While some days you have to fly by the seat of your pants with a toddler in tow, having a daily routine will help increase your sanity levels and give your child some much-needed boundaries.
It’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to change what time your child wakes in the morning, but you can work out a routine for the rest of the day to ensure they get enough catch-up sleep during the day. Having a schedule of daily activities will also lessen the chances of your toddler getting frustrated or bored.
Routines are also good at night - your child will come to know that after they’ve brushed their teeth, had their nappy changed and been read a book that it’s time to go to sleep. Doing the same thing every night reinforces these actions and the routine will soon become second-nature.
A suggested routine for your toddler:
6.30am: Wake up
7am: Have breakfast
7.45: Brush teeth and get dressed
8.15am: Play and read books
10.30: Morning tea time
11am: Outside play
11.30: Craft or screen time
12pm: Lunch time
12.30pm: Afternoon nap
2.30pm: Wake up and afternoon snack
3pm: Play time, walk or trip to park
6pm: Play and tidy up toys
6.15pm: Bath or shower
6.45pm: Brush teeth, nappy change
7pm: Bedtime story or song
7.15pm: Bedtime, lights out
Don’t forget to adjust the above if your child wakes up earlier or later and remember consistency is key so don’t get too hung up on times. Getting your toddler to have that day sleep is crucial because otherwise they just won’t make it through the rest of the day and could end up asleep at the dinner table.
Unfortunately, not all toddlers sleep for two or more hours during the day. Some have cat naps and you’ll be lucky to get them to have a 45-minute sleep. In this case you’ll have to decide if you want to give them a quick nap in the morning and another in the afternoon or whether you’ll stick to giving them one sleep in the middle of the day. Whatever you choose, be consistent.
Tips to help you set up a routine:
- Build a schedule around the times your toddler wakes, eats and sleeps
- Allow enough time and be realistic as young children usually aren’t known for their speed
- Include extras such as homework, chores and any other activities
- Get input from others such as daycare teachers and family members
- If your toddler has trouble with one particular aspect of the routine set up a reward chart to help deal with it
- Talk your family through the routine when you first start it, even if you’re sick of the sound of your own voice. Hopefully it will soon be your kids reminding YOU of what’s next.
Top 5 reasons why routines are great
- There’ll be fewer bedtime battles because you do the same thing every night and your toddler will soon learn this.
- Boundaries make children feel safe and secure and they can help boost your toddler’s confidence levels.
- Kids with routines are usually more adaptable when you need to change or alter it for special occasions or events. While it sounds contradictory, routines can be flexible.
- You will find it much easier to get through your long day because you know when you’ll get a break and when ‘the end is nigh’.
- Your toddler might have fewer tantrums, for example if they know they have to wait until after school pickup to have their snack they’ll learn to wait longer before losing it.
Remember: While having a schedule of events is definitely worth it; don’t get too hung on clock watching because this will defeat the purpose of having a routine.
About the author: Emily Toxward
When former journalist Emily Toxward isn’t wrangling her three kids she’s juggling the demands of her business Write Styling and failing fabulously at being a domestic goddess. A published writer for nearly 20 years, Emily left full-time work in 2008 to have children and write from home. Always on the go, she spends her days negotiating with an army of little people she created and visits her local Gold Coast beaches for a little sanity.