The Benefits of Routines


Evening Routine
Morning Routine


We know that children thrive on predictable routines. They love creative activities, but are often more open to trying new things within a familiar context.

When I taught elementary school I would always write the schedule for the day up on the whiteboard. First thing in the morning my students would come in and read schedule. They loved being in the know and would get excited for certain activities. Not only did this encourage literacy (students were reading to find out information they wanted to know), but it also helped me keep on top of things by handing over some of the responsibility for the day to them. When children had special sessions with the speech therapist or parents called in with alternative going home arrangements, I would write these up on the board. I can’t tell you how many times the children reminded me when we were supposed to head over for school pictures or that Charlie was going home on the bus instead of being collected by his mother. I had so many things going on in my head it was easy to forget all of the extras. Our daily schedule helped me remember and it also taught the children some valuable organizational skills.

As a parent I quickly learned that life gets even more crazy when you have children of your own. I realized I needed to have a better at home organizational system. One Mommy’s Night Out, a mommy friend started to describe a system she found online for keeping the house clean in just 15 minutes a day. All of us stopped talking and tuned in because keeping a clean house with toddlers seemed an impossible feat. She told us about I went through the baby steps enthusiastically. Not everything stuck or worked for me, but her idea of posted morning, afternoon, and evening routines changed my life. I created my own and now, six years on, I still follow them.

When I struggled to get my two-year-old son dressed and out the door in the morning, I created a morning routine for him. I typed up his routine and added little pictures to remind him what to do. I put this in a plastic sleeve and hung it up in his room with blue tack so he could use a dry erase pen to tick off each task as he completed it.

At first, I helped him complete his morning routine. Some days he would do it  independently and others we had to split up the jobs between us. I would put away his pajamas if he made his bed. Now that he is seven, he gets up and goes through his entire morning routine in about 10 minutes flat. When he is finished he comes into my room with his comb and water bottle so that I can smooth down his hair. I am still amazed how smoothly the morning goes with him. Now I am training his 4-year-old brother. Some mornings are tough, but I know we will get there eventually.

One of the most basic aspects to the Flylady routine is to check your calendar morning, noon, and night. It seems silly to write down something so obvious, but occasionally I forget and really regret it. One morning I got distracted, failed to check the calendar, and forgot that my son had a multi-sports session before school. He ended up missing it and he was already dressed for it! I had to have him quickly change into his school clothes in the car.

Now that my eldest is seven I have given him his own calendar to check in the morning and evening. He is responsible for preparing his sports clothing, scout uniform, or snacks the night before certain events and activities. We record when his homework is due on the calendar so that he can ensure it is in his bag the night before. Yes, I still have to remind him to do this and make sure he has completed his evening routine, but I am hopeful one day this will become automatic for him in the same way the morning routine has. I don’t want to send him off to college and have him fall apart because Mommy did everything for him at home.

I believe teaching my children organizational skills and preparedness will serve them well in the future, perhaps even better than cramming their heads full of facts. Isn’t that what Google is for….

Teaching Letters and Sounds to Young Children

Early Phonics Instruction

Our local school uses a phonics program that links reading and writing. It’s a nice program and works well when children are ready to write, but I prefer to start phonics earlier in a fun, informal way.

Why Do I Start Teaching Phonics Early?

When children are developmentally ready it is easier for them to grasp letter sounds outside of a school setting.

I knew my three-year-old was ready, when he suddenly became interested in the first letter of his name and he started spotting the letter “W” everywhere we went. I decided it was time to teach the letters and sounds.

My favourite program is Zoo-phonics because each letter is associated with an animal, an action, and the sound. This is good for kinaesthetic learners and just plain active three-year-old boys (like my son).

There are many other similar programs available to suit younger children. You can even make up your own phonics program incorporating your child’s interests (e.g. vehicles). I would include the sound, letter character, and action if I were to create my own.

My rule of thumb is to spend no more than three minutes of instruction with a three-year-old (4 minutes with a four-year-old, etc). Children this young have a short attention span and it is critical to keep phonics instruction fun and informal.

When I introduce Allie Alligator for letter “a”  I chase my son around the lounge using my arms like snapping alligator jaws while I make the sound “a”, “a”, “a”. This is fun for him and he doesn’t even realise he is learning his letter sounds.

Let me know if you find an original way to introduce the letters and sounds. If you keep it fun and informal, your child will be more than ready to read when the time comes.

The Five-Finger Rule: How To Choose A ‘Just Right’ Book

How To Choose a ‘Just Right’ Book

How to select a ‘just right’ book

The Five-Finger rule – How To Choose A Just Right Book

Last week, my son came home from school with a reading book that was far too difficult for him.

“But…but… my teacher said I could read books from the European section of the library. My friend Sarah is reading it and says it’s really good.”

As I listened to him struggle over the first couple of pages, I knew he was going to get too frustrated to finish the book. It was time to teach him how to choose a ‘just right’ book for independent reading.

We need to teach our children how to select appropriate independent reading books. These are books that will increase their reading fluency and, at the same time, help them develop their reading comprehension skills.

How To Choose A ‘Just Right’ Book

  1. In order to choose a ‘just right’ book encourage the child to pick up a story that looks interesting by glancing at the front cover and reading the title.
  2. Next, the child should do a ‘book walk’ by flipping through the pages, looking at the illustrations, and reading the captions and/or chapter titles.
  3. Finally, they should choose a page in the middle of the book to read. As they come to difficult words they should hold up a finger. If they have 5 or more fingers up by the end of the page, the book is most likely too difficult for them to read independently. Of course, we must apply this rule with common sense. If the children are missing names of people or places we may decide not to count these. My son loves reading tales of Greek heroes and gods. These names are difficult even for me, so I don’t count them when we use the 5-finger rule.

Here is a link to a thorough explanation of this rule that I found helpful.

Now that I am a parent I believe that this is one of the most important concepts a teacher can share with parents and children. The Five-Finger rule empowers children to choose the books that will really move them forward.

When To Revisit Easy Books

Of course, there are times when it is beneficial to revisit ‘easy’ books. I often encourage my son to read picture books to his little brother. He loves to do this and it really helps his reading fluency and ability to read aloud with expression.

When To Use Challenging Books

I also expose my son to challenging books above his independent reading level when I read him a story each evening. I purposely choose this book because I know he will enjoy the story. I choose this book with the purpose of promoting vocabulary development and providing ample opportunities for discussions that will enhance comprehension.