child proper eating habits without turning it into “food worshiping”.
  • You should never use food as an incentive or a punishment.

Any deviations in the process of eating can cause unwanted physical and mental consequences. Physical effects can lead to a dietary deficiency (lack of macronutrients and mineral nutrients), which can lead to other disorders. These include insufficient body mass, anemia and digestion disorders. Obesity is another serious problem with uncontrolled eating. Psychological consequences include eating disorders (picky eating, refusal to try new dishes, complete refusal to eat certain foods) which can lead to reduced cognitive abilities due to lack of nutrients necessary for proper development of the nerve system. [1]

If you notice any deviation from proper eating behavior, this can help with the medical assessment of the child’s health. A pediatrician can draw proper conclusions about dietary deficiency.

ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases) features a large list of diseases linked to eating disorders (F50):

  • anorexia nervosa;
  • atypical anorexia nervosa;
  • bulimia nervosa;
  • atypical bulimia nervosa;
  • overeating associated with other psychological disturbances;
  • vomiting associated with other psychological disturbances.

 

Certain eating disorders that lead to parents concern about their children’s health are featured in ICD-10 under other codes. They include feeding problems of a newborn and appetite disorders (like pica). Obesity also has its own section.

A schoolchild's daily routine and how to organize it

Once they go to school, children get a whole lot of new
responsibilities, such as studies, extra classes and housework to help their
parents. All these require knowledge, responsibility and discipline, as well as
a sufficient amount of time. A daily regimen can help them maintain a proper
level of working efficiency during the whole academic year.

A proper schedule should include the following: [6]

  • school activities,
  • homework,
  • free time for personal entertainment,
  • proper sleep,
  • regular meals,
  • outdoor activities,
  • personal hygiene.

The school schedule becomes the basis of a child’s
daily regimen. At elementary school, a child spends around 4-5 hours per day.
Their school schedule is designed by school administrators and their homeroom
teacher. At home the duty to supervise the adherence to the regimen falls on
the parents.

 

Here is an example of a schedule to give you a
reference: [6]

 

Activity

Time

Waking up

7:00

Morning exercises, personal hygiene, breakfast

7:00–8:00

School activities

8:30–13:00

Coming home

13:30

Dinner

13:30–14:00

Resting after dinner

14:00–15:00

Walking, outdoor activities

15:00–16:00

Homework

16:00–18:00

Free time

18:00–19:00

Supper, free time

19:00–20:00

Evening routine, going to sleep

20:00–21:00

Accustoming a child to a routine

Some parents can be quite biased about the need for a daily regimen for their children. They are of the opinion that children should be forced to perform certain activities, which in fact can make children weak and passive.

The truth is, a proper regimen does not come from the desire to destroy a child’s creativity, but rather from the intent to bring their life to order. With a responsible approach, a schedule can become the basis for a child’s harmonious development.

The psychologist Jennifer W. Malatras conducted an interesting survey with about 300 respondents. It was designed to determine the significance of a daily regimen for children. According to this survey, adults who grew up with a properly established regimen have fewer problems with concentration and time management. Schoolchildren, in turn, displayed better behavior in school when they followed a regimen before entering it. [7]

So, how can we accustom a child to a schedule? Psychologists advise  following the following principles while designing a regimen for young children: [8]

  • establish a proper sequence and the necessary amount of sleep and meals;
  • ensure a timely change of activities during the child’s waking hours;
  • establish the duration of waking hours that would not exceed the capacity of a child’s nerve system.

A properly designed schedule, with precise adherence to it, ensures that a child remains active for the duration of their waking hours. They also fall asleep relatively quickly and easily, have a good sleep and wake up rested. They have a good appetite.

How can we accustom a child to the regimen smoothly? Parents should be consistent and follow certain rules:

Basic needs are the most important

Sleep, food and hygiene are the most essential needs of a child. The daily regimen should be designed around these. Walks, playing and developmental activities should be planned based on a child’s sleep-wake schedule.

Accustom a child in steps

If the parents decide to introduce a strict regimen after their child has turned 5-6 years old, they should be patient about this procedure. A child of that age will probably rebel against the schedule. It is important to introduce the changes smoothly, without pressurizing the child.

This rule of a smooth introduction works for any situation, be it potty training or entering the school.

An individual approach to a regimen design

While designing a daily routine, you should consider the child’s health, their physical and psychological traits and their interests. Each child has their own needs. One may eat all the food from the plate and ask for more, while another might struggle with even a half of their portion. An individual approach is important. For example, if a child is not hungry, you should not forcefully feed them. When you have troubles making your child go to bed, you should consider that they are probably not tired.

Parents should always observe their child’s natural routine, especially at what time they fall asleep, how long they are awake and when they feel hungry.

A schedule must be flexible

Any regimen will eventually exhaust itself and require corrections. A child grows and develops. It is natural to assume that a regimen for a baby will be different from one for a toddler, let alone a schoolchild. Parents should constantly change the regimen according to their child’s needs and habits. As time goes by, a daily schedule will start to feature new activities, like studies, classes and clubs.

Reasonable compromise

Even the slightest deviation from the routine can lead to sleep and eating disorders. Once the rules are set, they must be followed.

 

However, a child is not a robot. Everything should be in moderation: do not treat a regimen as an indefeasible law. There can be situations when you have to change the schedule and that is perfectly normal. You don’t have to panic if a child took a lot of time to get ready for a walk or got hungry half an hour later than usual. Also, if a child gets sick, their regimen will also require adjustments.

When you cannot establish a comfortable regimen

A proper regimen plays a great role in establishing a child’s behavior and useful habits. Behavior psychology is aimed at changing behavior patterns.

Our new 7Spsy behavior modification technique is a registered, scientifically approved method that shows great results. The course lasts 2-6 weeks. Once you change a negative mindset to a more positive one, you will be able to use it to design a regimen that will be comfortable for you and your children alike. For example, it will help you find out how you can accustom your child to falling asleep without crying and tantrums. It is extremely important for developing personal discipline, responsibility and establishing useful habits.

The course can be taken from home at convenient times. You won’t have to discuss it with friends and teachers at school, as your child will follow the course independently and remotely. A psychologist will help you understand the instructions and support you by replying to questions in online chat, by email or by phone.

Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

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