Sometimes, we get so bogged down by ‘routine’ that we forget to have fun with our little ones

We know that when it comes to parenting, ‘routine is king’.

This is especially true for those routine-driven times of the day like mornings and evenings.

We haul our little ones out of bed in the mornings, rush them through breakfast and hurry them out the door to make it to school on time, only to repeat a similar routine in the evenings as we power through supper, bath time and bedtime.

Tears, tantrums and defiant behavior characterise these times of the day, which we rightfully dub ‘witching hour’…

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How do we turn it around, and make these ‘unhappy hours’, happy again?

Megan Hunt (Principal of Junior Colleges Snuggles) believes that parents tend to forget one crucial element as they move through their daily activities and ‘to-dos’ with their children, and that element is fun. 

She says that pre-school teachers are often asked how they manage to get 20 two-year-olds to willingly (and happily) do things that moms struggle to do with just one or two children.

Megan lets us in on their secrets below:

The routine is set in stone, there is no negotiating

At school; everyone eats lunch, goes to the toilet and settles down for a nap, together, at the same time. That’s just the way it is.

They move from one activity to the next with ease, because they know what to expect.

Try and cultivate this at home by setting a routine, sticking to it, and warning your little one when you’re about to change activities.

“Something like, ‘When the big hand on the clock gets to six, I am going to ask you to put away your toys, so finish playing your game by then’ will give them a heads up, and make them far more willing to co-operate than expecting them to cease doing what they’re doing with immediate effect”, says Megan.

There’s room for play in routine

“When we change routine at school, we play!”, says Megan.

“We make use of transition activities. When it’s toilet time, we hop like bunnies or creep like mice. When we head to lunch we sing a song. While eating, we praise the children who display great table manners”.

Adding a dash of fun to the activities your child deems boring will make all the difference in their attitude and co-operation

What’s done at school is easy to mimic at home; set challenges for your pre-schooler, like, “I’ll race you to the bathroom!” and offer choices to your toddler, like, “Which toy would you like to bath with tonight?”.

Adding a dash of fun to the activities your child deems boring will make all the difference in their attitude and co-operation – plus it offers a great opportunity for you to bond with your child and create long-lasting memories!

Make food fun!

Making food fun is quite simple and children are quick to eat if you add a little creativity to their meals.

“Think colourful food presented as faces, snakes and other animals”, says Megan.

She also suggests that you eat together with your little ones – or at least sit with them while they eat. Make conversation, but don’t nag. If their food remains untouched after 20 minutes, simply state that you can see that they do not want it, and remove their plate from the table. Don’t offer an alternative and don’t force feed.

“Children will not starve themselves, and after a week or so of practicing this calm approach, your little one will realise that there is no need to play up over food”, says Megan.

Take control

Teachers are always in control at school, and because children thrive on knowing that someone is in charge, parents should practice the same control at home.

They also want to please, and will often do things to be seen and appreciated. Unfortunately, this is where moms and dads can slip up, says Megan.

“As parents, when our children are well behaved, they generally don’t hear from us – and this is when they need positive feedback. ‘Wow, John! I love how you ate all your supper tonight’ or ‘Jenny, you were so well behaved in the bath tonight, let’s see that again tomorrow’ will go a long way in building your child’s morale and making him or her want to work with you, and not against you”.

As a final thought, Megan encourages us to remember that the time with our little ones is fleeting, and that one day we will look back and wish we had had more fun together!