28 family routines which boost your child’s development, according to experts

Posted: 16th February 2024

Strict bedtimes, family meals and other regular routines could help boost brain development in young children by improving their sleep, a study has found.

Researchers discovered that consistent family routines, which also include regular playtimes, stories – and even chores – helped children aged five to nine to learn a language, process their emotions and develop taste, smell and other sensory perceptions in their formative years as a result of getting sleep.

These effects are so significant that they physically alter the structure of the brain, according to the study published in the journal Brain and Behaviour.

This found that children in families with fewer regular routines got significantly less sleep during the week, which in turn, was associated with changes in the child’s brain structure.

Those who had less sleep were more likely to have thinner regions of the brain linked to language, controlling behaviour and sensory perception, and a smaller volume of part of the brain linked to emotion processing.

“Our findings suggest that sleep insufficiency may be associated with the brain’s size and structure and the function of emotion processing brain circuits in children,” said Emily Merz, of Colorado State University, who led the study.

“This may possibly explain why reduced sleep leads to greater susceptibility to negative emotions.

“Shorter sleep duration was significantly associated with reduced cortical thickness in frontal, temporal and parietal regions and smaller volume of the amygdala – a brain region key to emotion processing.”

But she added: “We found that consistency in family routines significantly mediated those associations. Childhood is a sensitive period in development when environmental experiences can have powerful and lasting influences on the brain.”

The researchers analysed data collected on 94 children aged between five and nine from a variety of backgrounds.

They measured brain structure of the children using MRI scans, and parents were asked about their child’s sleep durations and family routines.

Participants were asked questions such as whether their children did the same things each morning when they woke up, if they went to bed at the same time nearly every night and whether the family ate together – and at the same time – each evening.

Questions also included asking whether the parents had a regular playtime with their children after coming home from work and if they read or told stories to their children regularly.

Dr Merz said that children from lower-income families and whose parents had lower levels of education were more likely to get less sleep.

“This might imply that socioeconomic disadvantage interferes with the consistency of family routines – potentially increasing children’s stress and reducing their sleep time, which then impacts brain development.”

She said that while many children do not get the recommended amount of sleep, those from disadvantaged families are especially at risk of low sleep quantity and quality.

“That may be due to increased unpredictability in their lives such as changes in household composition, periods of parental unemployment or housing instability. It could also be due to lower quality sleeping environments such as noisy sleeping areas,” she said.

Dr Merz added that this research could inform policy and programmes that support getting children consistent sleep during this key age.

“Our work suggests that antipoverty policies that support families have the potential to change the trajectory of children’s lives,” she said.

Separate research, which will be presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Denver, Colorado, explores how sleep deprivation in teenagers affects the way their brain works.

Scientists from the North Carolina Academy of Science, discovered that teenagers who slept for a full eight hours had better cognitive scores compared with those who slept for only six hours and who had been on their phones.

The 28 family routines that can boost your child’s development

  • Parent(s) have some time each day for just talking with the children
  • Parent(s) have certain things they do every morning while getting ready to start the day
  • Working parent has a regular play time with the children after coming home from work
  • Working parent takes care of the children sometime almost every day
  • Children do the same things each morning as soon as they wake up
  • Parent(s) and children play together sometime each day
  • Non-working parent and children do something together outside the home almost every day (e.g. shopping, walking, etc.)
  • Family has a ‘quiet time’ each evening when everyone talks or plays quietly
  • Family goes some place special together each week
  • Family has a certain ‘family time’ each week when they do things together at home
  • Parent(s) read or tell stories to the children almost every day
  • Each child has some time each day for playing alone
  • Children take part in regular activities after school
  • Young children go to nursery the same days each week
  • Children do their homework at the same time each day or night during the week
  • Parents have a certain hobby or sport they do together regularly
  • Children have special things they do or ask for each night at bedtime (e.g. a story, a good-night kiss, a drink of water)
  • Children go to bed at the same time almost every night
  • Family eats at the same time each night
  • At least some of the family eats breakfast together almost every morning
  • Whole family eats dinner together almost every night
  • At least one parent talks to his or her parents regularly
  • Family regularly visits with the relatives
  • Family checks in or out with each other when someone leaves or comes home
  • Working parent(s) comes home from work at the same time each day
  • Family has certain things they almost always do to greet the working parent(s) at the end of the day Parent(s) have certain things they almost always do each time the children get out of line
  • Children do regular household chores

Source: Colorado State University


Source: 28 family routines which boost your child’s development, according to experts (msn.com)

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