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Daily Routine

Dear Debi,
My wife and I recently opened a day care center, but arenít sure how to set up a routine that will be educational and fun for our infants and toddlers. Can you give us some suggestions for how to plan our days?
Ryan, Hesperia, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Each childís needs and rhythms differ
  • Stay in close touch with parents
  • Never isolate infants and toddlers
  • Be flexible
Expert Advice
Janet Shaw
Janet Shaw
Community Connections for Child Care
In child development, routines consist of feeding, sleeping and eating Ė basically, the necessary things in life. Child Care providers should set up a schedule that the child is comfortable with. Routines help kids to learn because children are more comfortable when they know what to expect each day. If they know whatís next, theyíre free to explore.

For infants and toddlers, routines such as arrivals, departures, feeding, diapering, toileting and sleeping can be tremendous times for kids to learn a lot because kids have come to depend on them. Child Care providers should build these routines into their schedules so that kids will learn to look forward to them.

Start by putting together a schedule that includes eating at the same time every day because it helps to give kids a rhythm to their day. Children will then learn to begin to self-regulate. Even in child care settings with only one child, itís important for the child to have a schedule and know what to expect everyday. A schedule keeps children from being stressed. Thatís why having the same child care provider is part of continuity and helps reduce stress, too.

While being mindful of having a structure, child care providers also have to remember to not be too rigid. If a child is building blocks, you donít want to say, ďOK, itís time to go outside.Ē You need a framework for your day, but you also need flexibility. When a child gets engaged, donít yank them away just because of the time of day.

With infants, you need to adapt to their schedule and pay attention to their cues. When developing a schedule with them, if the baby wakes and starts to cry, someone has to acknowledge that theyíre awake. If they want to eat, give them food, but you need to adapt to their schedule when theyíre infants.

As kids get older we can move them into more of a schedule. Iíve worked with groups of children and once youíve got your schedule set, children get used to the cycle and it reduces their stress level. Two- and three-year-olds donít have a concept of time, but they do miss their parents. Having a schedule helps with their anxiety, especially if you can engage their time through activities. If children run free all day or sit in front of the TV for hours on end, then they donít learn how to control themselves.

Older kids like to feel important and be a part of everything. School-aged children love to help with the kids. Nothing makes an older child feel better than to feel like they are making a difference. While older kids can help with an activity such as reading, donít place them in charge of the children. The child care provider still needs to be in charge. Remember, you shouldnít ever want any of the other kids to feel responsible for the children because theyíre still kids themselves.
Child Care provider Comments
Clarissa August
Clarissa August
Family child care provider for 21 years
When you open in the morning, I suggest doing a check to make sure the child is not sick. You can give the children breakfast and afterwards, you can have circle time. You can then take the children outside and let them choose an activity they want to do. Afterwards, you can have a structured time, such as art, that calms them down after outside time.

Next, they can have lunch followed by a nap. You could have more circle time when they wake up. You can do another activity like music or writing, followed by more outside time. Then can get them ready to go home, perhaps reading them a story until their parents come to get them.
Family child care provider for 4 years
Most schedules allow for an educational time in the morning. After breakfast, have a short amount of free time, then begin your circle time and include time for arts and crafts. Follow that up with at least an hour of outdoor time, then lunch, rest time in the afternoon, language activities, music activities and a little more outdoor time.
Alma Martinez
Alma Martinez
Child care provider for 10 years
My first recommendation for planning a daily routine is that it has to be comfortable for the child care provider. If you are starting a new center, you should go out and see how other providers do it. You can also call providers for ideas and suggestions. Then you should adapt your schedule to whatever you will be most comfortable with. It is important to remember to keep it simple so itís not overwhelming.

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