Routines – The Perfect Tool for Developing Language

I remember when my children were little and everyone would talk about routines. To be honest, I kind of heard blah..blah..blah.. as I am not a routine person. I like flexibility and I seem to really like change and as such when people would say you need routine. My brain would freeze a little. It seemed to mean when they slept, when they ate. So routine was a word that I did not really like.

However, as they got older and as I had more kids and as I cared less about what I ‘should’ do and more about what they needed from me I started to realise that there are routines all throughout the day. Most of them are a really positive experience. They are predictable, they are repetitive and they are perfect for building language.

Take for instance, changing a nappy. You are always going to lie them somewhere safe, often in the same spot. You will always take off an old and possibly very creative nappy that there may be a LOT to talk about, then you will clean them down and replace with a clean nappy and then you are finished. So each step of this you can be adding language, the same language every. single. time.

Your child gets to hear these words time and time again. Repetition is important to learning language. So routines provide a great place to build language.

If you think across your day you will spot routines, where building language is perfect. Common ones include:
• Nappy changing;
• Book reading;
• Pushing on a swing;
• Eating meals;
• Having a bath;
• Getting dressed.

So after a rocky start with the word ‘routine’, I now find myself encouraging parents to look for the routines that they have in their day and then use these to build language and connection with their young children.

A routine we did have that mostly I loved was reading to them before bed. Some nights were rough when I was really exhausted. I remember one night reading to my youngest and at the end of the book she noted that I had not read the words at all and as it had transpired I had debriefed my whole day at work to her whilst turning the pages! This routine has morphed over the years but that time before bed still remains a time for talking and connecting with each of my children.

As example, of how you can use routines – say you have an 18 month and they are not using words. But they love swinging. Then after you put them in ….. wait a bit…..with anticipation… then say “go”….(and push them)….then stop the swing and hold it….wait some more….also with anticipation…then say “go”…”go”…. (then push them)… Keep doing this. They will learn the word ‘go’. The routine becomes that before you release them for the swing, you say the word ‘go’. At first you model it all the time but they will soon join in.

Have fun with it!

If you are keen to know more about what to expect with language development then you can head here for typical milestones from birth to four years.