Many times you will hear people talking about their kids having a set schedule and needing to take their naps at a specific time. But are they meaning a schedule or a routine? And is there a difference when it comes to kids?
Having a schedule vs a routine makes a huge difference to a child’s day. Especially their nap times. And many times parents will mean a routine but might say that they have their kids on a schedule instead because they don’t notice there is a difference.
Before we get into the differences, let talk about what a schedule is and what a routine actually is.
What is a Schedule?
The dictionary defines a schedule as a plan for carrying out a process or procedure with lists of intended times and events. An example in daily life would be your work schedule. Or school. Basically, something you can’t really miss.
Now, these set times to do things don’t usually work well for younger children, but work pretty well for older children like teens and preteens.
Knowing when to transition into a schedule instead of a routine can be a pretty grey area because of all of the factors that need to go into it. But, we won’t get into that right now.
What is a Routine?
The dictionary defines a routine as a sequence of actions regularly followed. Basically a fixed program. When you think about it it is more like how you get up in the morning. Do you brush your teeth before you eat or do you get dressed before you do your hair?
All of those things are considered a routine. Even how you go to bed tends to be a routine. And that’s what younger children really need.
You see routines can be flexible and more defined by what sequence of things you do. Say you start your bedtime routine and you really weren’t planning on sleeping, but you end up falling asleep anyway. Your routine led you to believe it is bedtime and so your body went with those cues.
Children respond to these cues well and that helps them get into the mindset when it is time for naps or bed. Without those cues, it makes it harder for them to know what time it is and usually have to cry things out until they figure out what is going on.
What is the difference between a schedule and a routine?
Now that we got that out of the way let’s talk about what the biggest difference is between these two.
Set times vs Flexibility
So a schedule is set when it comes to the time which means if you want your child’s nap to be at 2 pm then you mean he needs to sleep at 2 pm.
Whereas a routine is more flexible when the child wakes up. If your routine is to put your child down for a nap every 3 hours after being awake then you base when they sleep off of when they wake up. If your kid wakes up at 6 am then you do your whole routine and then when it gets close to 830am you start their naptime routine so that they fall asleep at 9 am. And so on.
What happens with a kid on a routine?
When a child has a routine instead of a schedule they learn to prepare themselves for their day will be. They will learn their morning routine, which as they grow older will grow into their teen and adult routines. They will learn what helps them prepare to sleep each night, whether it be a glass of warm milk or listening to music.
Basically, everything that a child learns with their routine will be shown later in their life as to how they get ready for the day’s activities. In the long run, this is what prepares them to be independent instead of a schedule that was pushed on to them.
Why should you choose a routine instead of a schedule?
Having a child, let alone a baby, on a routine is pretty wonderful and necessary to keep the parents sane. It may seem like hard work at first, but in just a few days it will make a huge difference.
There will be a bit of flexibility in your schedule for nap times, but it will be less difficult in the long run. Your child will sleep better and you have a better chance to avoid those horrible power naps of 30-45 minute naps. It will lead to you having a bit more time to get things done when they nap.
And best of all you will have a better night’s sleep. When they go down for bed at night after a routine they tend to sleep very easily and that means fewer chances of you waking up all night to comfort them or get them back to sleep. Now, what parent wouldn’t want that?! Sleep is the best, but usually very elusive. Try switching your child to a routine and see how your sleep improves!
If you want some sample routines to help you get started on your own routine then check back next week!