Last week I wrote about routines. This week I’m going to write about routines again 😊
There are a few reasons why so please hear me out.
I was running the second part of my parent workshop for a family today. In just a few days they have seen a real improvement in how their children approach food, just because of the structure and the routines we have implemented. Not only that but the food routines have helped to shape the rest of the day.
I’m a huge advocate of routines as you can see below!
8 reasons why routines are king:
1. Our brain loves the familiar, it loves the predictable and it craves knowing what is going to happen. The more it can do this the less effort it makes! Having daily routines really does help us to stay calm and balanced. A big plus in these unsettled times, especially for children who may be a little more anxious.
2. It makes our life far easier when we have plans. Getting up in the morning and frantically figuring out what to do for the day or winging it often makes things more difficult and stressful. Which is not to say we can’t have a slob, take it as it comes, PJ day. But that in general, having some structure – especially for an extended period of time, is easier.
3. When the children know what is going to happen, they are far better placed to help. Got a pre-schooler? I bet that they know when breaks happen, when it’s “tidy up time” etc. Having a board with pictures of what to do during the day – Lego, outside, snack, reading etc. means they can get involved and do some of the work. For older children it’s easy to follow the school schedule and to create their own plan to work to.
4. For children who are food anxious structure around food is the first step to supporting them to eat more competently. Having defined eating opportunities throughout the day really does help. Also knowing what is happening on the food front is comforting.
5. Having a routine makes us more efficient and requires less effort. We spend less time thinking and have to make fewer decisions. We know that we do breakfast then we brush teeth then … we don’t have to think about it. This is also true of our children and is the reason that educational facilities follow defined timetables.
6. It actually saves us time. We procrastinate less as we can just jump straight into the plan and get going. Similarly, for our children, if they go from breakfast to task one there is no time to disappear into media and then find it impossible to return to reality!
7. We keep good habits flourishing. The lockdown could last for more than a month. It’s really easy to maintain and much harder to gain back.
8. Being productive is good for self-confidence. Getting to the end of the day and having a completed puzzle, a fabulous painting or a new dance move licked is really positive.
All of these are general reasons why routines are important.
When it comes to food and effectively supporting a child who is uncomfortable around eating, I would say it’s even more important.
How routines support eating
1. Having a pre-dinner routine can be as effective as a bedtime one. Most of us have a bedtime routine, either specifically planned or one that has come about organically.
Having set activities we undertake before dinner is especially important for children who struggle to come to the table, who are reluctant to stay there or who are not able to focus once there.
The pre-dinner routine is often more effective if it “gets the sillies out”. This may be a two minute video to dance to, a mini tramp to bounce on or a dash around the garden. It’s great if this is predictable. This may be followed by washing hands, then helping to set the table. Being part of the actual dinner prep – even just in the table setting – helps our child become more invested in the process. Then there may be a call to the table, a bell, a gong, a “hoi”.
2. When we, as parents, have a plan it makes everything easier for us. In turn, us being more relaxed enables our child to also be more relaxed. The more relaxed we are, the more likely we are to eat.
3. Knowing what to expect is very reassuring. It’s our brain’s comfort position. Again, this enables a child to approach a meal more confidently.
This is a topsy turvy time and there is a lot of uncertainty for many families. But, in running 3 parent workshops this week I’ve realised what an awesome opportunity this is to make some serious changes to the picky eating. Having parents at home, no dashing around, no commuting and all this glorious time is unprecedented. We also have children with virtually zero overstimulation or overwhelm.
I feel a bit gauche offering a paid service but honestly, it is a golden opportunity to tackle all those things that you’ve been meaning to do for months (years) and never seemed to have the time or the headspace for. I would not offer this if I didn’t genuinely believe that were true.
I promise that most of what we do is super positive for children – you will not be stuck with kids who hate you for ruining their lockdown 😊 In fact, the opposite, we’ll be injecting fun and joy for them and routines, structure and plans for you!
I’d love to connect with anyone who wants to capitalise on the next month to finally get on top of the eating. Imagine if the virus was the turning point for you and your child’s food challenges!
Judith is an AOTA accredited picky eating advisor and internationally certified nutritional therapist. She works with 100+ families every year resolving fussy eating and returning pleasure and joy to the meal table.