I like to think that I am free spirited, flexible, and go with the flow. And then something out of the ordinary happens, like a strange little light on the car dashboard sending my day into a tailspin, and I am reminded that I crave routine.
Kids are like that, too.
Routine is not a bad thing. Yes, doing something repetitively without a purpose is not good. But many routines have a good purpose and actually help us feel safe and secure. Just as driving a familiar road feels comfortable for me, going through the same steps before nap creates a sense of security for our young daughter.
Grace is 18 months old, and recently, she has been surprising me with her understanding of routines. In fact, the routine cues her behavior. Here’s what I’m talking about:
For all three of our kids, we have read them books before putting them to bed — naps or night. The last book we always read is I Love You Through and Through. Sweet book. Leads to sweet dreams for them and sweet mommy thoughts for me.
I’m not sure exactly when it started, but for about the last three weeks, Grace has began really snuggling in during that final book. For the first 4 books, she will be animatedly clapping, giggling, and chatting in my lap. But as soon as I pull out “I Love You Through and Through” — boom! — she tucks her stuffed lambs under her arm and puts her head down in my lap. She knows — it’s time for bed.
A familiar book can provide a signal that cues a child’s behavior.
Observing Grace got me thinking about other ways we have used books to guide our children’s behavior. For example, every day after dinner when James was two years old, we read from his toddler Bible. It was a signal to him that dinner was over. He knew not leave the table, though, because we would read our story. He knew he could get down and play once we had prayed.
That was years ago. Nowadays books help him transition between school and home in the afternoons. He listens to a book or two while eating a snack and then he’s ready to go play. Same in the morning during breakfast.
The last few days I’ve been thinking about how else I can harness the power of books to help me parent throughout the day. We know they are powerful. Now I just need to figure out how to use it to my advantage. Trust me, I need all the help I can get!
How do you use books to aid in everyday routines?