When it comes to your girls’ creativity and development, some routines hinder, and some routines help.
Routine basics, done regularly and with love, work. But over-scheduling organized enrichment activities could actually do more harm than good. Just because you can offer your child every artistic, physical, and social extra-curricular activity doesn’t mean you should.
Things like enough sleep and nutritious food can seem rudimentary (even banal), but that doesn’t mean they should be taken for granted.
Creativity needs both breathing room and structure.
Understanding what a balance of each looks like is the difference between “looking like you’re parenting” and actually doing the rather unceremonious things that work.
Connection Between Creativity and Routine
If you can build a solid foundation of routine for your girl, everything else naturally falls into place. Daily routine fosters the same qualities that creativity requires:
- Safety and security
- Confidence and independence
- A container that encourages a flow state
- Healthy habits
Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, one of the best-known theories of motivation and often displayed as a pyramid. Your child needs you to cover the basics at the very bottom of her pyramid (physiological). If you do this, you’re gifting her with the confident structure required to succeed and space/support to move up her pyramid (safety, love/belonging, esteem, self-actualization).
In other words, your girl needs you to hold down the fort with basic daily care routines. It’s deceptively simple.
The Four Daily Care Routine Pillars
“Sleep is the Swiss Army knife of health” – Matthew Walker, scientist and author of Why We Sleep
If you do one thing to help your child, focus on her sleep quality. Nothing else matters if your child isn’t sleeping well or enough.
- Regular sleep. A routine bedtime and waketime. This trains a girl’s body to wind down and prepare for sleep each day.
- Enough sleep. Somewhere between 10 to 11 hours is the sweet spot for most kids.
- Quality sleep: A calm room (no screens or too many toys – a bedroom is actually for sleeping, not playing) and enough physical playtime in the sun each day is vital.
A focus of the longest study on human development involved analyzing the bedtime routines of 10,000 children. The data showed the children who went to bed at varying times were more likely to have behavioral problems. Those that switched to regular bedtimes had improvements in behavior.
Of course, we need only need to look at ourselves to know creativity is a challenge when adults are tired, grumpy, and can’t focus.
Nutritional psychiatrist Dr. Drew Ramsay speaks of food’s power to affect our mental health and well-being in his book Eat to Beat Anxiety and Depression.
A study Dr. Ramsay cites shows children on whole foods, unprocessed diet showed a 78 percent improvement in behavior after five weeks.
Hyperactivity, anxiety, and low energy negatively affect creativity and overall mood stability. Proper nutrition (think fish, nuts, green vegetables, and no processed junk) positively changes your child’s brain structure.
Structured mealtimes where you gather at least once a day and connect and chat over nutritious food translate into nourishing little bodies and souls simultaneously.
Unstructured play is a must for creative self-discovery and expression.
The key here is balancing structure and freedom.
Your job is to create and hold the container: Free playtime from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Your other job is to let go and have your girl decide what that playtime entails.
You hold the routine of when; she controls the what and how.
Studies from The Gottman Institute prove the relational power of doing small things often. As a parent, it’s not your social status, busyness, or ideals that will positively shape your girl. It’s your daily words, gestures, and actions towards her.
Children who have engaged and interested parents in the first few years of their life tend to do better overall later in life. Small things parents do breed good outcomes for their kids. These look like talking and listening to a child, responding to them warmly, and reading to them every day.
Spending fifteen minutes each evening conversing in a meaningful way about their life helps them feel seen, secure, and included.
Routine But Not Rigid
Enough quality sleep, nutritious food, unstructured play, and connected family time are the non-negotiables.
Beyond this, your intuition has a role to play. Too much structure and too many rules quickly stifle a child’s creativity. Decide what your family baseline is and where you can be more flexible.
For example, you don’t waiver on the above non-negotiables, but chores are more flexible: The minimum is that you have to make your bed every day, but when you make your bed and how your bed is made is up to you.
Stick to the routine where it matters most and navigate the rest as more of a dance than a regiment.
Written by Roxana Bouwer
Top photo by Tara Winstead from Pexels
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