Routines, example chart and template
Children, even toddlers, thrive in routines. And it’s not just a new parenting tip; it’s actually backed by science.
For example, in 2018, researchers who reviewed studies of bedtime routines in young children found that sticking to a schedule (snacking, bathing and brushing teeth, reading stories, cuddling) seemed to promote better nighttime sleep.
What is perhaps even more interesting is that bedtime routines promote children’s overall development and sense of well-being.
Experts share that schedules create a sense of security and trust because they make a child’s environment predictable. When kids know what’s going on in their day, there is order and familiarity. Instead of wondering what’s next, a child can focus on learning and mastering new skills.
Toddlers are especially capable and, at times, demanding because they want to do things (OK, all things) on their own.
When toddlers have a setting for the day, they feel more comfortable expressing this burgeoning independence and can even go through transitions (getting out of the park, going down for a nap, etc.) with less protest.
That’s right. Schedules can help nip those pesky temper tantrums in the bud!
You can be eager to stick to a schedule – any schedule – so you can get your days in order. However, you should only use this sample program as a guide and make changes to suit your lifestyle. Do not hesitate to mix up the order of things, as far as is reasonable and within the meaning of your daily obligations.
That said, the whole point of a schedule is to have a rhythm in your days, so you’ll want to keep things relatively steady from day to day, week to week.
If things don’t immediately kick in, don’t worry. It may take a while to get into a good flow. Stick to it!
7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m .: Wake up
Your toddler may have other ideas about a regular wake-up time. Keeping a schedule each day can actually help, however.
And if you don’t care that your child wakes up well before 7:30 a.m., don’t worry. It is common for toddlers to wake up any time between
8 a.m. to 9 a.m .: Breakfast and cleaning
First and foremost, you will want to prepare and eat the most important meal of the day. Toddlers love to help with meal preparation and age-appropriate household chores. So let your little one help you pour some milk into their cereal in a small cup or give them a rag to wipe down the table when you’re done eating.
After breakfast, it’s a great time to run around the house and do some necessary chores, like throwing out a load of laundry, tidying up the bedrooms, or vacuuming the playroom.
9 a.m. to 10 a.m .: recess
Toddlers love to play, but did you know that there are at least 6 different types of games?
Unstructured play time is crucial for the development of toddlers. This gives them freedom of expression and allows them to experiment with language and imagination. Researchers say that children engage even more with their guardians when play is not structured for them.
Examples of free play (unstructured play or open play) to fill this time slot may include:
- playing with costume clothes or playing with scarves
- build with simple blocks
- tinker with sticks, stones or a cardboard box
10 a.m. to 11 a.m .: Outdoor time, exercise, etc.
Head to a nearby park or playground for some exercise. You don’t need a trail or fancy equipment to make outdoor time fun for toddlers – even your own backyard can provide an environment for exploration and activity.
Experts say that in addition to getting much-needed fresh air, being in nature can help reduce stress and depression in toddlers and older children. It can even boost their immune system.
If the weather is less than ideal, you can also move indoors. Consider doing family yoga or having a laugh while playing your favorite music and having a dance party.
11 a.m. to 12 p.m .: Planned activity or races
Every day of your week will not be exactly the same. You can have a story hour at the library one day or a gymnastics class the next. Allow one hour in the morning for planned activities. On other days, you can fill this time with art projects, dates, or other dates and errands like grocery shopping.
12 p.m. to 1 p.m .: Lunch and relaxation
Enjoy a lunch. Chances are, your little one is still taking naps. After lunch, it’s a good time to set the stage for a successful nap by making the environment calm.
Close some curtains, play some soft music, pull out some good books, and let your child start to relax. You can also encourage your little one to help pick up toys in the playroom so that they are clean, tidy, and ready to play more when they wake up.
1 p.m. to 3 p.m .: Nap or calm weather
According to a sleep consultant Nicole johnson, most toddlers consolidate their naps into a single 15-18 month daytime sleep.
Try to nap at the same time each day (within reason, of course!).
Having that quiet time in your day is also good for parents, as you can schedule other chores or “time for me”. If you have younger or older children who are not napping at this time, it can also be a possibility to spend some one-on-one time with them.
Is your little one not napping or just resisting sleeping? Give them quiet activities to do alone in their bedroom. Make sure the room is free from hazards and check back every now and then to make sure your child is safe.
3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m .: Afternoon snack
Your child will probably not arrive at lunchtime without a small snack. Making it part of your schedule makes it part of the day – no need to complain about pretzels.
Plus, eating a mid-afternoon snack isn’t likely to ruin dinner later. Try offering fruit with plain yogurt, vegetables and hummus, or other healthy snacks kids love.
3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m .: Free play
Play again? Yes. Much of your child’s day should be spent interacting with their environment.
To mix things up, you can try spinning your child’s toys day to day, morning to afternoon, or even just week to week. Do whatever you want to keep it fresh for your little one.
Parents do have a role in their child’s play.
Consider accompanying your child without taking over or directing their experience. Provide choices that allow your little one to follow their interests and actively participate from time to time. In doing so, you can help them learn new things or build new relationships, which is pretty awesome to watch.
4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m .: Preparation of dinner
Toddlers can get involved in small tasks like chopping soft vegetables with kid-safe nylon knives, mixing pasta salads or quick breads under supervision, or helping to set the table.
Now you can see how much of a part of your child’s day in the kitchen can be. You might even consider getting a learning tower, which is a kind of safe stool that your child can stand on to easily reach counter height.
5 p.m. to 6 p.m .: Dinner with family and housekeeping
Experts Explain that eating family meals serves several important purposes.
First, eating together and talking about the day’s activities can help your little one develop communication skills. Eating together regularly also provides an emotional boost and a sense of safety and security. Families who eat together may even eat higher quality meals (more fruits, vegetables, etc.) than fried or fatty foods.
If scheduling conflicts between family members are a problem, you don’t necessarily have to have dinner together. Instead, try eating one of your meals together most days of the week. You will enjoy the same benefits while adapting to your family’s unique schedule.
When you have finished your meal, find ways for the whole family to participate in the cleanup. Modeling household chores helps your child see their role in the household and how much it takes the whole family to get things done.
6 p.m. to 7 p.m .: Family time
Spend time with your family to unwind after the day. You’ll want to keep activities relatively quiet, as bedtime is approaching.
Try walking around your neighborhood, reading books or doing puzzles, or listening to soothing music.
7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m .: Evening routine
You might need more or less time for your nighttime routine, so feel free to start earlier if you need to. A solid routine here can include a small snack or meal, bathing and brushing your teeth, reading stories, singing songs, cuddling or rocking your child, and, of course, the good night kiss.
7:30 p.m .: Bedtime
You did it ! If following this schedule seems difficult to you, do not hesitate to modify it if necessary. That said, it may take a few days or weeks for your family to get back on track. Keep it simple and stick to it.