Learning from the everyday – child development and your daily routine

We know that for most parents life is busy and finding time to dedicate to activities that support your child’s development can be tricky, particularly in the week when we may also have work to contend with. However, we also know that opportunities for development and play are everywhere! In addition, children benefit from being allowed to get bored sometimes and from discovering new things for themselves.  

So, we thought it would be interesting to ask one of our parents to tell us five things that happen regularly in their day/week. Things that are pretty standard, perhaps sometimes a bit ordinary or time-consuming, that they don’t really think too much about but need to happen.  

Then, we asked one of our experts to look at the list and highlight just how much learning is taking place and how just being aware of this (and perhaps making some small tweaks) could make a difference to both you and your child/children and make life feel a lot more playful.  

Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll feel reassured that it’s not all about paints and playdough (though we do love a bit of these), and you don’t need hours and hours to feel the benefits of play.  


Five things that happen regularly in our house 

To avoid saying the same thing about every bit of the daily routine, I thought I would begin with the fantastic fact that every time you respond to your child, you are supporting their development. This might be returning your baby’s smile, or responding to your child’s question, it could be the chat in the car on the way to nursery or the hug, kiss, wave routine you have at drop-off time.  

The other important point to remember is that you do not need to interact with your child all the time in order to support their development, generally being responsive to them is important but sometimes not responding straight away can be good too. When you don’t respond immediately, your child might experience a stress response, where various neurochemicals are released that make them more alert and vigilant.[1] Experiencing these stress responses, briefly and in a situation where they feel comfortable and safe, can help them to cope with stressful situations in the future, so can be supportive. This does not mean ignoring them for long periods, but having to wait sometimes can help them to be more resilient in the future.  


1) We make breakfast. Sometimes at the weekend this is pancakes or porridge and in the week it is normally cereal  

When they have developed the physical skills to do this, getting your child involved in getting breakfast ready can be a great way to support their development. This could begin with simple jobs such as getting their own bowl or spoon or carrying the cereal to the table. When they, and you, are ready, pouring milk on their cereal is great for developing physical and cognitive skills and cleaning up the spills again is brilliant for supporting physical skills and problem-solving.  

If you are in a rush, try to give them a simple job but remember if things need to be done quickly, chatting with them about why can be great too. They will learn about problem-solving as you describe the way you think things through. For example, you might say, “I need to get petrol after I have dropped you off today, so we are in a bit of a hurry. I think it will be quicker if I get the cereal today.” As your child gets older, they might have their own ideas of things that might help the morning routine go a bit more quickly when needed!  

Everyday 1


2) We get dressed and attempt to leave the house to go to school and nursery. This is normally quite stressful!

Ideally, we would say encourage your child to do as much for themselves as they can when getting dressed. However, in reality, there are some days when this is difficult, so if you have a day when you are having a slower start, encourage your child to do more for themselves. This is a brilliant opportunity for developing skills and is really helpful in the future when they can get dressed!  

If you are in a hurry, chat as you get them dressed. Getting dressed is a great time to think about ordering and sequences unless you are dressing superman, underpants need to be put on before trousers or leggings! So, you can use this as a time to introduce some ordinal language in a real situation (always the best way to introduce language!). You might say, “First we need your underpants, second shall we put on your t-shirt? What’s third?” If you need to hurry but still want them to develop their skills in getting dressed, you can do a bit of the process each, for example, you put the top over their head and help them put their arms in, then they pull it down.  

Some ways that you might be able to make this less stressful   especially with more than one child to get dressed!  

  • Put clothes in order for older children who are beginning to dress themselves.  
  • Sing about getting dressed   sounds strange I know   but singing can sometimes help your child focus more on the words you are saying and helps them to engage with what they need to do.  
  • Try to make it fun   not always easy when you are thinking about the traffic building up   but you can introduce timers or counting games alongside getting dressed. You could say, “I wonder if everyone can be dressed in ten minutes!” Great for learning about time but also, for some children, fun to try to beat the timer   others might find this approach a bit overwhelming, so, as always, adapt for your children!  

Everyday 2 


3) We walk to school and nursery and then walk home from school / nursery 

Walking is just full of opportunities; your children can see how their route to school / nursery changes with the seasons. You can count how many dogs you see between home and school, see if you can spot some interesting cars or vans. Your children can listen and watch as you chat with friends and learn more about how you develop relationships.  

I used to play games moving between lampposts with my children, partly to keep them moving! You could play games, such as counting how many lampposts between here and the end of the road, skipping until we get to the next lamppost, or spotting the number on the lamppost. So, here we have chances to count, develop physical skills and talk about, and begin to recognise, numerals. We also often have the opportunity to develop social and emotional skills when resolving disagreements about who was going to say the number, or who got to the lamppost first!  

A simple walk can give opportunities to develop skills in all the My First Five Years streams!  

Everyday 3 

4) We put the television on to keep the kids busy while trying to tidy up / clean / do the washing etcetera  

Parents often worry about screen-time, and if or when children should have time using screens. If your child is ready for a rest after a busy start to the day, a bit of time with their favourite programme might be a great way for them to relax. If they chat with you about what they are watching, then this can also support their development.  

If you have time to involve them in some of the tidying, washing and cleaning that you are doing, that is even better! Chatting with you as you do some of these jobs will support them to develop their communication skills, and most cleaning involves some physical skills, for example, brushing a floor can be great to develop control and strength of the muscles that will help your child to write in the future. Sorting washing can be great for cognitive development as you chat with your child about which items can go in the washing machine together.  

Everyday 4 

5) We do the bathtime and bedtime routine

The bedtime routine is a great time to have another chat about the day, and there are other opportunities for learning too. Bathtime can give opportunities for sensory development, feeling water, bubbles, a soft towel and a hug! Splashing in the bath or making waves gives the opportunity for cognitive development as your child explores cause and effect. Bath toys or containers can provide opportunities to develop physical skills through pouring, as well as cognitive skills as your child explores the concepts of full, empty and overflowing!  

Having a bedtime story is a wonderful wind down at the end of the day and is a brilliant way to make sure your child has a story every day. Storybooks, stories on a tablet and stories told by you are all great, the main thing is to interact with your child as you share a story with them. This could be pausing so they can complete a sentence or looking at pictures together. Reading stories regularly helps your child to develop a love of books, to understand the way that stories are structured, to recognise the sounds and patterns in words and to begin to link letters and words with meaning.  

There are so many more examples like these built into the MFFY App, all supporting your child on their own unique development journey, amid everyday life. We know that time is a challenge for many parents, so hope that having ideas of simple tasks, expertly designed, at your fingertips will allow you to get more playful in the everyday!  

Everyday Featured 


[1] Rees, C. (2020). Children’s attachments. Paediatrics and Child Health, 30(5), 162-168