How to Create a Toddler Routine That Works (FREE Printable Included)

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Is anyone else losing their mind being stuck at home? Do you have a wild toddler who you’re struggling to keep entertained?

I can answer yes to both of those questions on any normal day.

Blake has been getting crazier and crazier as the days of staying at home more pass by. There is no way to tell the difference between any given day since we literally are stuck at home with nowhere to go.

I knew I had to do something to help keep us organized with our heads on straight.

So, I created a Toddler Routine for him with routine cards he could use as a visual. 

How to Create the Perfect Toddler Routine Free Routine Cards Pin

I have quickly learned that Blake, like most toddlers, thrives off of routine. I like being organized but I have always enjoyed the free flowing idea of doing whatever pops into my head for the day.

Having to live day by day to a routine sounded like a nightmare with no creativity. What I have found since implementing our daily routine is quite the opposite actually. 

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Why a Toddler Routine?

Toddlers seem to love and thrive off of routines for various reasons. The biggest reason I have found is it gives them a sense of control.

In a world where they are constantly told what to do it is nice for them to feel like they have control over their day. 

Does this mean he decides what we do and when we do it?

Not necessarily. It means because we follow a similar routine everyday he knows what to expect next. This gives him a sense of control over what is happening in his life.

Implementing a Routine

Implementing a toddler routine will largely depend on you and your family dynamic. It takes some time of trial and error and learning what works best for your family. 

For example, originally I had us getting up and immediately getting dressed then eating breakfast. Realistically this does not work for our family so I just tweaked our schedule to fit our needs.

Once your routine has been created and you are ready to implement it the best thing I suggest is just jump to it.

I printed and laminated our routine out and put it on our fridge where we can refer to it all day. I also created and printed the Toddler Routine Cards out for Blake so that he has a fun visual for his day (it also helps that he switches out the cards furthering his sense of control). 

Using timers as a transition signal for Blake has been amazing! I simply tell him that when the timer beeps it means we move to whatever is next on the agenda. 

I recommend sticking to your new routine for a week to see how it works before making any drastic changes.

It will take some time and there may be some push back at first. You are disrupting the natural chaotic routine that’s been in place after all.

Now, you are probably thinking this is wonderful that you know how to implement a routine but how do you create one that works for you?

I’m here to help you with that too!

Creating a Toddler Routine That Works

Like I mentioned above, creating a routine that works may take some trial and error. I know it did for us. There are a few steps I took to piece together a routine that works for us.

Step 1: Write Down Consistent Events

What I mean here is, are there any events that take place each day roughly around the same time? 

Think:

  • Waking up at the same time every morning
  • Leaving for work, school or daycare
  • Eating meals at the same time
  • Planned outings that happen every week (playgroup, library, church)
  • Naps
  • Bedtime

Once you have your list of things that happen roughly at the same time everyday, write those down as markers for your routine.

Step 2: Write down things you want to include

For me there were lots of grand ideas I had about what I wanted to get done in a day with the kids. I mean, I have all the time in the world right? I am a stay-at-home-mom after all. 

Make a list of everything you would love to do in a typical day. A routine wishlist if you will. Here are some examples to give you an idea

  • Have learning time daily
  • Limit TV time 
  • Include independent play time
  • Have a scheduled outing each week
  • Go to the Library once a week
  • Focus on cleanup times
  • Have outdoor time
  • Incorporate story time more

After this list is created set it aside to look back at later. Add and take away as needed. Not everything on this list will make the cut.

Step 3: Start Piecing together a routine

Now comes the exciting part! Start putting those wish list items into your set schedule items to create a routine.

This can be tricky as you start to realize there is not enough time in the day to do everything you want. That’s ok…remember this is all trial and error anyway. Find what works for you!

Our routine ended up looking something like this:

  • Wake up and eat breakfast (Mom drinks coffee if she can spare some time).
  • Get dressed
  • Independent Play while Mom cleans
  • Story Time
  • Baby Naps While Toddler has some Learning Time
  • Toddler gets TV time
  • Baby wakes up and it’s lunch time.
  • Cleanup after lunch
  • Outside time or playtime
  • Story time
  • Both kids nap
  • Wakeup from naps and snack
  • Playtime while mom preps supper
  • Playtime with Dad or TV time while mom cooks supper
  • Eat Supper
  • Cleanup
  • Playtime (wind down)
  • Bathtime & Bedtime

Does Following a Routine Mean a Rigid Schedule?

Absolutely not!

The above routine is a loose guideline we follow each day. Some days we don’t get every story time in…and that’s OK. Sometimes Blake is having an off day and I don’t have the energy to deal with him so we watch extra TV. 

Other days it is so pretty outside that we basically live out there all day (those are the best days!)

The purpose of a routine is to provide you with some structure; not be a drill sergeant controlling your day. You mix it up when needed but follow it for the average day.

Related: Toy Rotation: Increasing Imaginative Play

How a Toddler Routine Has Helped Us

I never anticipated how much a routine would help us! It has really decreased the number of tantrums or tears we have had at transition times.

Now I have a way to let Blake be prepared for the next transition through verbal instruction, visual routine cards and audio via a timer. All three of these things alert various senses to prep and condition him for the transition.

Does this mean he never fights when it is time to move on to something new? Absolutely not! He still has his moments but it has drastically decreased any issues. 

Having a routine has helped hold me accountable for active learning time and story time for Blake rather than just watching tv and playing all day. He knows that learning time is roughly the same time everyday now and he actually looks forward to it and focuses better.

Part of our routine includes cleaning up as an age appropriate chore for Blake. He is learning that when we make messes we clean up. This has also helped me in keeping the house tidy. Because he is cleaning up at each transition it means less to clean at the end of the day.

Having a toddler routine has really helped me as a mom to stay on task. It is very easy for me, as a stay-at-home mom, to go in so many directions that I get off task. I have loved having a toddler routine and the benefits it has brought to us in such a short time.

If you would like to create your own toddler schedule and have questions I would love to help! Click here to get your FREE routine cards.

Are you a routine follower or go with the flow person? 

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Shaliesse

    I agree toddlers thrive off of having a schedule ! Ive been doing the same routine with my daughter for several months and it has made a huge difference. Thanks for sharing !

    1. Morgan P

      That’s awesome! Way to go! I’m finding myself doing better a routine as well!

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