Behavior & Environment

How to Implement a Routine Chart with Kids

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Routines are the framework for smooth running days when working with kids. Routines give kids the consistency they need to feel safe, navigate transitions, and manage their emotions and behaviors. To help kids understand the daily routines you can use routine charts. Routine charts are helpful tools that outline what tasks you do and in what order you do them. Here are some helpful tips for using routine charts with the kids you care for.

1. Make sure the child can easily understand the chart. Use visual cues for most of the chart and use words sparingly. Kids can use clip art to represent a task or a picture of themselves performing a task to outline the routine.

2. Target the number of steps to be age appropriate. A toddler can understand and remember 3 to 6 steps, so developing a chart around small parts of the day works well, for example getting dressed in the morning or having lunch. A high schooler can understand and reference a much longer routine so completing a school project or managing the details of game day make for great routine charts..

3. Put time limits on the steps. They don’t have to be exactly followed each time, but the steps should have a time limit attached. You don’t want picking up the toys to take an hour if your goal is to get to lunch by noon. When kids can put that unused time towards something else, like outdoor or screen time, it gives them an incentive to finish early.

4. Invite the child to participate in the development. Of course you’ll be there to guide them through the process of brainstorming what actions are required, thinking through what order works best for the steps outlined, and making sure the routine fits into the time available. Allowing the child to create the routine ensures they feel invested in the routine and ownership of the choices made.

Routine charts can take the stress out of the troublesome parts of your day and empower kids to more consistently follow an action plan around regular activities. It’s a win for everyone!