Toddlers are wonderful, beautiful, obstinate, and fickle little beings. Parenting them can be a magical experience, but also a trying one. They call this stage of development "The Terrible Twos" for a reason. If you are going to have any hopes of surviving the toddler stage of life, you need a suitcase full of tips, tricks, strategies, and prayers. You also need some serious schedules. Toddler schedules will make your life so much easier.
Why Toddler Schedules Are Important
Toddler schedules will benefit you and your little darling. Schedules help to create routines, and routines can have several positive effects on little people. A good toddler schedule and routine can:
- Lower stress in young children
- Increase their confidence and pride; routines give them the ability to explore, create and connect.
- Teach them the basics of time management
- Foster security and stability by enforcing predictability
- Reduce challenging behaviors in young children
- Create teachable moments for caregivers to capitalize on
- Reduce power struggles between children and adults
- Establish healthy habits
Keeping Schedules Realistic and Flexible
Toddlers gain so much from routine and schedule, and parents stay organized and calm, knowing what is coming next in their day and how much longer until nap time they have. While parents will find that a couple of schedules will help the day in the life of a toddler run more smoothly, they have to keep in mind that schedules work best when they are realistic and flexible.
What Can Your Toddler Truly Handle?
Overly ambitious parents will sometimes shoot for the stars when they create schedules for their toddlers. In an attempt to pack the day full of intellectual and emotional opportunities for growth, they often fall into the trap of over-scheduling or unrealistically scheduling. A schedule filled with activities far above your toddler's developmental level will leave them (and you) exhausted and frustrated. A schedule jammed with outings and activities will likely do the same. Make sure you are choosing to create a toddler schedule that is geared towards your kid's academic, social and emotional development stage and including plenty of time of rest, independent play, and otherwise. Schedules are meant to create routines, not meant to give you a second career in cruise directing or a sense of parental failure!
Schedules and Routine Have to Have Balance and Flexibility
Routines and schedules are wonderful tools in child rearing, and while they are known for creating expectations and boundaries, there should be plenty of balance and flexibility within them. Just as it isn't beneficial for young children to have no predictability in their lives, it is also not helpful to keep schedules so tight that nothing can ever be changed or moved. Life is fluid, and when children grow into adulthood, they will have to learn how to be flexible in their plans. The art of flexibility starts with toddler scheduling. Sometimes a playdate at the park runs late, or unexpected visitors pop by. When moments occur in your day that don't coincide with your toddler's schedule, it's okay to budge and shift things around.
Likewise, balance has to be evident in a toddler's schedule. True, there has to be plenty of stimulating activity and experience to keep tots engaged with the world around them, but there should also be periods where you aren't steering the learning ship. Downtime, independent time, and rest time all have a place at the toddler table. These spaces of time are just as important as creative play, outings, social gatherings, and academic activities.
Types of Toddler Schedules
Young children should have simple, concise schedules that they can achieve and become confident with. Their eating and bedtime schedule should only include a few simple steps and utilize picture cues along with words for association purposes. Daily toddler schedules are geared towards parents so that they can organize a beneficial daily routine for their child. These should be simple, flexible, and balanced between active periods and restful periods.
Daily Schedule for Toddlers
A toddler's day should be broken up into periods of active and physical stimulation and exploration, mealtimes, and periods of sleep or rest. These elements help to balance out a toddler's day while providing varied moments of experiences for them. Remember to stay flexible. If you have creative play down for 11:00 and have pulled out the play dough, but your toddler is not at all interested, then consider some flexibility in choice. Next time, offer play dough or fingerpaint. Allow toddlers to have a bit of say in how they spend their time. As children grow up, having some choice in their lives will become crucial to their development.
Eating Schedule for Toddlers
It is wise to have a feeding schedule for toddlers. This won't be all that new for tots because they have likely been on some sort of feeding schedule since the day they were born. Once kids become toddlers, they are no longer being fed a bottle several times a day. Their culinary world has been broken wide open, and pretty much all foods are fair game. It's essential to have set times for meals and snacks, but it is also important to create some simple and limited choices for children during mealtimes.
When giving toddlers food options for snack time, remember that less is more. Try to avoid open-ended questions like "What would you like to eat?" as you stand in front of an open and packed fridge. Instead, give toddlers two choices for snack time by providing the word for the food with the actual food itself. (Look at all of this vocabulary building you are doing in this teachable schedule moment!) Consider saying, "Would you like this banana or these crackers?"
Bedtime Schedule for Toddlers
Bedtime. Finally! Having a bedtime routine and a set bedtime, for that matter, is key. When parents look at the clock at six p.m. and think to themselves, "Man, I really can not go on much longer!" They will immediately think to themselves, "Yes, I can! We start getting ready for bed in an hour and a half!" This is a much better mindset for an exhausted toddler mom or dad than, "Oh geez, it's only six p.m., when will this kid fall where he stands and sleep!"
Starting the bedtime routine at the same time each night creates predictability. There will be fewer fits and tantrums over snoozing once toddlers realize that this part of their day happens over and over again.
Potty Training Schedule for Toddlers
The toddler years bring on the mountain of a chore that is potty training. Most parents find that potty training is a bear of a time. No one exactly looks forward to spending hours and hours sitting on the bathroom floor or cleaning up countless fecal messes, but potty training is part of the parenting game. It must be done, and creating toddler toileting schedules can make the process less painful for everyone.
Different Scheduling Strokes for Different Folks
The single most important thing to keep in mind with toddler schedules is what works for one family might not work for another. Even the best, more thoughtfully planned schedules sometimes tank. Know that it is a-okay to scrap schedules and start over. Do what feels best for you and your child. If you have to try a few different schedules out before finding one that works for your loved ones, that is no problem at all! There is no shame in your redo scheduling game. So much of parenting is try, try, and try again!