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Toddlers and Routines- How to Get Started!
By Karen Bowman, BA/BS, Developmental Specialist at teli

Routines are important for toddlers, as they establish a flow to the day and set expectations for when to eat, play, have quiet time and sleep. It helps to create lifelong habits early in their lives and enables parents to organize a family’s activities.

A child is ready for a routine when they can accept direction and transition calmly from one activity to another. By one to two years of age a child will be capable of appropriately transitioning through a routine for wake up and bedtimes, mealtimes, and playtimes without tantrums.

Why is a routine important to a child?

  • Builds confidence – Knowing what to expect helps build confidence and comfort in toddlers.
  • Reduces bedtime battles - Consistent nighttime schedules help children transition from play time to bath time and bedtime more easily because they know what is coming and can grasp the process.
  • Fewer meltdowns – Scheduled down times before meals and regular snack times can reduce the potential for a tired or hungry child.
  • More control over the day – For both toddlers and parents, the ability to plan ahead and move through the day smoothly is an important benefit.
  • Kids learn from repetition –A predictable schedule, with flexibility, helps a child learn the expectations for the family’s day.

What are some suggestions for establishing a routine with my child?
Each family is different with unique timelines and challenges. Karen provides the following suggestions for activities to work into your schedule planning and that will begin to transition your child and your family into a purposeful routine.

  • An easy and slow wake up is nice for parents and children alike. Assure enough time for your child to wake without rushing about the house.
  • Eat meals together. Allow your child to participate in age appropriate tasks (put out napkins, clear own plate, get sippy cup from cabinet, etc.).
  • As you help your child dress and groom, offer choices of clothing and encourage him/her to participate (put arms/legs out, pull up pants or socks).
  • Share books and play (filling/emptying activities, puzzles, simple pretend play)
  • As lunchtime approaches, music and books are nice ways to wind down.
  • Repeat wake up routine from above, after a nap, followed by a snack.
  • Get outside as weather permits. The outdoors can provide inexpensive, stimulating fun for all (ball play, pop bubbles, walks)
  • Assure some time for your child to play and encourage him/her to clean up toys, before bath/grooming.
  • Keep bath time and bed time routines predictable. Share a quiet story and favorite lullabies before bed.

A predictable schedule will help your toddler feel safe and secure while teaching about boundaries, while supporting your child’s natural ability to explore and learn from their environment.

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