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Getting Into A Routine

Routines help children feel safe and secure. Knowing what to expect and when, helps them know what is expected of them and what they can expect from others. These patterns help keep life ‘steady’ when other things change for children and families.

Family life is busy for most of us. Routines make organising ourselves and our children easier. It helps us be in the right place at the right time.

People talk a lot about ‘getting into a routine’ it can make it feel like a ‘big thing’ but it doesn’t need to be. Routines are very personal and need to work for you and your family. When you decide to get into a routine is a personal choice. It is never too late to decide that it would help your family to have more structure in your lives.


  • When babies are first born parents often feel under pressure to get their baby into a ‘routine’. People often mean getting the baby into a sleeping and feeding routine.

    The recommendation is that babies are fed on demand and responded to when they cry. This is important in establishing breast feeding and making sure formula fed babies are not overfed. It is also a special time when you are getting to know each other and to understand the cues they give to tell you what they need. This is a time to go with the flow and respond to your babies needs.

    Even though you are not trying to get your baby into a ‘routine’ it can still be helpful to build some patterns into your day.

    You could;

    • Decide to try and be up and dressed by a time that feels doable for you.
    • Plan what you will eat over next couple of days so you can make sure you have what you need in.
    • Have a time when you clean and sterilise any feeding equipment / put a wash on.
    • Aim to get out for a walk in the afternoon.

    If you have older children you may already have some routines that you want to try and stick to for them. Do your best but don’t give yourself a hard time if some days it doesn’t work out.

  • Once your child is about three months or more you might see they are beginning to develop a ‘pattern in their day. You might have a rough idea of when they are likely to be hungry and when they sleep. You know the times when they often get unsettled and need you to comfort them.

    If you work with these natural rhythms it can make life easier for you – you can predict when you might be able to get a shower in peace / make something to eat or play with your older child.

    Routines take time to become a habit for you and your child – you can begin by;

    • Getting your baby dressed for the day at the same time.
    • Having a walk at a similar time – maybe when you think they are likely to drift off to sleep.
    • Beginning to do bath, pyjamas, milk feed and quiet time during the build up to bedtime.

    Don’t be put off if it doesn’t seem to make a difference straight away – it takes time for the pattern to get established for your baby and for you.

    *Click here* to read more about sleep routines for babies.

    Some days it may not work at all, or there may be things you want or need to do that mean it doesn’t fit in. When this happens, don’t worry, routines still need to be flexible to family life, just get back to it as soon as you can.

  • Young children tend to really like knowing what happens when.

    Children this age are very busy and learning about the world around them. They have a lot of new experiences and ‘big feelings’ to cope with. It is tiring for them.

    Having routines that help them get a balance between enough activity and enough rest can make this easier for them and you.

    Think about what will work for your family. It’s best not to change everything at once.

    • You might start with having a regular family mealtime a couple of times a week to begin with.
    • Working on a regular getting up time can make a bedtime routine more successful.
    • Build active play time into the day – it helps with appetites and sleep. *Click here* to look at our pages on activity.

    Having routines will help them get ready for starting nursery and school. It will be easier you are all used to getting up at the same time and getting enough sleep.

    *Click here* to look at our page on sleep for ideas.

  • You may have previously had routines but found it harder to keep them up as your child gets older. Or you may have never found a way to make it work for you.

    Even as children get older they benefit from a pattern to their day.

    • It can be one of the ways they are reminded that you are there to keep them safe.
    • It can make it easier for your child to follow other routines and rules that are expected of them for example at school.
    • It can help everyone know exactly want is expected of them for example how much screen time and when it is allowed.
    • It can make it easier to help your child be active, eat and sleep well – making them more able to learn and remember at school.

    Now your child is older it’s a good idea to get them involved in planning new family routines. There may be some things they are keen on like family mealtimes or games nights. They may be less keen on bedtimes!

    • Drawing out a timetable of what happens each day can help every one focus.
    • Working together and listening to each others point of view will help. Most children like to know that routines will be reviewed as they get older. Most older siblings want a later bedtime than younger family members!

    It can take time for everyone to get used to a new way of doing things. *Click here* to look at our pages about ‘making changes.’ 

  • The teenage brain is going through a period of huge change; *click here* to read more. It can often be a time when they do not want to stick to family routines.

    It is a tricky to get the balance right as you want your child to begin to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.

    Decide what routines you think are most important to stick to. It might be that you all have meals together.

    It might be school night bedtimes and screen time limits. Find a time when your child is likely to be able to talk about it with you calmly. Listen to their views and be prepared to bend on some of your ideas but be clear about what you think are the most important routines to keep. Agree to keep reviewing routines as things change.


Routines are there to give a framework for you and your family. They play a really useful part in keeping family life calmer and more organised. They can help everyone get enough family time and rest time.

Sometimes they won’t work for all sorts of reasons. Try not to worry when this happens. Having flexibility makes room for difficult times as well as fun times.

Get back to the routines that work for your family when you can. Your family will soon get back into the patterns that help them feel safe and secure.


Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am - 6pm Monday - Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am - 1pm on Saturdays.


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