If you've ever accidentally interrupted your preschooler's schedule by doing something as silly as trying to serve him dinner early so you have more time to get ready to go out on the town, you may have been surprised to see him dissolve into tears. Rest assured that your little one isn't some weird creature from the dark lagoon; he just knows that playing with the dog comes before dinner and expresses his frustrations when his schedule changes.
Schedules Provide Structure
Whether you are caring for your child in your own home or sending him off to a caregiver while you work doesn't matter. Schedules provide structure for your child's day and let him know what to expect. Although you may prefer to do things on the spur of the moment, many children do not react favorably, and prefer to know what will happen next. A basic schedule that allows some flexibility teaches your child to monitor his own behavior and to develop a sense of time.
Schedules Are Predictable
Because schedules are predictable, children who have not yet learned to tell time learn to measure their day according to their activities -- which is exactly why little Johnny rebelled when you fed him dinner before he played with the dog. Even though he might not know that you are feeding him early, when the schedule is broken, he feels like he loses control and may express it with tears.
Schedules Ease Transitions
Transitions from one activity to another are often difficult for preschoolers and give rise to the "one more time" or "in a minute" response. With schedules and cues that the activity is about to change, such as the theme song from his favorite show or that few minutes wrestling with the dog, transitions are smoother and cause less anxiety for your child. Because she already knows what comes next, she is ready to move to the new activity.
Schedules Build Trust
As odd as it may sound, schedules build trust between children and caregivers. Think of them as an unwritten agreement between the two of you. When your little one sees that you carry through with a predictable routine, he learns to trust you to do as you say.
Schedules Reduce Behavior Problems
Behavior issues become less of an problem, especially when there are several children involved, because your little one is free from the anxiety and frustration of not knowing what happens next. Because her day is structured and she knows what to expect, she is less likely to rebel or become distracted by other desires.