A toddler schedule is a must!

Did you know this? I did not!!

Actually, if I take you all the way back. I didn’t know babies needed schedules either.

I promise you I read all the baby books, but I guess I was more focused on how my life was going to change and I forgot to focus on important things like the day to day.

Maybe I can claim mom brain?!

I remember people asking me what my baby schedule was when I first had my son. And I would just look back at them with a confused, blank stare because we didn’t have a schedule.

Each day was unpredictable. Well, I take that back. I knew I would hold him every day (because I was terrified to put him down) and I would breastfeed like my life depended on it.

You could probably say that I was in survival mode so I didn’t exactly think about schedules.

Then all of a sudden he was a toddler and I quickly found out that I absolutely needed a toddler schedule.

Why is it important for to have a toddler schedule? Let me paint a picture for you that I’m sure you’re probably familiar with.

It was only 8:30am. We had already played with every toy in the house which were now spewed everywhere in a perfect kind of order for me to step on all the small pieces.

The mom guilt was setting in because I had let my son have a marathon viewing session of Bob the Builder.

It was raining out, so our options were limited.

I was losing my patience with myself and my toddler by the second.

Did I mention it was only 8:30am?! That was just the beginning of a long day and I it was all my fault. I didn’t have a toddler schedule in place.

Like Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Without preparing a toddler schedule I had already failed that day (and my sanity) by mid morning.

Toddler schedules and routines to make your day go smoothly!

I knew better. My eight years of an education background taught me that daily schedules for kids give them a better understanding of their world and make them feel secure.

When I was a teacher in the classroom I spent hours planning and preparing for the week ahead. I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed for the activities we were going to do and allotted time to do them. Why should my preparation with my own son be any different?!

Sidetone: I created Learning Through Play (a month of toddler activities) after I realized that I could implement things I did in the classroom with my toddler at home. I’m super proud of this and I hope you take a second to check it out. I really think it could help you and your children. I’ve done all the work for you, so all you need to do is play!

Toddler Schedule and Routines

That’s when I sat down, did a little research into our days and came up with an ideal toddler schedule and a realistic toddler schedule. And most recently I created a summer toddler schedule (at the bottom of the post) because I like to be extra, extra prepared! 

This way I would have an ideal toddler schedule for most days, but a realistic toddler schedule for days that don’t go ideally (think melt downs, blow-out diapers and crayons on the wall).

And real talk…there are those days where any kind of schedule is not going to work. You know when life hits you in the face. Don’t worry, I got you covered!

For those days I have found that it’s important to have daily routines in place. Ones you do every day and  at least provide a foundation on days that go a little (or a lot) to the left.

This way your toddler still has a since of structure in their day even when the schedule is not going to happen.

Example Of Toddler Routines

Morning Routine:

  • Eat Breakfast
  • Brush Teeth
  • Get Dressed
  • Comb Hair
  • Put on Shoes

Meal Time Routine:

  • Wash Hands
  • Set Table
  • Sit in Chair
  • Pray
  • Thank the Cook (very important 🙂 )

Chores Routine:

  • Carry Dishes to Sink
  • Put Away Toys
  • Put Clothes in Hamper
  • Feed Pets
  • Mix or Stir

Play Time Routine:

  • Choose Toys
  • Set the Timer
  • Put Away Toys
  • Sing Songs
  • Read Books

Bedtime Routine:

  • Take a Bath
  • Put on Lotion
  • Put on Pajamas
  • Brush Teeth
  • Potty

Whatever routines work for you is what you should stick with and the most important part is the sticking. Children need some sort of consistency in their day, so they know what to expect.

Printable Routine Cards are a great visual to give your day structure even when you go off your toddler schedule.

Now that we’ve covered our back up plan, let’s get started with the Ideal Toddler Schedule:

Ideal Toddler Schedule

  • 7:00am    Wake-Up/Morning Routine
  • 8:00am    Sensory Play/Learning Activity
  • 9:00am    Go on an Outing
  • 11:00am   Lunch/Meal Time Routine
  • 12:00pm   Nap/Nap Routine
  • 3:00pm    Wake-Up/Snack
  • 3:30pm    Park/Play Outside
  • 4:30pm    Independent Play
  • 5:30pm    Dinner/Meal Time Routine
  • 6:30pm    Family Play Time
  • 7:00pm    Bed Time Routine
  • 7:30pm    Time for Bed

Ideal Toddler Schedule Explained:

7:00am—Wake-Up/Morning Routine

Once he’s up I go in and greet him and tell him what we are going to do that day while I get him a fresh diaper.

Then we go to the kitchen and begin our morning routine. This includes him helping prepare and pick his breakfast. Then eating and cleaning up his breakfast.

This is definitely a work in progress! It doesn’t go this smoothly every day but we do work on it every day. Consistency is the key!

Related: Indoor Toddler Activities

8:00am—Sensory Play/Learning Activity

This is when the real fun begins! Like I mentioned before, I was a teacher before becoming a stay at home mom. So, I like to utilize learning activities as much as I can. I have found that when learning is fun kids retain a lot more. Especially my little one who will not sit still for very long.

During this time I do sensory activities like sand in a rubbermaid and add in some toy trucks or bubbles in a bowl and he spoons them out. We stick to a lot of motor skills activities right now because that’s where his interests lies.

You could also do the sponge letters and have your toddler match them to the letter you wrote with dry-erase marker.

If you need some more ideas or information about fine motor skills or indoor activities for toddlers you can click here.

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    9:00am—Go on an Outing

    This is when we leave the house to go on an adventure! I use the word adventure lightly. Sometimes that literally means driving to Starbucks just to get out of the house. Other times it means going on a play date or visiting Grammy.

    Here are a few other ideas for outings with your toddlers:

    • Library
    • Mall Playground
    • Outside Playground
    • Local Science Museum
    • Taret (to play with their toys and then leave them there:))
    • Hiking

    Just get out of the house. It’s good for you and your toddler.

    11:00am—Lunch/Meal Time Routine

    I usually try to keep lunch meals pretty simple. A protein (usually egg or cheese), fruit and if I’m lucky some sort of vegetable.

    A little side note, if your toddler doesn’t love to eat vegetables, like mine. I make smoothies and put spinach in them and he never knows he drank a vegetable! I usually add bananas, berries, flax seed and spinach. It makes me feel a lot better about him not eating the vegetables I attempt to serve him.

    After he’s finished he helps me clean up so he can feel some responsibility Right now that means him putting his dish in the dishwasher or wiping down the table.

    12:00pm—Nap/Nap Routine

    To get ready for nap time I change him back in jammies (because I’m a germaphobe). Then we read two books (only two because he’ll keep asking for more if I don’t stop it there).

    I say a prayer and them put him in bed with his paci and lovies.

    He usually sleeps between 1-3 hours. It’s pretty much a toss up. You never know what you’re gonna get.

    3:00pm—Wake-Up/Snack

    He usually wakes up around 3:00pm and I’ll have a little snack prepared for him before I get him out of bed. Snack usually consists of fruit, crackers or cereal.

    As he eats snack I usually let him watch a show because it’s the only time he’ll cuddle with me. Plus, it’s nice to sit down together for a second!

    3:30pm—Park/Play Outside

    By this time he’s ready to stretch his eyes and see some daylight. If I’m short on time he’ll just play in the backyard since we have some great summer toys that he loves.

    Related: Busy Bags for Toddlers

    But, if time allows we venture off to the local playground or take a walk to the creek. Basically the goal is to get some fresh air and that could take on many different forms.

    4:30pm—Independent Play

    He’s way into tools right now, so this is usually when he gets out his drill and fixes something. Sometimes he’ll forego the tools and play with the dog. It’s pretty much his choice because I’m busy cooking dinner.

    I’m really trying to work on independent play because we have a baby on the way! We are all super excited but I know life is going to change and so will our schedule.

    But, I want him to be used to independent play so he’s comfortable to play on his own for a while. That way I won’t feel as guilty while I attempt to breastfeed his sibling.

    Related: Dads Can Help with Breastfeeding

    5:30pm—Dinner

    This is one of my favorite times because we get to sit down as a family, take a breath and be together. Although, this togetherness usually lasts about 15 minutes.

    Toddlers seem to be finished eating fairly quickly!

    When he’s done eating and decides he wants to get down we have told him that he has to ask, “may I get down?” It’s just a way from preventing him from feeling like he runs the show. And it’s really cute watching him try to remember the worlds he’s supposed to say.

    6:30pm—Family Play Time

    This time goes so quickly. We usually try to dance, play in the backyard or go for a walk.

    7:00pm—Bed Time Routine

    We do a bath every night. Also, if you’re child doesn’t like baths (like ours). Try popsicle baths.

    It’s a great motivator and usually lasts the length of a bath. Bribing with popsicles is just one of the things I didn’t know I’d do with my toddler.

    Related: 3 Easy Tips to Limit Screen Time for Toddler

    7:30pm—Time For Bed

    We try to keep this routine as simple as possible. Brush teeth, jammies, lotion, lovies and paci. Once we have all the necessities. My husband reads two books to him and then puts him to bed.

    Now for the days when things go less than ideal, which seems to happen a lot for us. Here is the Realistic Toddler Schedule: 

    Realistic Toddler Schedule

    • 7:00am    Wake-Up, Morning Routine
    • 8:00am    TV time/Mom works out
    • 9:00am    Go on an Outing/House Cleaning
    • 11:00am   Lunch/Meal Time Routine
    • 12:00pm   Nap/Nap Routine
    • 3:00pm    Wake-Up, Snack
    • 3:30pm    TV time/Cuddle
    • 4:30pm    Independent Play/Finish Cleaning
    • 5:30pm    Take-Out Dinner
    • 6:30pm    Family Play Time
    • 7:00pm    Bed Time Routine
    • 7:30pm    Time for Bed

    Realistic Toddler Schedule Explained:

    7:00am—Wake-Up/Morning Routine

    Even when our day doesn’t go exactly as planned we always stick to our routines. These routine cards help give my toddler a visual que as to what to do next.

    So, he still knows we’ll eat breakfast, comb hair and get dressed. It provides some sanity to our “realistic” day.

    8:00am—TV time/Mom Works Out

    Sometimes I don’t get up in enough time to work out before he is up. I also don’t always have a great sensory activity prepared because I’m human.

    So, on those days I allow him to watch 20-30 minutes (or sometimes more) of a show while I work out. I know it’s not the greatest thing but I also figure it’s not the worst.

    Or, if I don’t feel like working out I’ll hold him and we watch TV as long as he lets me. Because let’s be real, I don’t work out every day.

    9:00am—Go on an Outing/House Cleaning

    On these days our “outing” literally tuns into a long drive so I can listen to a podcast and my toddler can have some down time.

    Also, I’m not gonna lie. House cleaning has taken a major hit since becoming a mom. It’s just hard to get it done without someone trailing behind you and undoing what you just did.

    So, I’ve incorporated it into our day and try to make it fun for my toddler to help. Of course that doesn’t always work and that’s when I encourage independent play again so I can get rid of some dust bunnies.

    11:00am—Lunch/Meal Time Routine

    Again, even on days that aren’t ideal we always stick to our routines. So, at lunch time we eat and clean-up.

    Also in reality, somedays he has no interest in what I prepared for him (aka only wants fruit).

    That’s when I pick my battles and try to remember that sometimes I don’t want a certain type of food either.

    I feel like toddlers would snack all day if we let them and sometimes I do. Because the whole pick your battles thing.

    12:00pm—Nap/Nap Routine

    This is a routine I NEVER mess with. Oh, unless he falls to sleep in the car and then I very cautiously transfer him to bed because if he wakes up that nap is ruined forever and somedays the nap is ruined.

    He might of slept ten minutes in the car and when we get home he wakes up and refuses to nap the rest of the day. And I’m sure you know that a cranky toddler is not the most fun to be around.

    That’s when I’ll usually go on another drive or watch more TV. That’s my last resort but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

    3:00pm—Wake-Up/Snack

    We never miss a snack! It may not be organic and grass fed but it’s a snack .

    Related: Healthy Toddler Snacks on The Go

    3:30pm—TV time/Cuddle

    Somedays you just don’ t have it in you to move anymore. That’s when we turn on a little Bob the Builder and cuddle. Honestly, I let him watch TV sometimes just so he’ll cuddle with me. Again with the bribery. I’ve mentioned this a few times but I cherish all the cuddles I can get!

    4:30pm—Independent Play/Finish Cleaning

    This is when he plays on his own while I attempt to finish the cleaning that I started earlier. Oh and laundry. There’s always laundry.

    5:30pm—Take-Out Dinner

    What sounds good tonight? Pizza! Or whatever requires me not cooking!

    Thank God for delivery. There are days when cooking just isn’t going to happen.

    And for nights that you go to a restaurant. I’ve created the  Toddler Restaurant Kit to help your toddler stay entertained, screen free. So, you can enjoy your meal instead of picking mac and cheese off the floor. I promise you this kit has changed our restaurant going lives!

    With a toddler restaurant kit you can enjoy your dining experience tantrum free!

    6:30pm—Family Play Time

    Sometimes this turns into dad plays with toddler while I finish cleaning the house and the mess from dinner. Or sometimes I’m just over adulating and I’ll sit down and scroll Instagram while they play. Because even moms need some time to check out.

    7:00pm—Bed Time Routine

    Always keep the same bed time routine!

    7:30pm—Time For Bed

    Same here! We always do the same thing for bed time routine. Well, because we like sleep!!

    And lastly, a schedule for those summer days. When the air just feels a little different and things can go hay wire if you let it. I speak from experience!

    Summer Toddler Schedule

    • 7:00am    Wake-Up, Morning Routine
    • 8:00am    Morning Walk 
    • 9:00am    Summer Outing  
    • 11:00am   Independent Play
    • 12:00pm   Lunch/Meal Time Routine
    • 1:00pm     Nap/Nap Routine
    • 3:00pm    Wake-Up, Snack
    • 3:30pm    TV time/Cuddle
    • 4:30pm     Play Outside 
    • 5:30pm    Dinner 
    • 6:30pm    Family Play Time
    • 7:00pm    Bed Time Routine
    • 7:30pm    Time for Bed

     

    toddler schedules

    Download your Free
    Summer Toddler Schedule

    To help summer days go smoothly!

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      Summer Toddler Schedule

      7:00am—Wake-Up/Morning Routine

      It’s best to keep things as routine as possible. Even during the summer when schedules are more lax. Your kids will still wake up at the same time. So, it make since to keep the same routine. 

      8:00am—Morning Walk

      Summer days get hot very quickly! And getting out for a morning walk is a great way for you to clear your head and for your toddler to get some fresh air. 

      All before you start sweating profusely! 

      9:00am—Summer Outing/Activity

      Again, summer is hot! Especially in Tennessee. So, it’s best to do your outings and activities before it’s 1,000 degrees. 

      Here is a great list of activities to do with your kids this summer. Including indoor, outdoor and outing ideas! 

      summer activities for kids

      11:00am—Independent Play

      Once you have had a lot of interaction with them and there “attention bucket” is full. It’s time for independent play! 

      12:00pm—Lunch/Meal Time Routine

      If the weather is nice and it’s not too hot. This is a great time for a picnic in your own backyard! 

      But, by all means. If the bugs are out and you’re too sticky keep that food inside. 

      Your kids are likely exhausted by this point anyways.

      1:00pm—Nap/Nap Routine

      This is the same nap routine we follow no matter what. That I mentioned in the first schedule example. 

      3:00pm—Wake-Up/Snack

      Time for a quick snack as they are still waking up from their nap.

      3:30pm—TV time/Cuddle

      I think TV can be used as a tool for learning and tool for me to get some cuddle. 

      Here are some great educational shows:

      • Super Why!
      • Word World
      • Sesame Street 
      • Daniel Tigers Neighborhood
      • Storybots
      • Dinosaur Train

      4:30pm—Play Outside 

      It should start cooling off by now, so it’s safe to venture outdoors once again! 

      Sometimes I let my son play outside while I make dinner. 

      5:30pm—Dinner

      We try to eat dinner as a family most nights. It’s a great way to hear about each other’s days. And if you can’t get your toddler to talk. 

      Ask these questions: 

      • What was your favorite part about today?
      • Was someone nice to you? 
      • Were you nice to someone else?

      6:30pm—Family Play Time

      This could be another out time play if you like or just stick to a simple board game if you are exhausted yourself! 

      7:00pm—Bed Time Routine

      Always keep the same bed time routine!

      7:30pm—Time For Bed

      Always the same! And since our son is now in a toddler bed! We use this one and love it! 

      We’ve implemented a toddler clock. It turns green when he can get out of bed. It’s taken some consistent training but it now works like a charm! 

      And full disclosure sometimes nothing on andy of these toddler schedules happen, but routines ALWAYS do. As long as you keep a routine your kids will feel like there is structure to your day(and so will you).

       

      Routine cards are a great way to nurture independence. Instead of you saying fifty times “go brush your teeth!” They’ll know that it’s time to do that just by looking at their routine cards.

      toddler schedules need a routine. These routine cards will make your toddler feel more secure in their day.

      Use printable routine cards to help teach your toddler independence and to keep your sanity!

      It is always good to have visuals. More than half of people are visual learners so posted in your home will help keep you on schedule. Wether they be routine cards or your actual toddler schedule. Figure out what is best for you and your family and will help your day go smoothly!

      So, if you’re asking “should toddlers be on a schedule?” The answer is absolutely YES! It will make both of your lives so much easier and happier!!

      Until next time, Go get ’em mama!

      -Lindsey

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