If you’re reading this post around the time of publication, you’re probably stuck at home with nowhere to go and running out of ways to entertain your toddler.
Being out of their normal routine for so long is probably driving both of you a little stir crazy, but there is a solution!
Although it may seem like your toddler is a wild maniac with no boundaries, they really thrive best on having structure throughout their day.
Creating a basic and predictable schedule should make the day-to-day easier for both you and your child and hopefully set them up for maintaining routines in the future.
You probably already have a daily schedule for your toddler even if you don’t know it. Their morning and evening rituals have become a basic routine that they’re accustomed to and you can create even more predictability throughout the entire day.
Routines have come into play throughout your child’s whole life, even since their newborn days, so this should be nothing new.
Why should a toddler or preschool-aged child have a daily routine?
Since toddlers don’t have any way of telling time or a sense of how it passes, they develop their knowledge of a daily routine through activities. They can understand when nap time comes if it’s right after lunch or when they have to brush their teeth if they typically do it after their pajamas go on.
Creating a regular routine is an essential way to give toddlers the security of knowing “what happens next” in their day and when one activity will end and the next one will start.
Not only that, but having a schedule from a young age will make them more likely to follow a routine and be more structured and organized as they get older. Once they hit school-age, you’ll understand the importance of your child being independent in their getting ready, homework, and bedtime routines.
Being a young child, they don’t have much control over many things. Most things happen TO them because their parents are always giving them rules and directions.
Allowing them to have predictability throughout the day can give them a sense of control, resulting in fewer tantrums and arguments.
Kids who understand the routine, rather than feeling pushed around by adults, are more likely to cooperate.
For a child who is overly uncooperative, sensory seeking, or uncontrollable, a schedule is especially important. One reason that may display these inappropriate behaviors could be their lack of understanding about the world around them.
Must-Have Items for Your Toddler’s Routine
1. Routine chart
A routine chart gives your child a visual of the expectations and tasks that have already been completed.
They can also be used as a reward chart. This allows them to earn stickers or checkmarks as they complete a task in order to build up to one big prize.
I created these printable routine charts for girls and boys. Using images of the task is far better than using words since toddlers and little ones can’t read.
You can download your free printable toddler routine chart for boys and girls below!
Since this chart doesn’t provide a reward, but merely a visual for morning or bedtime routine, the act of checking off the task is motivating enough for my 2.5 year old. My daughter loves running back to the chart after she completed one of the tasks to check it off with her marker and see what comes next.
In my Etsy shop, Just Simply Mom Designs, you can get these routine charts personalized with your child’s name and I can customize them to your routine as well.
These chore charts are also available in my shop. These aren’t as much of a set routine, but more of a chart that sets expectations for daily habits that should be completed.
2. A visual or auditory timer
Since clocks mean nothing to a toddler or young child, you’ll want to use a timer that lets them see or hear time passing.
We also use an auditory timer from our Google Home for activities that I want to end, but she doesn’t. For example, if my daughter says she wants 5 more minutes of tv before I turn it off, I simply say, “Hey Google, set a timer for 5 minutes” and the beeping will go off in 5 minutes.
This lets her hear the timer going off so she knows when time is ending. However, the drawback is that you can’t see as time is almost up like you can with a visual or egg timer.
Lastly, a Ready to Rise Sleep Trainer clock is great for a child who has a hard time going to sleep on time or waking up too early. It simply changes colors when it’s ok for your child to get out of bed.
My daughter loves watching the colors change and seeing the clock’s faces change as it goes to sleep and wakes up.
While this isn’t required, it can definitely help if you have a child who isn’t catching on to the concept or needs a little extra push.
Choose some of their favorite items or things to do as a reward. Use rewards as simple as a hug, 5 more minutes of screen time, or a tea party with mom and dad.
Using the reward chart can help them visualize when they will be getting the reward and if they are close or not.
How do I make a routine?
You can get as strict or detailed with your schedule as you’d like. Just be sure to know that routines may change and it’s important to make your child aware of that when it does.
The routines for morning and evening rarely change so I try to stick to the same predictable schedule for them. For example, here are my toddler’s morning and evening routines:
- Wake up
- Wash hands
- Go potty
- Brush teeth
- Get dressed
- Put pajamas away
- Eat breakfast
- Clear your plate and throw out garbage
- Short play time
- Learning time
- Eat dinner
- Clear your plate and throw out garbage
- Put toys away
- Short tv time
- Go potty
- Take a bath
- Pajamas on
- Clothes in hamper
- Brush teeth
- Read a book
Mid-day, my kids are typically in daycare and have a structure to their day. However, with the current state of our nation, we are all stuck at home.
My husband and I came up with a good schedule that works for our routine so we can both be productive with work and spend time entertaining and teaching our little ones.
You can divide up portions of your day to help build a predictable routine for your little one.
Simply choose activity ‘stations’ for your child to participate in. Maybe you have a block of time for iPad Educational games, outside time, and tabletop learning activities.
I assure you that all of this planning out your day will be helpful for your child and you will see a big change in their attitude and behaviors.