Ideas on Creating Structure with Young Children

Being at home all the time with the kids can be challenging. Especially trying to establish routines with children. We asked Craig Roberts, our amazing Licensed Clinical Social Worker, to share a few ideas on creating structure with young children. 

Start with the attitude that “We do things together.” 

We play together, we work together, etc.  This way, you get more interaction and more chances to have joy together.

Ideas on Creating Structure with Young Children | Root for Kids
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Show respect in getting your child away from their previous activity

Give them a heads up if possible.  If they’re watching TV, give them until the end of the show, or until the next commercial.  If they’re playing a video game, give them a 5-minute warning, or until they finish the next puzzle, etc.  Kindly stick to your guns and end the activity when the time comes.  If your child is sad/mad about leaving an activity, warmly accept his/her feelings.

Put activities in a timeline that makes sense

Get the work done before the fun.  Some examples are: “We’re going to eat soon, but before we can do that, we need to cook the food and set the table.”  “In a while, it will be time to go to the park, but before that, we need to get the house cleaned so that when we get back, we won’t have to do all that work when we’re tired.”

Transform the work into fun 

For instance, if you have a race to see whether you can cook the food first or your child can set the table first, your child will probably have fun beating you in the race.  If you drive the laundry basket around the house saying, “No, don’t put any dirty laundry in me,” your child will probably laughingly stuff all the dirty laundry in.  Something is fun if you, the parent, make it fun.  It’s a drudge if you, the parent, make it a drudge.  Figure out how to make it fun.

Ideas on Creating Structure with Young Children | Root for Kids
source: Shutterstock

Talk about your feelings and values regarding the task at hand, while keeping positive 

Do the “before” and “after” picture with your words.  For instance, “We’re going to go on a walk tonight, but first we need to get the dishes done.  Oh, look at these dishes all messy and cluttery.  Are we going to let them clutter up our sink?  No, we are not! You dishes are going to get clean.  Johnny and I will see to that!”  Have fun as you wash the dishes with Johnny.  When you’re done, appreciate your work.  “Wow.  Our kitchen feels great now.  We’re a great dishwashing team. Now it’s time to go on our walk!” 

Be appreciative of whatever positive thing your child does

If you’re cleaning Suzie’s bedroom and she makes the bed and it’s all lumpy, say “Wow.  You got your bed made. You got the pillow in the right place, and got the blanket pulled up over the top of it.  Very nice work!”  Find the good in what she did, and she will feel proud to help and encouraged to help the next time.  Ignore the lumps, and over the years they will get smoothed out.

Give your child many appropriate moments of power and choice

You might say, “OK.  Now we’re cleaning your room.  You’re in charge in here.  Do you think we should start with the toys first or the dirty clothes first?”  Giving power to your child helps him/her feel like the owner of the chore and starts building his/her ability one day to do chores independently from you.  But don’t rush that.  Wait until your relationship is feeling very strong and happy. You don’t want to miss out on opportunities to happily work together.

Ideas on Creating Structure with Young Children | Root for Kids
source: Shutterstock

Root for Kids serves children from birth to age five in Washington County, Utah and the Arizona Strip. We are still enrolling for all of our programs! Fill out our referral form today.

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