How to Structure a Toddler Routine: All You Need to Know

Mother playing with her kid

If you’re a new parent, you’ve probably heard about the importance of establishing routines with your children and sticking to them. Establishing routines isn’t exactly easy, though, and you may be wondering if it’s even worthwhile to begin with. We’re here to explain why it is, and how you can make the toddler routine easier.

Why Is a Toddler Daily Schedule Important?

Children, especially younger ones, need structure to function. They’re still developing, and don’t quite know how to manage their own time or adapt to suddenly changing circumstances. Not to mention, they’re learning new things and receiving new sensory input on a near-daily basis. Trying to establish and maintain their own routines is simply too overwhelming, and will cause them to become overstimulated, have meltdowns, and fall behind on social-emotional learning.

That’s where you come in. You’ve already lived life for quite some time. You’ve had to puzzle your way through school, class deadlines, and the more rigid schedules of the workplace. Simply put, you’re used to routines, daily schedules, and having to maintain them. To help your child through this learning stage, you need to establish routines and daily schedules for them. Once they’ve learned what a day well spent looks like, they’ll be able to start establishing routines of their own, but that can’t happen until you’ve shown them the ropes.

How to Make a Daily Schedule for Kids

Parents follower the toddler routine

If you want to establish a schedule for your toddler, it’s best to base it on an already-existing schedule like mealtimes, nap times, and bedtime. Because many children still haven’t developed an accurate sense of time, adhering to time-based schedules can be difficult. However, your child knows when they’re hungry or sleepy, and they’ll make it known when they are. Using a toddler feeding schedule or bedtime and nap schedule as a framework helps simplify things for parents and children alike.

How Much Sleep Do 7-Year-Olds Need?

Most experts recommend ensuring your preteen children get between 9 and 12 hours of sleep a night. Every child has different needs, so this isn’t a hard and fast number, but it’s great to use as a general guideline when establishing a bedtime and nap schedule. As your child continues to grow, you can ease up on bedtime restrictions until eventually, you can lift them entirely and trust your child to set their own bedtime.

Consistency is Key!

Father feeding her son by following toddler routine

Though this probably goes without saying, a toddler routine has to be (you guessed it!) routine. To avoid overwhelming your child, you need to give them an idea of when they’ll have time to play, when they need to eat or sleep, and when they need to do things like chores and schoolwork. That way, when you ask them to do the scheduled task, they aren’t blindsided. They’ve had time to mentally prepare, and will get right to it with no fuss.

Of course, if you’re always changing up the routine or offering your child exceptions, the whole thing falls apart. While a few rare exceptions for vacations, events, etc., are fine, your child generally needs to have an idea of how their day will play out in order to adhere to a healthy routine. To this end, it’s important that you keep toddler routine as consistent as possible.

Follow Your Own Schedule

Mother working from home

One of the best ways to ensure a daily schedule for kids is followed is to lead by example. If you force your kids to adhere to a schedule, but aren’t willing to adhere to a schedule of your own, your children will fail to see the purpose of their own routines. If possible, try to eat meals alongside your kids, help them get ready for bed, and follow a strict nighttime routine yourself, albeit with a later bedtime. When your little ones see how routines benefit you, they’ll come to understand how a good routine can benefit them as well.

Use a Toddler Schedule Chart

Like we mentioned earlier, young children can have trouble with the concept of time and time-based schedules. You can help them learn about time-based schedules by giving them a schedule chart to fill out. Mark each task they need to do for the day at the appropriate time on the chart, and have them mark off each task as they complete it. When they show you a completed chart at the end of the day, be sure to offer some positive reinforcement! They’ll grasp the concept in no time.

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