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Lena Engel
Worked as an Ofsted Early Years Inspector for Kensington and Chelsea Borough. Supported teachers in schools to improve outcomes for children’s learning, and written for Nursery World Magazine. She trains, assesses and mentors early years practitioners, and offers advice and guidance to parents.
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Child mental health & wellbeing

Routines are the spice of life

Daily care routines for children are crucial to the maintenance of good health and well-being. They are also the best way to help children learn life skills by promoting language, social awareness, and self-confidence.
In Short
Start each morning with a smile, a hug and an "I love you." It sets children up for the day with an affirmation of your love and care.

A bedtime routine with a 5 minute bath that starts at the same time each evening actually promotes children's sleep hormone, melatonin, which will help them to feel sleepy when they get into bed.

Eating together around a table is a powerful way to connect each day as a family.

Getting fresh air and some exercise everyday is really important to keep children active and build their core strength.

Start the day with a smile

When your child wakes up, you should encourage as gentle and friendly morning routine as possible. Even if you’ve have had a disturbed night, children should not be made responsible for your feelings.

  • A peaceful start to the day is calming for all children so make the experience of washing, dressing and eating breakfast as happy and unhurried as possible. Prepare clothes the night before and only give your child two choices, at each element of the process. Eg: you can wear your blue t-shirt or your green one, which one do you want to wear? ‘you can get up now or in five minutes, what would you prefer?’
  • Comforting words of welcome and reassuring exchanges with parents make the separation at the start of the day when the children may have to go to nursery or school a lot more bearable.
Rest and sleep

Children, like adults, need to feel secure, warm and comfortable when they sleep.

  • For a day nap, remove restrictive clothing such as shoes, trousers, and jumpers.
  • Give children their favourite toy to cuddle at naptime or bedtime.
  • Darken the room by closing the curtains or lowering the blinds as this promotes melatonin production.
  • Have a lullaby as part of the bedtime routine.
  • When your child wakes, greet her warmly.
  • Ideally you should eat together as a family around a table. You can set children an example of healthy eating without having to lecture them about it.
  • Engage in conversation with children so that they feel important, included and valued.
  • Talk about the food and encourage children to serve themselves.
  • Ask children to wash their hands before coming to the table, and to help to set and clear the table. This will make them feel important and included and is great for self-confidence.
Dressing for outdoors
  • Children are excited by the idea of going out, so remind your child that she will need her coat, hats, gloves and boots (in cold weather). This makes getting out of the house easier for everybody. Try and keep her things in one place and in her reach so she can get herself ready to get outside.
  • Encourage your child to remember the way to the park and talk about the familiar scenery or buildings that you will pass.

Colorfully dressed Girl by AngelsWings

Routines are the building blocks of daily life. Parents should ensure that they make routines both enjoyable and challenging so that children feel valued, confident and secure.

If you would like to contact Lena for one-on-one advice for children aged 0 – 19 years, please email her on Lenahelpsparents@gmail.com.

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This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.