Header image- black text on a white background reads "The importance of routines in each intervention- guest blog post". Above the text is a picture of a child and her mother putting shoes on.

The Importance of Routines in Early Intervention- Guest Blog Post [Part 1]

Today I’m excited to share the first post in a 2-part guest blog post series from Rebecca at @Connect.Explore.Enrich all about the importance of daily routines when working in Early Intervention. Now, over to Rebecca…

Routines play a key role in a child’s development

As an Early Intervention Specialist, I spend most of my days going in and out of homes at different times of the day, seeing families within their natural environment. Every day there is a HUGE opportunity to see a variety of routines happening from snack time, washing hands, getting out the highchair, putting shoes on, diaper changes, and so on. All these routines play a key role in the child’s development.

However, what do I see 99% of the time? Play. Now I am not dismissing play at all, play is a vital routine, but so are all the other routines mentioned above. Yet I find these routines are often lost. They’re missed opportunities to implement key strategies and ideas that the family can do as part of their daily life, which in the long run make intervention a lot easier than some families initially think.
I have had many conversations with families who tell me “I just don’t have time to play with him as much as I’d like” and in this work-from-home world we now live in, this is increasingly the case. But this is exactly why the routines the families are already doing are so incredibly important for carryover and parent implementation, and we should be making the most of these in our Early Intervention sessions. So… what exactly is a routine?

On the right is black text on a white background. The black text is a quote by Woods, Kashinath, & Goldstein, 2004 which reads "Daily routines are meaningful contexts for young children to learn new skills because they are predictable, functional, and occur numerous times throughout the day”.  On the right is a picture of a toddler sat in a high chair eating some vegetables, he is sat with his father who is smiling and laughing.

What is a routine and why are they so important?

A routine is an activity that occurs within natural environments, in our case, the family home. A conversation with families often unearths a great many routines, small and big, that provide many opportunities. Opportunities for strategies to happen, learning to occur, and families to feel like they’re being successful, which is key to carryover and participation. During these conversations you learn how every family is different. Different cultures have some wonderful routines that we can use to support the child’s development.
This past year, I met a family of Mexican origin and mom shared they have a routine of having a sweet snack and milk before bed. It was something she grew up with, and now she was sharing that with her son. What a great routine to target requesting, signs, words, fine motor, gross motor, and social/emotional development! Plus, as it happened every night, mom didn’t have to carve out a chunk of her day to practice the strategies or target the skill. Meaning regular practice and carryover was far more likely to happen. This highlights the importance of routines in early intervention sessions!

“Daily routines are meaningful contexts for young children to learn new skills because they are predictable, functional, and occur numerous times throughout the day” (Woods, Kashinath, & Goldstein, 2004).

Stacey Landberg from @EI.COACHING describes why routines are so important perfectly with a great handout that I like to share with parents who ask ‘why’ we aren’t just playing with the child. Click the image below to grab your copy.
Please note, by signing up to get a copy of this handout you are agreeing to opt into receiving email updates, including promotional material from Stacey Landberg. But you may unsubscribe/opt out at any time. The SLT Scrapbook is not affiliated with, or responsible for, this content.

Black text on a white background reads "this handout is great for sharing with parents and caregivers who ask 'why' we aren't just playing with the child".
There is a prompt to click the image to download a copy of the handout. On the right is a copy of the routines handout in a clipboard with a pink pen overlaid on top.

4 more reasons why routines are important for families and toddlers

1 – Routines often, though not always, reduce power struggles between caregivers and children. As the child knows what is about to happen, over time they are able to anticipate this in a safe manner. A familiar routine may also reduce the amount of ‘nos’ a child hears as they are able to predict what will come before and act upon it with less and less support. For example, “it’s time for a bath”, this happens everyday at a certain time. So over time and exposure to this consistent routine, the child then begins to tidy away, or get their towel when they hear these words.

2 – Lots of families I work with at some time or another talk to me about the difficulty with transitions and their little one, and lets face it, who wants to leave what they are enjoying to do something less enjoyable like go to the store, or pick a sibling up from school? A predictable routine, a timer, a song, a special game built into the ending and beginning of another activity or routines can really help with transitions.

3 – Routines are naturally repetitive. Reading the same book over and over again at bedtime, or rolling the ball down the couch over and over again during playtime might seem ever so tedious for us adults, but for little ones it is SOOOO important for their learning. Having routines that involve activities like this really do help little ones learn. As we see above, a routine is something that occurs frequently- so loading the dishwasher can lend itself to fine motor practice, receptive language support, expressive language support, and cognitive development all in this one routine.

4 – I saw this great quote on instagram recently, on a page called @Hikingwithharps“Routines are like recipes”. The steps are repeated the same (pretty much) every time if you want the right/same result, and I just loved this way of looking at it. “Routine makes children feel empowered”. They learn the sequence of the routine. They learn the words you model (which are the same) during the routine. And this allows them to be successful = empowered, confident and capable, and much more likely to try more new things that are repetitive.

Learn more about the importance of routines in Early Intervention

I hope you’ve found this overview about the importance of routines in Early Intervention helpful. Check back for part-2 in this series, where I’ll be sharing ideas for how to embed routines-based interventions into your coaching sessions.

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About Rebecca.
Rebecca is an Early Intervention specialist, previously from the UK, though she has been living in Northern California for the past 4 years. Rebecca started her career journey as a teacher in the UK for almost 20 years, where supporting children with additional needs became her passion. Now in California, she supports families through parent coaching and family guided routines based intervention in their homes. She is the woman behind @connect.explore.enrich on Instagram where she aims to inspire and empower parents and professionals to find learning opportunities within all daily routines. 


Woods, J., Kashinath, S., & Goldstein, H. (2004). Effects of Embedding Caregiver-Implemented Teaching Strategies in Daily Routines on Children’s Communication Outcomes. Journal of Early Intervention, 26(3), 175–193. https://doi.org/10.1177/105381510402600302

www.zerotothree.org- ‘Creating Routines for Love and Learning’ post




wvsha.org Preschool Language Handout