The Nitty Gritty of Toddler Routines: Why and HOW!

Knowing what to do with toddlers isn't as easy as it might sound. Once we have toddler routines and schedules in place, we wonder how to easily do activities during the day, how to manage our expectations and have fun making memories with our children. This articles tells you all that and more. #toddlers #preschoolroutine #toddlerschedule #toddleractivities

What should we do each day?

Knowing what to do with toddlers isn't as easy as it might sound. Once we have toddler routines and schedules in place, we wonder how to easily do activities during the day, how to manage our expectations and have fun making memories with our children. This articles tells you all that and more. #toddlers #preschoolroutine #toddlerschedule #toddleractivities

Yay! Schedules and routines are great for kids, including our little ones, and they help us have a sense of order and control too. So, how do we do it?

Whoa! Before we dive into that, let’s consider first why we want to have a schedule or a routine for our kids and what the benefit is for us and our children (but, if you’re a busy mama short on time, feel free to cruise past this part and skip down to the heading most relevant to you.).

**Please note that I’m using schedule and routine interchangeably here. While routines can also be for things like bedtime routines and morning routines, I prefer the term “routine” for our whole day, as we do things in a specific order, but we’re not bound by the clock (which would be more of a schedule). **

  1. It’s easier and less stressful. Kids are afraid of the unknown (as are many adults!). Make their day “known” by having a predictable schedule or routine.
  2. Change can be scary and hard for kids to handle, especially since toddlers and preschoolers aren’t good at identifying and expressing their emotions yet. Minimize the amount of unexpected change they go through with schedules and routines.
  3. Schedules minimize “lost” or “wasted” time, which increases the number of things you can accomplish in a day. We’re always short on time, so why not minimize lost time? Efficiency!
  4. Clearer expectations. If there’s a set schedule, there are fewer power struggles. Kids know what to expect. The routine “speaks” for itself, not you or them. How can they argue with a routine or schedule?
  5. What’s next? Routines and schedules promote independence because children know what comes next, which means they’re able to go to the next step by themselves and/or initiate the next task. Will this happen with 2 and 3-year-olds? Not right away, but over time, it will!
  6. Consistency. Consistency is key for a lot of things, and consistent routines help both us and our children. It’s also easier to be consistent when you have a schedule because YOU know what comes next too.
  7. Help foster stronger connections with our children. Who doesn’t want a better relationship with their kids?? For more on how routines help create stronger connections, read this article from Aha! Parenting.

So, what does this mean in real life terms?

Why are routines and schedules important for toddlers? Do they really help? Click through and find out more from Lessons and Learning for Littles at ConnieDeal.com! #toddlerschedule #toddlerroutine #stayathomemom #toddler

In the example above, it’s clear that Susie has routines and knows what to expect. While her mom could have been more precise with how much longer Susie had until it was time to go, setting the timer clearly meant something to Susie. Now, Susie didn’t do exactly as her mother told her (cleaning up her toys), but she did get ready to go.

Timmy, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to know what to expect and didn’t seem to know that it was really time to clean up and go to the store. When he was brought to his shoes, Timmy didn’t put them on, and instead, his mom did it for him. Routines and schedules help us as parents be consistent and maintain consistent and clear expectations, which greatly helps our little ones know what to expect and what to do.

I’ve had both a “Susie” and a “Timmy,” and there’s a stark contrast in how I feel at the end of the day between both scenarios/children.

Following our routines helps me be consistent, which helps my kids follow directions better and more often. This makes our whole day go more smoothly, leading to more fun being had by all and more activities being done throughout the day.  While I’m still tired at the end of the day (have you met a mom who isn’t tired!?), I don’t feel as worn out, beat up, and in “need” of a drink at the end of a day when we’re on point and have followed our routines. But, I understand that as parents, especially stay-at-home moms, it’s easy to be inconsistent and keep brushing off what we “need” to do and “should” do. This is where a schedule/routine comes in, as it’ll hold us accountable while helping our little ones know what to expect throughout their day.

Routines and schedules can make or break a toddler mom's day. Learn how to fine-tune your routines, schedules, and systems and create routines and schedules that actually work for you and your family in this FREE online program from Lessons and Learning for Littles. #toddlerroutine #toddlerschedule #mom #timesavinghacks #newyearresolutions

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Now that we know why routines and schedules are important, let’s think about what we want our children to LEARN so that we know what to include in our daily schedule.

 

Suggestions for things to incorporate into your child’s day:

  • Reading
  • Math
  • Fine motor skills (pre-writing activities)
  • Large/gross motor
  • Music/dance
  • Science
  • Social skills
  • Sensory
  • Art/crafts
  • Problem-solving and logic activities (puzzles, games, etc)
  • Engineering or building activities
  • Speaking
  • Vocabulary development (probably part of all of the above)
  • Life skills (brushing teeth, getting dressed, manners, etc.)

Now, this is quite the list. Do NOT try to do it all in one day or even in one week. It won’t matter how good your routine is, if you attempt to add everything from that list into your day, you’ll drive yourself and your kids crazy.

You could also focus on specific skills that you want your child to learn. Write goals for your child and break down the goals into smaller goals/skills and do activities around those goals.

There are a few ways to do this.

  • One way is to incorporate as much of this as you can into each day. Keep in mind that most toddlers and preschoolers can focus on one activity for 3-15 minutes, depending on their age, time of day, the activity, how tired/hungry they are, and other factors like that. And, many activities incorporate more than one of the areas above.
  • Another way is to focus on one (or two) skills/areas each day. For example, math Monday, science Saturday, etc.

Don’t forget to leave time for unstructured play or “free play,” as there is a lot of value in “just” playing. Remember, play is learning!

 


So, what does this look like each day?

Let’s take a look at some sample schedules to find out.

 

Sample schedules

 

“The Everything Approach” and “The Targeted Approach”

 

The Everything Approach

Do ALL the areas every day.

This schedule is for a toddler and preschooler, based on one parent staying home. Activities are blocked at 20 minutes, which should give you time for setup and cleanup. The activity itself probably runs 10-15 minutes. The more “academic” stuff is done in the morning when kids are fresher and generally more attentive.

6-6:30 Breakfast

6:30-7:00 Kitchen clean up, get dressed, teeth brushed, and get ready for your day

7:00-7:20 Fine motor skills

7:20-7:40 Dancing and singing (could do theme related to increase vocabulary, but the point is to take a little break and get some energy out)

7:40-8:00 Math activity

8:00-8:20 Gross motor movement (active game, running around, etc)

8:20-8:40 snack break

8:40-9:00 Reading

9:00-9:20 Art/craft

9:20-9:40 Science

9:40-10:00 Problem solving/logic

Most toddler and preschooler activities (story time, open gyms, etc.) seem to start around 10am, so if you’re going to one of these or doing morning errands, move the activities after 9am to after your child’s nap time.  If you’re staying home, do free/unstructured play until lunch and/or nap time.

11:45  lunch time

12:15 nap time

2:00 Mommy/Daddy and Me time for preschooler

2:30/3pm Both kids are up. Snack time.

3:20-4:20 Art, science and problem solving if not done in the morning. If you did these in the morning, do sensory play and engineering/building activity.

4:20-5:00 Free play

5:00-5:30 start cleaning up toys and help with dinner prep

5:30-6pm dinner time

6pm Family time until bedtime

The Targeted Approach

(Focus on 1-2 subject areas per day, get everything in throughout the week)

Note: kids help with almost everything. They feed the dogs, help water the plants (garden), pick the fruit, help with cleaning, etc, so all times are approximate.

6-6:30 Breakfast and feed dogs

6:30-7:00 Kitchen clean up, get dressed, teeth brushed, and get ready for your day

7:00- 7:45 Unstructured free play and water plants outside/care for garden

7:45-8:00 Reading

8:00-8:30 playful learning activity #1

8:30-8:45 clean up and snack

8:45-9:00 vocabulary enrichment (Spanish practice for us)

9:00-11:00 playdates, errands, music class, park, etc.

11:00-11:45 free play

11:45  lunch time

12:15 nap time

2:00 Mommy/Daddy and Me time for preschooler

2:30/3pm Both kids are up. Snack time.

3:00-3:30 playful learning activity #2 (based on our theme or what the kids are interested in)

3:30-4:00 sensory play or outdoor free play

4:00-5:00 Free play

5:00-5:30 start cleaning up toys and help with dinner prep

5:30-6pm dinner time

6pm Family time until bedtime

To incorporate all the subject areas, we do:

Monday: math

Tuesday: reading/language

Wednesday: science/engineering

Thursday: puzzles/logic and music

Friday: art/crafts

Both schedules assume that social skills are embedded into your day and taught as needed. Speaking is also embedded into the day, and conversations are used as a way to fill time (like playing games while waiting somewhere).

Which approach is better?

That depends!

What’s your style? Which makes the most sense to you? Which would work the best with your lifestyle and other commitments? What seems to be the best for your kids?

THAT’s the schedule that’s best for you.

And, remember, just because something works now doesn’t mean that it will work well for you in 6 months from now because as your kids get older their needs change. So, be flexible. Be willing to take a step back and reevaluate things. Change and refine your schedule or routine as needed to make sure it works for you and is still working.

How should you get started?

Finding a schedule that works for you might involve a little bit of trial and error, which is why I created a FREE #RoutineQueen2018 program. Or, if you’d rather go at this alone, I suggest using either of these samples as a starting point and adjusting according to your activities, wake-up time and nap times, etc. Once you fine tune your schedule, you might want to consider a visual schedule for your child. A visual schedule (pictures of what the activity or next thing is) helps kids “read” the schedule independently.

Slay the day! Create routines and schedules to carve out time for yourself, help your children listen better, and make your days go more smoothly. #toddlerschedule #toddlerroutine #workingmom #mommyblogger

Click the picture above to register for FREE today!

Grab my top #momhacks for getting more done during the day here, and start having more time for the things you enjoy!

 

Learn 5 hacks you can use RIGHT NOW to save yourself time, giving you more quality time with your toddler or preschooler to make memories. Have more time for toddler activities, toddler arts and crafts, seasonal fun, and quality family time when you use these ideas! #toddlers #toddlerroutine #toddlerschedule #momhacks #timesavinghacks

Click the picture to grab your time saving hacks today!

 

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Learn 5 hacks you can use RIGHT NOW to save yourself time, giving you more quality time with your toddler or preschooler to make memories. Have more time for toddler activities, toddler arts and crafts, seasonal fun, and quality family time when you use these ideas! #toddlers #toddlerroutine #toddlerschedule #momhacks #timesavinghacksLearn 5 hacks you can use RIGHT NOW to save yourself time, giving you more quality time with your toddler or preschooler to make memories. Have more time for toddler activities, toddler arts and crafts, seasonal fun, and quality family time when you use these ideas! #toddlers #toddlerroutine #toddlerschedule #momhacks #timesavinghacks

Connie Deal
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Connie Deal

I'm the mom of two little ones (3yo and 1.5yo), and 3 dogs. I'm a former classroom teacher turned SAHM, so I spend my day "doing activities" and science 'speriments in between mediating sibling squabbles and working during nap time. I'm powered by caffeine (not coffee!), and I love helping others, especially fellow mom and their toddlers. Together, we can achieve great things AND prepare your toddler for kindergarten!
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4 Comments

  1. […] Use this FREE Activity Checklist to help make setting up activities easier. You might also like this post, which is packed full of information about toddler […]

  2. […] next in their day. They’re able to be more independent and feel more in control and secure with a routine or schedule. So, even if you’re traveling or have a party to go to, do your best to keep their routine as […]

  3. […] The Nitty Gritty of Toddler Routines: The Why and How […]

  4. Laura says:

    Thanks so much for the post. I’m clearly not fully organized but I do my best to fit in new activities.
    Your blog is very resourceful with the examples. Thanks again!

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