How to set routines in the early years

Routines are key in EYFS: they help the classroom to run smoothly and ensure children feel settled. But how do you establish them? Jess Gosling shares her advice
11th January 2022, 12:00pm
How to set routines in the early years

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How to set routines in the early years

https://www.tes.com/magazine/teaching-learning/early-years/how-set-routines-early-years

Routines are crucial for the smooth running of an early years setting

Not only do they provide children with a vehicle to manage the multiple tasks required of them within a school day, but their predictable nature ensures children feel settled and comfortable at school. 

Routines are particularly helpful for children with additional needs because they offer a structure that they can rely upon, removing some of the uncertainty they may feel within the classroom.

Ideally, these routines should be set at the start of a new school year. But, each new term is a great opportunity to refresh and revisit your practice. 

So, how can teachers go about establishing (or re-establishing) firm routines in the early years classroom? Here’s my step by step guide.

Prepare the environment

When establishing routines, it is important to prepare the environment ahead of time. Unpacking bags, for example, is a daily but tricky routine for young children. So, before you set this routine in place, ensure that the children can move freely and easily when completing this routine. A cramped, small area can quickly become chaotic. In the unpacking area, put up signs with pictures of lunchboxes or photo instructions above clearly marked, specific places for the corresponding items.

Prioritise routines 

Some teachers prioritise academic learning at the start of each term, but without established routines, the time lost to supporting children to get the basics right takes away from learning time. It’s worth taking the time to run a dedicated session covering a new routine. Discuss the routine with children first, and explain why it’s important, and then display it either electronically or as step by step printed pictorial instructions for reference. This allows the children both autonomy and agency. 

Use an image-based schedule 

After introducing each routine, it is helpful to then permanently display them as a picture within a daily schedule. Having images that represent packing bags, tidying up, lunchtime and circle time, allow the children to understand at what time in their day they need to fulfil these routines. 

At the start of each day, the schedule should be shared with the children. The teacher should regularly refer to the schedule and remove each routine card as the day progresses, so the children build the concept of when a transition or change in routine will take place. 

As the term goes on, staff can simply refer to these images to support the children, therefore limiting the need for staff to talk through the routine with each child, each day. 

Plan for calm transitions 

Transition points can be challenging when working in the early years. I have witnessed children racing around to tidy a room, and being rushed out of it for PE. In these situations, the children can get stressed and knock into one another. To avoid this, always ensure timings are well planned and adhered to. 

Play a tidying up song when children need to clear up their things and ensure they know that when the song finishes, the tidying should be done. Then, ask them to sit together, before releasing children by rows or individually. This way of exiting the classroom allows for a calm transition. 

Be flexible 

Predictable routines are important, but we must also be aware of the need for flexibility when working with young children. If children are required to be seated for teacher-directed learning time, there should be allowances for those who struggle with this. 

Children with poor core strength or lack of focus can find such routines challenging. 

To circumvent this, they can be provided with fidget items or they can choose the best position for themselves to be able to participate. It is not necessary nor expected that every child should be treated in the same way as part of a routine. ‘Birth to Five Matters’, published in 2021, states that there should be individualised care within a group routine, as practices that consider children to have identical needs do not “support children’s positive self-confidence or sense of autonomy”. 

Jess Gosling is an international teacher and author of ‘Becoming a Successful International Teacher’. She can be contacted via her website or Twitter @JessGosling2

 

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