Routines and Self-Care

TulipTreeElm House Blog, tuliptree4 Comments

By Lauren: Lunch is coming to an end at Elm House. Children are sitting and chatting companionably; laughing at each others jokes and talking about what will be happening after lunch. RT looks to me, “Umm, I think I’m done.” “Okay”, I respond, “Don’t forget to clear your plate!” He laughs, “Oh yeah!” and begins to take his plate to our compost bin, dumping the remnants of his lunch and placing it on our lunch tray. Other children begin to finish their food. Sometimes with prompting, sometimes without, each child makes their way to the compost bin, cleaning up after themselves before selecting a book to read until the bathroom is available.















This is a routine that the children are very familiar with. And, as we all know, routines are the foundation of positive experiences in early childhood. Children feel most secure when their lives are predictable. With well known routines in place, children feel safe to explore the world.

Aside from providing a sense of security found through routine, cleaning up their own plate after a meal is a very important lesson in self-care. Self-care is an important task in toddler-hood. As children become aware of themselves as individuals, they are constantly looking for ways to assert their independence. By giving them a way to care for themselves, we provide the opportunity for independence and a chance to build self-confidence. Simple, achievable tasks, such as clearing your own plate, pave the way for an understanding that doing things for yourself feels good. And, let’s be honest, we all benefit from having children take a little responsibility for themselves.

It’s my belief that giving children these tasks from an early age can pave the way for more competence and confidence in adulthood. Providing them with these opportunities to show that they are capable creates a sense of pride in self. This early sense of pride is also a major tenant in anti-bias curriculum. In an anti-bias classroom, our first task is to foster a sense of pride in the child’s own identity. What ways does your child seek independence at home? How can you foster their sense of pride and accomplishment by providing them with reasonable responsibilities?

4 Comments on “Routines and Self-Care”

  1. Makes me remember that I want to put up a coat rack in our entry way that is at toddler height so FBA can hang up his own things upon entering!

  2. I have been thinking of this lately. I wonder what “appropriate responsibilities” are for a 3.5 year old? I like that term vs “chores”. And how do you get them to do these responsibilities without turning into a nag?

    1. I think appropriate responsibilities are things that we know the children can handle themselves. For a 3.5 year old I would say this might include: cleaning up materials after working with them, bussing dishes after a meal, cleaning face and hands after a meal, picking clothing out of two outfits (some children may be ready to pick their own clothes without having them narrowed into outfit options), getting on/taking off extra clothing for outdoor time, helping in the garden and with pets, and night time self care such as getting pjs on and brushing teeth. Making these responsibilities part of the routine and setting them up as expectations can help negate that feeling of nagging. “You’re asking to go out and play, but there are still toys on the ground. We always clean up before leaving our space.” “I noticed you are walking away from the table, but you don’t have your plate. We always clean and stack our plates before moving on to the next activity.” Modeling these behaviors as part of your personal routine will also help set you up for success, as your child will naturally want to emulate you. Of course there is always wiggle room if things just aren’t working out that day. “You seem extra tired this morning, I noticed you still haven’t picked out an outfit. Shall I choose for you this time? You can try again tomorrow when you’re more rested.”

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