As a caregiver you wear many hats. You are a chef, an accountant, a counselor, a nurse, a bus driver, and a cheerleader; just to name a few. It can seem at times like it’s difficult to set aside extra time to devote to play and developmental growth. The great news is your daily routines with your child are actually some of the best times for play and developmental growth. How can you use routines to help your child grow?
Daily routines are often thought of as mindless activities we have to do; mealtime, brushing teeth, grocery shopping, taking baths. However, these daily routines have the two most important requirements for learning: relationships (experiences your child can remember and relate to) and repetition. For example, think about your weekly grocery store trip:
You are wheeling your child through the supermarket. He or she points to the apples. It’s a perfect learning opportunity. You can say, “Look at the red apples and the green apples. Don’t they look yummy?” Hold the apple out and let your child touch it. “Feel how smooth they are. Why don’t you help me choose five to bring home?” Let your child place them in the bag and say, “Nice work! Thanks for helping!”
This simple interaction in the produce section created an opportunity to practice language skills, taking turns, talking, using senses, and learning about numbers. It also promoted self-confidence and self-esteem by letting your child know that their thoughts and interests are important and they are capable of doing important things. Here are a few other times routines provide opportunities rich in learning:
Mealtime: Sharing your day or even asking to please pass the salt provides opportunities rich in language development, turn taking, and learning to express emerging emotions. Letting your child serve themselves provides opportunities for math (measurement), developing fine motor skills, and instilling the confidence that they are able to take the lead in important daily activities.
Getting Ready for Bed: The time you spend in the mirror brushing hair and putting on pajamas can be used to play games like making faces (happy, sad, surprised, etc.) that support emerging emotions and practice fine motor skills with brushing teeth, and learn valuable self-help skills like pulling up pants and putting on a shirt.
In the Car: Playing games like “I Spy” with your surroundings, looking for and naming all of the green (or any other color) you can find, and looking for specific letters on license plates are ways to build strong connections in your child’s developing brain, increase their attention span, and promote emergent literacy skills.