OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Routines and Rituals

Establishing family routines and rituals improves parental efficacy and a child’s socioemotional, language, academic, and social skills. There is a difference between routine (a functional action) and ritual (an action that has meaning). These can be separate acts or combined. For instance, eating dinner every night and sharing stories of the day is functional and can provide meaning and connection to a social group.

Photo of Steve Bordonaro
10 12

Written by

Routines and Rituals teach positive/healthy behavior and serve as a form of community inclusion. Download the PDF at this page to learn more.

Examples of Routines:
  • Sleeping/taking naps at regular times
  • Eating at regular times
  • Getting dressed at regular times
  • Brushing teeth at regular times or after certain events (eating)
  • Washing hands at regular times or after certain events (toilet)
  • Playing with toys at regular times
  • Putting toys away in specific places after play
  • Reading at regular times (before or after meals or bed)

Examples of Rituals:
  • Eating dinner and sharing stories of the day
  • Meditating before or after a meal or exercise
  • Celebrating birthdays every year
  • Celebrating the child’s life milestones (graduating from a specific grade in school)
  • Celebrating a family member’s life milestones (birthday, graduation)

All these examples may seem obvious, but for optimal results, how might a parent go about assuring these habits occur in regular intervals and with two or more family or community members?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Great post Steve. Children need structure and they thrive with it. I agree also that rituals play a big role in community life creating connections and a feeling of safety and security for children. I guess my question would be how to bring children and families that are marginalized into communities? Families that have relocated for work and have no connection to their new community? Single women with children who may be isolated? These children would be most vulnerable.

Photo of Steve Bordonaro

Hi Bettina, thanks for the post. You pose a challenging question. How do these seemingly simple tasks manifest in the face of mobility and isolation? I have some initial thoughts but will save them for now. In the meantime, I’ll interview my mom. My parents divorced when I was two years-old. We were poor and we moved a lot to look for work and a better life. Maybe her stories can shed some insight for the idea phase of the challenge.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Great idea Steve! Look forward to reading about your learnings!

Photo of Steve Bordonaro

I interviewed my mom. She provided some facts regarding how she maintain routines and rituals (traditions) in light of mobility and isolation.

“Not knowing anyone in the community, I put more emphasis on the rituals we already had, ones that referred to other family members who could not be with us.”

Examples: Decorating the Christmas tree with Nana’s ornaments; Setting up a toy train that used to belong to my dad; Making Nona’s (my great-grandmother) recipe for stuffing; I also remember making popcorn and watching The Wizard of Oz every year.

“From there, I made friends with the neighbors and we eventually shared our rituals and traditions. I joined the PTA (parent-teacher conference) and volunteered to help work the “spaghetti supper” and other events.”

“We tried church on Sundays, but that didn’t last long.” (my brother and I were too unruly).

“After the neighbors, school, and church, things started to revolve around sports (baseball) and I volunteered at the concession stand with the other parents.”

“All of these activities led to knowing more and more people with kids and their events.” “oh, and we also looked through lots of photo albums of family.”

My insights from this:

1) Rituals/Traditions can involve people who are not there. They become there in spirit (transcending the space and time).

2) Meet people in similar situations - people who live close by, parents that have kids in the same school, religious group, or kids that play the same sport.

3) Volunteer to work some part of each of these activities.

4) If one of these things doesn’t work, try a new activity.

5) Networks of people will grow over time. The nature of the rituals and traditions will grow and change as more people are added.

6) Food is an important part of rituals and traditions.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Great post Steve. Isn't it amazing what parents remember? I am sure she enjoyed looking back at this as well. I agree with much of your insights. In my family we also involve people that are not with us - particularly remembering my grandparents who have died. It is a way to preserve family stories and share them with the younger ones in the family - who by the way know all the stories! I also like what you write about networks and how rituals and traditions change overtime. I think that as time passes and networks evolve that if one is open to it they learn about the traditions and rituals of other people. This really enriches one's life and can be eye opening for young children. In the world we live in this is very important. Consistency is the basis of all of the things you list above. I saw that you are in conversation with Coleen? about this. Being consistent with a young child is so important.
Thanks for posting this Steve. Lots of rich stuff.
Excited to see where you take this in the next phase of the challenge!

View all comments