Creating a Routine for Your Toddler

There are a lot of days I’m not sure if I’m doing any of this parenting stuff right. But every time someone tells me how happy my kid is, I know its because I try my hardest to stick to a daily routine. Happiness is not just genetics. It’s partially that, but it also has to do with how you spend your days.

Why routine is important.

Most of us know how important it is for our kids to be able to rely on the adults in their life. Study after study has shown us that kids from stable, loving homes are happier have a much brighter outlook on life. But part of loving our kids is making it clear what’s expected of them. And that’s where routines come in. Toddlers thrive on routine because they love receiving our praise when they complete a task. Not only that, but a routine gives them the stability and reliability they crave.

How to create a routine.

Not all families are created equal. What works for your sister’s family or friend’s family, may not work for yours. So when creating your own toddler’s routine, its important to take that into consideration. Think about all the things you need to get done in a day to make it to bedtime, and make a list. This list will probably include; getting ready for the day, making your kids breakfast, cleaning up, getting everyone dressed, teeth brushed etc, then lunch, naps, dinner, bedtime routine… You get the idea.

Once you have your list, make your own time blocking sheet. On lined paper, list out your day in half-hour increments. If you use a paper planner that has time blocked days, then use that instead. Fill in your time blocks with the tasks from the list you created. Don’t worry about being exact. This is not a contract you have to stick to. Its just to help get a visual of your day, and also your toddler’s day. The whole point is that you’re doing some things (notice I didn’t say all the things) around the same time each day.

Make it fun!

Depending on your kids’ personality and their ages, it may be helpful to get some poster board from the dollar store and use bright markers to write out the basic plan in large print. Get creative! Perhaps use a magnetic white erase board and get a fun magnet that your child can move from one activity to the next. Anticipation is HUGE at this age (2-4 years old) so they remember things like what you talked about the night before if it’s exciting to them and they’re looking forward to it. For example, if we have a play date and I tell my 3yo the night before, it will undoubtably be the first thing he asks about the next morning when he wakes up.

Use this excitement to your advantage when creating a routine. You may be surprised at how thrilled your little one is just to move from activity to the next. The amazing thing about this age is that everything is magical. Even the smallest things are exciting if you show that excitement too.

You are your toddler’s advocate.

A lot of time its easy as a new parent to listen to other people’s opinions of what your child needs. But your instincts as their parent is the most important opinion of all. Don’t get me wrong, learning from experts or asking advice from more experienced parents can be greatly beneficial. However, don’t let it cloud your initial instincts. Every child is different, and you know your child best. If you know your toddler is their best self when they get to bed by a certain time every night, then stick to it. Don’t apologize if it inconveniences someone because you have to decline an invitation or change some plans now and then. Remember this phase of life doesn’t last forever. You can remind those friends or family (who may not be parents yet and might not understand) that this is just life with a toddler, and once they’re older your schedule can be more flexible.

Your family, your routine.

In the end the most crucial thing to remember is that every family is different. And every child is different. Never be afraid to advocate for your kid’s needs, even if they may be different from the needs of their peers. Happy, healthy kids get consistent sleep and know what to expect each day. A life of chaos does no one any favors. This doesn’t mean we’re all relegated to perfection so our kids are happy, not even close. Flexibility is just as important. That’s where your instincts come in though. You’ll know by your child’s behavior when its not a big deal to push back bedtime for a special event, or when you’ve got to put your foot down so you’re not all miserable the next day.

What kind of routine works best for you and your family? Do your kids look forward to a certain activity that’s the same every day or every week? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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