Happy birthday to your little one and congratulations to you for making it through the first year of parenthood! Hopefully a newborn routine helped you develop some good habits and build a consistent infant routine too. But even if you’ve not outlined a schedule for your growing bundle yet, you may find they’ve fallen into a rhythm. It’s almost certainly inconsistent and varies from day to day but it lays the groundwork for a toddler routine.
benefits of a toddler routine
There’s no denying it, your little one is all grown up. Or at least on their way to being so. While their personality develops and they start to find their voice, they still need plenty of support (and lots of cuddles). Part of this means having a clear structure to their day. This helps to build healthy habits as well as setting expectations for their behaviour. It may not stop the temper tantrums, but having a toddler routine provides consistency and security.
Another benefit of having a daily pattern revolves around time. The clock is still a mystery at this age but having a toddler routine builds an understanding of ‘before’ and ‘after’. This can help reduce power struggles as the routine says when the tv goes off and toys go away. They’ll likely still need some prompting though. However, you may find that your little one heads outside to play or takes themselves to bed on cue! But not before their goodnight kiss.
time to rise and shine
Whether you prefer to wake up to the sound of birds chirping or bells chiming, set that alarm. Waking your little one at the same time each morning helps with napping and night-time sleeping too. So, let the sunshine in, put on their favourite music and get dressed. Keeping your toddler routine consistent helps build a natural rhythm for you both.
If your growing tot is going to daycare or staying home with a sitter, set aside time in your morning routine to spend together. They can be incredibly inquisitive at this age so they’ll love watching you get ready and copying what you do. The perfect way to encourage them to brush their teeth! You can also turn getting dressed into a game, asking them to find the matching sock. Just don’t forget to say please and thank you so your little munchkin does likewise.
playtime and catnaps
With age comes activeness, at least when you’re young! As your little ball of fun finds their feet, playtime becomes a bigger part of your toddler routine. It helps to burn off excess energy so they (and you!) will sleep better while they explore and learn. Try reading a book in the garden or making a mess with arts and crafts. However you play with your toddler, you should benefit from a routine as the predictability helps them feel more secure and adventurous.
After a morning of fun and games, your walking and talking machine may be running low on energy. Cue naptime. Every baby is different, but somewhere around 18 months is when most toddlers drop from two naps to one. With most of their sleep happening overnight, aim for 2-3 hours of dozing each day. It’s important to find a routine that works for your little one, so make small adjustments until they’re sleeping well both day and night.
fuelling your busy bee
Since being introduced to solid foods, your little one has probably reached for anything they can get their hands on! Except for maybe the sprouts; only Grandad wants those. Their interest in your plate signals a change in how you incorporate food into their toddler routine. Their mealtimes are almost aligned with yours so they’ll love joining you at the table. Tucking in to breakfast, lunch and dinner together builds healthy eating habits and is sociable too.
Just as adults enjoy snacking (not always healthily) to refuel, toddlers need to do the same. Growing up is hungry work! Sitting down for a snack is an easy way of including some downtime into your daily schedule. Whether it’s after a nap or between games, make sure they’re eating a healthy toddler diet to keep them going.
settling down for sleep
As ever, sleep is one of the most important parts of your toddler routine. Too much or too little and you’ll know about it! Consistency is also key, so following a pattern of winding down helps give your little one cues that it’s time to sleep. It can help to dim the lights and quieten the ambient noise around 7. The differences in lighting and noise between naps and night-time is a clear indicator between day and night, encouraging healthy sleeping habits.
Try to find a few calming things to do before bed and repeat them each night. Unwind with a relaxing bath followed by cosy cuddles and their favourite story. Perhaps choosing their pyjamas and listening to lullabies works better. It’s important that your routine is flexible, fitting around you and your toddler. Let’s hope for a peaceful night’s sleep.
All in all, a little organisation goes a long way with a toddling tot around. Make changes when you need to and know that this too benefits their development. They may make a fuss, but small adjustments help prepare them for bigger, unplanned disruptions. At the end of the day, raising a new little human is no mean feat. So, find your own way to muddle through the tricky times and thoroughly enjoy the good times. That’s parenthood in a nutshell.