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Child Development for Elementary Students: Lesson Plans for Daily Routine Building

Posted by on Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Child Development for Elementary Students: Lesson Plans for Daily Routine Building

Author: Laura Doerflinger, MS, LMHC

Establishing routines and patterns of behavior are important aids for children. Much of family conflict revolves around getting from one place to another or from one activity to another. Parents come for counseling because their children resist getting up in the morning, feel anxious over homework, dispute parent’s instructions, or delay in getting ready when the family needs to get somewhere. These difficulties can last into the teenage years and can leave the emerging young adult incapable of coping with independence and responsibility. Some household adjustments can help remedy the challenges in the present and prevent future problems.

As parents, it is our job to train our children to become successful adults. Successful routines are at the core of independence and responsibility.

  • Babies learn feeding patterns, nap patterns, and play patterns.
  • Toddlers learn waking patterns, snack patterns, and clean up patterns.
  • Preschoolers learn activity patterns, sitting and listening, and bedtime patterns.
  • Elementary school children learn chore patterns, homework patterns, and social patterns.


These patterns are not innate; they are learned. Parents are the teachers. Thus parents must teach these routines with the patience and encouragement of a professional. Although so much of what we ask may seem simple, a child may find them complicated. There are four major routines children must establish during elementary school:

  1. Morning Routine: This pattern includes getting up on time, making their beds, getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, washing up, packing lunches and getting their backpacks ready.
  2. School Routine: The teacher and the school establish this pattern but it can be a very complicated set of behaviors and thought patterns.
  3. After School Routine: Transitioning from school to home or an activity is a pattern in and of itself. This pattern might include snacks, breaks, sports and homework.
  4. Nighttime Routine: This pattern might include mealtime, homework, snack/dessert, free-time, brushing teeth, washing up, settling into their own beds and going to sleep.


Your children have a need to feel comfortable and safe in their patterns. And your children need your help in the training process. Here are some helpful hints to aid in their success:

  1. Establish your own pattern. Most people are forced to have routines due to their line of work (from lawyer to home manager). But if you live chaotically, understand that your children will live chaotically. Establishing a routine for yourself will greatly help in establishing a routine for your children and help model for your children the act of routine-building.
  2. Establish expectations and home routines. Sit down with your child and discuss what works best for the morning routine, after school routine and night routine. Use your child’s input and make a list. Post the lists in appropriate places. Again, you are training your child to be a responsible adult.
  3. Encourage your child to adopt the plan by emphasizing that life is easier with routines. Remember that repetition is critical. Gentle reminders and keeping the focus on established lists aids a child in the training process. If a routine is not working, re-work it! Consistency yields results. Help your child daily until the behavior patterns solidify. You will likely be rewarded by a calmer atmosphere at home.
  4. Review school routines. Most kids feel overwhelmed and anxious by new school routines. No matter how helpful and forgiving the teacher may be, kids feel a need to impress and fit in. Go over the expectations of the school and talk to your child about the best way he can manage within that system.

Remember, it is never too late to establish routines. Look at what has worked so far, what is not working, and what will work in the future. Develop a plan with your children and then understand that you are responsible for training them step by step. If you use patience and understanding, your children will gladly participate in finding what works. Nobody likes a chaotic, hurried experience. After thirty days of intense training, your children will relax into the patterns.

Copyright 2008 Parent Education Group - Reprints Accepted - Two links must be active in the bio. The article homepage:

About the Author:

Laura Doerflinger, MS, a licensed mental health counselor, is the Executive Director of the Parent Education Group at and the author of the audio book, Emotionally Balanced Parenting.

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