How to maintain a routine with toddlers during the holiday season (and why it’s okay when it doesn’t go to plan) ❄️

As the holiday season approaches, so does the excitement of more time off, travel, and family gatherings. While it is a time of joy and togetherness, it can also be a source of anxiety as families try to maintain consistency while out of routine. Consistency is key in fostering a sense of security and well-being for young children, and maintaining a predictable schedule can help ease the transitions that come with festive gatherings and family visits. In this blog, we’ll explore strategies for parents to uphold routines at home during the holiday season, and why it is okay when things don’t go to plan.

To start, let’s chat a little bit about the importance of routine for young children. This will help you understand why putting effort into maintaining routine is so important, and when routine is not possible (such is life!) it will help you understand why your child might be exhibiting heightened emotions.

Importance of routine for young children.

  1. Sense of security:
    • Young children thrive on predictability. Routines provide a sense of security and stability, especially in unfamiliar or busy environments. During the holidays, maintaining familiar routines offers a comforting anchor for infants and toddlers, helping them feel secure amidst the excitement.
  2. Emotional well-being:
    • Infants, toddlers and preschoolers may be sensitive to changes in their surroundings and daily activities. Consistent routines contribute to emotional well-being by reducing stress and anxiety. This is particularly important during the holiday season, where new faces, places, and experiences can be overwhelming for young children. While changes in surrounding may be inevitable if you are traveling or visiting family, understanding that this might be over-stimulating for a young child and preparing for heightened emotions will help you understand where your child is coming from if they are having a hard time with the change.
  3. Quality sleep:
    • Sleep is crucial for the physical and cognitive development of young children. Disruptions to their sleep routine during the holidays can lead to them being over-tired, having difficulty settling down, and overall restlessness. By adhering to bedtime rituals and sleep schedules as much as possible when in a new environment, caregivers can ensure that children get the rest they need for optimal health, development and happiness.
    • Tip: There are a lot of creative ways to help your child sleep when away from home and doesn’t have to be restricted to a dark bedroom. Having a small portable crib or bed can help you ensure you have a place for them to rest. There are even tremendous amounts of research that show the positive health impacts of sleeping outside. Going for a walk and snuggling them up in a stroller or wagon during nap time can be a creative idea to get them outside and sleeping when they do not have their bedroom.
  4. Smooth transitions:
    • The holiday season often involves travel, visits to relatives, and changes in the daily routine. Consistent caregiving practices help smooth these transitions. Whether it’s a familiar bedtime story or the comfort of a special blanket, maintaining routine elements provides continuity in the face of new environments. Prepping young children for the change in routine coming up, and letting them know it is okay if they feel overwhelmed but that you are with them are helpful ways to ensure children feel safe amidst change.
  5. Promoting independence:
    • Routines empower young children with a sense of control and predictability. Knowing what to expect allows them to anticipate transitions, fostering a sense of independence and agency over the situation. Including them in what is happening, helps them feel like they are a part of the change as a team with you, rather than something that is happening to them that is out of their control. This is particularly beneficial during the holidays when there may be disruptions to the usual caregiving dynamics..

Now that we have a bit of a stronger understanding of the impact of our efforts to maintain routine can have on young children, here are a few tips to help make building routine with your child a bit easier.

Include your toddlers in the holiday planning.

Including toddlers in conversations about holiday plans and changes in routine is essential for their sense of inclusion and empowerment. Toddlers may not fully grasp the intricacies of the holiday season, but involving them in discussions fosters a feeling of importance and belonging. Asking for their input on activities or involving them in decision-making gives them a sense of agency, making them active participants rather than passive observers in the holiday hustle. This inclusivity not only helps manage expectations but also strengthens the bond between caregivers and toddlers, creating a positive and cooperative atmosphere during this festive time.

Get outside.

Outdoor play is crucial for the healthy development of young children, as highlighted in the article “The Importance of Outdoor Play and Its Impact on Wellbeing in a Changing World.” Exposure to natural environments has been linked to enhanced cognitive function, improved attention span, and increased physical activity among children. The study emphasizes that outdoor activities contribute significantly to the overall well-being of young children, positively impacting their mental and physical health. Additionally, exposure to natural light during outdoor play has been associated with improved sleep patterns. Getting outside has also been proven to increase levels of happiness in children, as well as attention-span and autonomy. All of which are connected to making transitions, routines and unpredictability of the holiday season easier for a young brain to handle.

Be prepared for the unexpected.

As an early childhood educator, one of the most important takeaways I can share when it comes to managing routine, transitions and the heightened emotions of young children, is to be prepared for things to not go as planned. The more you can mentally prepare yourself that it is okay when things do not go to plan, the more you can help yourself in having a calm response to the unexpected changes. You and your child are a team, and the more you can work together to handle the beautiful chaos of the holidays, the more joy you will find in the unexpected and unplanned moments.

Happy holidays from the Lillio team!

To learn more about how Lillio (formerly HiMama) provides the all-in-one solution streamlines building, managing and growing a quality early childhood program click here!

Maddie Hutchison

Maddie is a Registered Early Childhood Educator with a Master's in Early Childhood Studies. Her specialty is in Children's Rights and she is currently a Content Strategist for HiMama!