Are you wanting to create a toddler schedule but aren’t sure where to start? Follow these easy steps and get your toddler on a schedule in no time!
Josh and I are very routine-oriented so when I was pregnant and someone told us how routines had helped them with their kids, we were immediately on board. When doing more research into it, I found that there was more to a toddler daily routine than helping us stay sane. It turns out that “individuals who grow up with predictable, daily routines are less likely to have time management or attention problems as adults.”
Routines aren’t just good for us but for our kids as well! It makes sense right? I’m sure I’m not alone in sometimes feeling lost and directionless after a major life event like graduating from college or having a baby. When we get back into the groove of things though, it seems more manageable and we aren’t freaking out as much. I’m sure that is what a toddler feels when their routines get switched up by a move or a new baby. What if you don’t have a routine though? Is it too late to create a toddler schedule? No! You can start today with these easy steps! This post is all about how to create a toddler schedule.
Creating a Toddler Schedule
Start and End the Day at the Same Time
The first place you can start is by creating consistent awake and sleep times. Your toddler should be waking up and going to bed at around the same time every day. That time is totally up to you! We start our days earlier so we wake Ollie up at 7:30 am every day, and he goes to bed around 7:30 pm. Even on the weekend. Yes, it stinks a little. However, we have a more pleasant little man who sleeps 11-12 hours a night and 1-2 hours during the day so it’s a trade off that works for us.
Even though Oliver can’t tell time, his little internal clock has gotten used to this schedule. We have created routines around waking up and sleeping time which has also helped. I’ll talk about that next!
Create Routines Around Sleep and Eat
We have routines for both waking him up and getting him ready for bed. For meal times, we tell him that the food will be ready in a few minutes and set a timer. We love timers! A simple timer can be your routine to get your toddler to come eat. It doesn’t have to be a huge event, just something that is easy for you to remember and repeat.
Whether it’s quiet time or nap time, have a scheduled time each day for your toddler to either catch some zzz’s or play quietly in their room, this is another good place to start. If your toddler is getting quiet time, make sure that the room is totally childproof. This is a time for your toddler to play alone and quietly. This is also time for you to have some time to yourself. For quiet time, an hour is a good amount of time. For a nap, 1-2 hours. By no means should you let your toddler sleep for more than 3 hours though. This can affect night sleep.
Create Morning and Afternoon Routines
Now that you’ve got your toddler up at the same time, meals are in place, nap/quiet time is there, and bedtime is set, you can start focusing on the awake time routine. You can block out times to do specific things like coloring or playing outside or screen time. This is where you do you. I will share at the end how we do it, but don’t feel like you have to have something in there if that’s not what your kids are into.
A good way to transition between things is to have snack time in between. We usually have snack time about half way between meals, so around 9:30 and 3:30. Sitting them down for snack time can also help make sure that they get a good snack and aren’t asking for food right before their next meal.
Talk Through the Schedule With Your Child
Talking to your child through the schedule, especially if it’s new, is key! You would be surprised how much better kids cooperate when you set expectations of what is going on down. This is especially true if there is something exciting that will happen after a diaper change or after snack that will help them be more willing to listen.
We all know how boring things get when they are the same. Every. Single. Day. That was part of the reason why a lot of moms I’ve talked to aren’t sure about a schedule in the first place. Guess what though? A schedule does not equal boring. I promise!
Your schedule is your own to do what you want with. If you hate painting with kids, you DO NOT have to add it to your schedule. Do you like being outside? Add as much outdoor play for your kids as possible! If you like going out to do things, add that to your schedule every day. I know that we do. Typically before dinner, we will go for a ride whether it’s to go to the park, or even just to get a car wash. Ollie knows though that most days after his nap, screen time, and a little play time, we will get in the car to go do something.
Allow for Flexibility
Life happens. We all know that. We may have a schedule planned, but then someone’s car breaks down and needs your help or you get invited to go out with friends. That’s great! As long as the schedule is pretty consistent most days, a few days where part of your toddler’s daily schedule is different will not hurt things one bit. In fact, it will make things more exciting for your little toddler! I know that if we let Ollie stay up just a little later every now and then, he soaks it up and thinks he’s the luckiest. This doesn’t happen as much if there is no schedule or standard for your little toddler to compare it to.
Our Toddler Daily Routine
Below is an example of our toddler’s schedule. The items with asterisks are things that we switch out every couple of days so that we don’t lose our minds by doing the same thing day in and day out. For example, some days we may go to the library in the morning after snack time instead of having outdoor playtime. The mornings that he goes to the sitter also look a little different.
7:30 am – Awake and diaper change. Every day, we come into his room by doing a funny knock on his door and say “Housekeeping”. He loves it.
7:45 am – Quick playtime while we make breakfast time
8:00 am – Breakfast
8:15 am – Clean up breakfast, brush teeth, and get dressed for the day
8:30 am – Indoor play time*
9:45 am – Snack time
10:00 am – Outdoor playtime or walk to park*
11:30 am – Lunch time
12:00 pm – Reading time
12:30 pm – Nap time
2:30 pm – Screen time
3:00 pm – Snack time
3:30 pm – Arts & crafts and Audiobook*
4:00 pm – Errands or playtime*
5:30 pm – Dinner
6:00 pm – Park/Walk*
6:45 pm – Bathtime
7:15 pm – Reading Time
7:30 pm – Bedtime
Are you ready to get your little toddler on a schedule and get a little bit of control back in your life? I hope the answer is yes! It may sound a little overwhelming, but trust when I tell you can do it! If you get one thing from this is to start small. Don’t dive into day 1 and try to do it all at once. I made some recommendations on where to start, but you know your toddler better than I do and if you see a better place to start, do it!
This post was all about the best ways to create a toddler schedule.
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