Responsive Schedules and Routines for Infants and Toddlers

Establishing routines in your classroom is one way to promote social-emotional development with infants and toddlers while creating a high quality supportive environment. Utilizing responsive routines doesn’t need to be an overwhelming Keep things simple. Young children thrive on consistency. Therefore, schedules become a critical part of each day. Think about the way things are in your classroom right now. More than likely, you already have a routine in place. What can you do to ensure that it supports social and emotional development for the children?

Socially and Emotionally Supportive Routines

A routine that is socially and emotionally supportive meets a child’s basic needs such as eating, diapering and toilet learning, resting and sleeping, and greetings and goodbyes.  These routines help to develop a sense of security and control. They help children to learn to trust that caring adults will provide what they need. Children welcome the repetition of a structured day because it reminds them they are in a safe, loving environment.

Stable routines allow infants and toddlers to anticipate what will happen next. A pictorial schedule that uses actual photos of known items and places, for instance, allows young children the opportunity to visualize what will happen as the day progresses. This may aid in self-control tactics, as a child who is missing his parents can see all of the steps leading up to their arrival at the end of the day. Use of first/next or first/then statements by the caregiver can reinforce this concept For example,“ first we’ll have a snack, then we’ll play outside,” or “first we will finish coloring, then mommy will come!” 

Routines help  encourage  young children to interact and have conversations. How do you welcome a child in the morning when she is dropped off? Designate a special area in the classroom for arrivals, make eye-contact, and address the child by name. Do you offer a hi-five or hug to the child who is able to respond similarly? These interactions not only promote social and emotional development, but also are great opportunities for development of language skills.

Providing safe, stable, and predictable environments for young children promotes their growing independence. Making the most of your routines will offer many opportunities to nurture a child’s self-confidence and self-esteem, by letting a child know that his thoughts and interests are important.


Cristin McKnight is a Child Development Services Specialist at ChildSavers, and has worked in the early childhood industry for almost 20 years.  She holds a degree in English Literature from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and a Career Studies Certificate in Early Childhood Development from J. Sargeant Reynolds.  Cristin and her family currently reside in Mechanicsville. 






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