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Why predictability is so important for young children

2020-10-22 00:00:00

Written by Amber Simons

Much more than adults, children live in the here and now. While we constantly have our busy schedules in mind, children just think about what is happening right now. And while young urban professionals take a mindfulness course to find themselves, children are completely absorbed in the moment. Children subconsciously lives very consciously.
Children experience daily activities as separate parts of the day. It is difficult to imagine a day as a whole at a young age. Only after a lot of repetition does a child recognize situations and associate those with each other. When specific moments during the day are repeated, a child builds knowledge and experience in that. This way, recognizing what is to come, becomes easier. A child then slowly learns to anticipate. 

The ritual of dinner
As adults, we incorporate all sorts of rituals and structures in our daily actions. Much more than we think. However, we tend to be unaware of said patterns because we do them automatically. Think of washing your hands after using the toilet, lean back when you have finished your food, do groceries at the same store every time, or listen to a certain song while cleaning your house. We also tend to use the same objects in specific situations.
Children copy this. A child starts associating certain materials and structures with specific situations. An example of this that recurs daily is mealtime, which is comprised of all sorts of rituals. For instance, we eat at the same time every day, we smell scents of food being prepared, we set the table in advance, wash our hands before we sit down, and put the food on our plates before we start eating. All these structures, the use of certain materials, and even the smell of food, alert your child that it is time to eat.

Recognition creates security
By sticking to a fixed order in the day and especially in certain situations, your child learns to recognize the recurring daily events. This recognition gives him or her a sense of security. Because they can trust themselves and their environment. Only when a child feels secure can he or she focus on what is happening around them. And only then will a child develop.
Children are still learning to properly filter the millions of stimuli that come in at the same time. We grown ups, do this unconsciously, partly because our brain already knows what is important and what not. But for children, everything is new. So when there are certain moments that recur every day and are largely the same, the input of new stimuli is much less.

Predictability prevents overstimulation
Predictability, fixed rituals and repetition therefore ensure peace and quiet, and prevent a child from becoming overstimulated. That is why we at CompaNanny maintain a fixed daily routine for children. It is also the reason that we continuously talk with children and describe everything during the day. The sound of the garbage truck outside, the behaviour of other children, what will happen later, and what we are doing at this moment. So talking to your child is not only useful for their language development. It is also important for their sense of rest and security.

Does your child need predictability?
How important predictability is for a child, differs per individual. After all, every child has a different temperament. It can be said however, that young children are more sensitive to changes and unpredictability than older children. This is because an older child already has a lot more knowledge about the world and its immediate environment. As a result, he or she is able to place an unexpected event in a familiar and understandable framework much faster.

This is how you create predictability
When you notice that your child is restless or overstimulated, it can help to introduce fixed rituals, or being more consistent with the existing ones. This can be done, for example, by always singing the same song before mealtime, or to always read a book before going to bed. Moreover, it can be very helpful for children if you announce a change or activity some time in advance. For example, announce that you will be heading upstairs to brush their teeth in 10 minutes, and then repeat the announcement 5 minutes in advance. To be able to properly assess what your child needs in this, it is important to watch them and listen to them carefully and respond accordingly.

Want to know what kind of daily routine we maintain at CompaNanny or how we ensure predictability? Read more about our methods or request a tour!

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