Daily routines (e.g. bathing, meals, shopping, car rides, getting dressed, etc.) provide great opportunities for language development in natural settings. Within these routines, children learn how their worlds are organized, begin to associate words/phrases with specific activities, make sense of social interactions, and practice participating in conversations. Through repetition of routines, children gain confidence and gradually take on more active roles. If a parent waits for the child to start a routine, such as squeezing the toothpaste on the toothbrush, the child can begin to understand his/her role as an initiator. A child’s motivation to understand is heightened in a situation in which he/she is an active participant. In addition, as specific vocabulary is repeatedly attached to an experience or activity, the clearer the meaning will become.
Fern Sussman, Program Director at the Hanen Centre, suggests the following guidelines to build opportunities for participation and learning into daily routines:
- Break routines into a series of small consistent steps so that there’s a shared understanding of how the routine works.
- Be flexible as young children learn best when you follow their lead.
- Label what the child is interested in at the very moment it seems to be his/her focus.
- Be creative! Routines can be made out of anything you do regularly!