Should early years practitioners be incorporating routines into the nursery day?
There is often debate among early years practitioners about having set routines in place, with many settings choosing a more relaxed free flow approach to the day. Routines should vary depending on the age of the children you work with however a routine is important. Routines allow children to feel comfortable and settled whilst in the nursery environment as they know what is happening next. Tuning into children and observing them is important when creating a new room routine and carrying out a routine on a daily basis. The EYFS also recommends having routines in place as it is important for the children’s emotional wellbeing.
Consider children’s stage of development
When creating a new room routine it is important to consider the stage of development the children are at and what you are preparing them for next, for example a toddler room prepares children for preschool and preschool should prepare children for school. Try not to expect too much from the children in the early days of the new routine as it may take them a while to adapt to the new expectations. Routines for the younger children should be very individual and based around meeting the routines they would follow at home. Although you should incorporate individual routines you may save the same time slot every day for singing together or for going out into the outdoor environment. For the older children you may want to incorporate more structure into the day for circle times, letters and sounds and outdoor play. Remember you are preparing these children for school which is often a heavily routine lead environment.
Although creating a level of structure is important, allowing some flexibility to these early years routines will enable the best possible learning. You may have a slot for 15 minutes each morning for circle time, however if after 10 minutes the children are becoming fidgety and disruptive, draw your circle time session to a close. Or if the children are really engaged in a learning experience allow the session to continue for an extra 10 minutes instead of tidying up straight away. Being attentive to what is happening around you as a practitioner enables the children to gain the most out of there routine.
Consult children on your routine
When planning a new room routine it might be nice to discuss with other practitioners in the setting and for all rooms to share one element of the routine. This would create continuity for the children who pass through all rooms of the nursery. For example you may all choose to use the same tidy up time song or to have a story at the same time in each room. This will make transitions in the early years smoother for the children.
Why not evaluate your routine and see if this is working or not and make changes where necessary. You may be surprised by how small a change you make makes a big difference.