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10 Steps to Introduce Routines to Kids

The Austrian psychiatrist and educator, Rudolf Driekurs, speaks about routines in one of his books and says that ”Routine is to a child what walls are to a house: it gives boundaries and dimensions to his life. No child feels comfortable in a situation in which he doesn’t know exactly what to expect. Routine gives a feeling of security. An established routine also provides a sense of order from which freedom grows.”  And he has a good point.

It is necessary to establish limits with younger children for their emotional development and personal security, but also on a cerebral level. Our brain is malleable and learning in small but continuous doses has a greater impact than sporadic large doses.

How can we introduce routines to kids?

  1. The sooner you start, the better! If we wait until our children are school age to establish routines, it will be much more difficult to break ”bad habits.”
  2. You are their role model. Never forget that an important part of human learning is observation, therefore if they live in a climate that is familiar with routines it will be much easier to establish their own.
  3. Prepare remedies to possible complications in the future. Take time to reflect and fill in the table below for each situation that could arise. Remember, it is always recommended to have our own plans ready for the complicated moments during the day. Introduce Routines
  4. Sunday is the perfect day to plan your week: Set aside time on Sunday afternoons to plan for the week TOGETHER (our little ones like to feel in control). But, how can we do that?

Use a large piece of cardboard and place all the activities you have each day:

Keep in mind:

  • Before beginning to introduce routines, explain to them why the routine is necessary for them, this way it will give them a sense of responsibility.
  • It is important to be consistent. For example, activities like homework or a daily Smartick session should be at the same time every day.
  • Realistic and flexible schedules.
  • At the end of the day review what you have done during the day, together. If they have met a goal, reward them with a point or a sticker. Always positive reinforcement!
  • Establish a weekly reward if they receive 5 points or stickers. For example, going to the movies, a special snack, etc.
  • Reserve a bit of time for fun activities. It’s a must!
  • Place the cardboard in a visible place. This way you can see it every day and know which activities you have to do at any given time.
  • Special stopwatch. Always use the same stopwatch to keep time. It is a good idea for them to choose their own and only use that one for establishing daily routines.
  • Always use phrases like ”First X… then Y…”
  • 5 more minutes! Tell your little one when there are 5 minutes left before changing to a different activity.
  • Use the ”Turtle Technique” for moments of frustration. Not everything is rosy, so, before moments where they lose control (want to spend more time on an activity, don’t want to do their homework, etc.) you must have solutions ready in these situations. With this technique, children are shown how to relax and encourage self-control. It consists of 4 simple steps:
Introduce Routines
Source: National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations
  • Celebrate their weekly goals on Friday. The final count comes in and if they have received all the points for the week it is time to reward them for their great work and responsibility.
  • Introduce changes from time to time. Not every week should be the same, it is important to have some small changes so things don’t become monotonous.

But remember… it is a long way to go to create the habits and introduce routines with your little one. You are going to need a great deal of patience and working as a family to have a successful result.


  • Family Routine Guide. Rochelle Lentini and Lise Fox

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