Inside: This daily routine is perfect for stay-at-home moms with a toddler and preschooler. Structuring your day when you have one child in school and another at home with you can be tricky – but with a little planning (and a lot of meal prep), this daily routine will become second nature.
More on Routines…
- My 1 Year Old’s Daily Routine
- My 18 Month Old’s Daily Routine
- Daily Routine with a Baby & Toddler
- Bedtime Routine with a Baby & Toddler
- Stress-free Preschool Morning Routine
As you can see, we have a lot of daily routine posts to share around here. Establishing a flexible daily routine for yourself and your kids can make all the difference in your confidence and mental-space organization as a mom.
After your baby turns 1, you may find that you naturally fall into a daily schedule without really having to think about it. As your kids get older and require more structure throughout the day, you’ll want to have a flexible plan in place to help you get from Point A to Point B smoothly.
Now here’s the secret most people won’t tell you: organization doesn’t just magically happen. It takes planning and preparation to keep yourself, your house, and your kids organized.
This means having systems in place that help to simplify daily life:
- meal planning & meal prep
- laundry & cleaning schedule
- daily routines, etc.
To be certain, having systems and routines in place does not mean you’re striving for perfection. As a mom with kids, *perfection* is very unrealistic. Striving for balance and sanity is far more achievable. That being said, a routine is not a tight-ship schedule, especially with young children. It’s more like a basic outline to follow.
As a bonus, babies, toddlers, and preschoolers love routines. They like to know what to expect, when to expect it, and these expectations can help them feel secure in their daily life, which can also help improve behavior and listening.
Now, your routine with your toddler and preschooler largely depends on two things:
- Wake-up time
These two factors will help determine the overall flow of your day. Naturally there are other factors to consider, such as the time it takes you to drive to preschool, naptimes, mealtimes, etc. But once you have a basic time-frame in mind of when these essential things need to take place, you can structure your day accordingly.
Daily Routine with a Toddler and Preschooler
5:30 AM: Mom wakes up
- Morning stretch/exercise routine
- Get dressed/makeup
6 AM: Preschooler wakes up
- Pre-breakfast snack (GoGo Squeeze or a banana)
- Play, read, or watch Daniel Tiger
6:30-7:30 AM: Toddler wakes up
- Get kids dressed
- Pack bags
- Assemble lunches
8 AM: Leave for preschool
For my full, detailed preschool morning routine + 5 hacks for leaving the house on time, check out this post.
P.S. – I get a lot of questions about these incredible printable routine cards. You can download them, here.
8:30 AM: Drop off preschooler
Note: If your 3 or 4 year old does not attend preschool, here are some fun hands-on activities to keep them entertained & busy at home.
9:00 AM: Starbucks
It is essential that you do not skip this step – toddler agrees.
9:00 AM – 12:30 PM: Activity & Errand Time
My 3 year old attends a 4 hour preschool program in the morning. Since I still have my toddler (16 months) with me during that time, I try to do a mix of playtime and errand time.
Below you’ll find a list of ideas of what I might do while my older child is at preschool:
- Toddler gym (at gymnastics studio)
- Storytime at the library
- Art studio
- Playdate with a friend
- Target Run??
- Grocery shopping
- Miscellaneous errands
- Go back home to clean/do laundry
And I always like to account for a poorly-timed toddler nap. Particularly right before I need to pick up my preschooler.
12:30 PM: Pick up preschooler
Mom-to-mom tip: Even though my 3 year old eats lunch right before I pick her up, I always like to have a snack handy for the ride home. Something special like a healthy-ish cookie, such as Enjoy Life brand, or Cheddar Bunnies.
1:00 PM: Arrive home
As I mentioned earlier, organization doesn’t just happen naturally or maintain itself. For me, when I walk in the door with all of the day’s spoils, I like to have a spot for everything to go and systems in place that help keep me sane.
After we get home, I always empty the car, empty my preschooler’s backpack and lunchbox, and restock my diaper bag before I forget and end up without diapers the next day for my toddler.
Mom-to-mom tip: When arriving home with a toddler and preschooler (and a car full of empty snacks, backpacks, special toys & blankies, water bottles, etc.) instead of getting my kids out first, I leave them both strapped in their carseats and I empty the car first! Otherwise, my toddler will keep running out into the garage and my preschooler will literally climb inside the refrigerator for a snack all while I’m attempting to pack mule everything into the house. No thanks!
1:00-1:30 PM: Mom refuel break
After going, going, going since before 6 AM I like to take a few minutes when we get home to sort of get myself together. Depending on how urgently my toddler needs a nap, this “break” of sorts doesn’t always happen, but as I mentioned earlier, all routines involving kids need to be flexible.
During this short time the girls will play together, do puzzles or blocks.
Part of my “mom break” typically involves:
- Empty/load dishes
- Let kids play independently
- 3rd cup of coffee??
1:30-3:30 PM: Toddler takes a nap
If I’m lucky, my 16 month old will take a good afternoon nap. Even if she takes a weird morning nap in the car, she will usually, hopefully take an afternoon nap.
This is a great piece of advice from The Baby Sleep Site regarding your toddler’s nap, when you also have to pick up your older child from school.
“Ideally, your toddler’s nap would not be later than 1 p.m. or so, but this can wreak havoc on a schedule in which you have to drop off or pick up your pre-schooler from school. In general, you’ll have to keep your toddler awake until after drop-off/pick-up and try not to let her snooze in the car (not even for 5 minutes) unless she is easily transferred to her bed for a full-length nap.”
While my toddler naps, my 3 year old will sometimes do a little bit of quiet time, but mostly she likes to read books with me or play.
At this age, I will rarely put my preschooler (almost 3 1/2 years old) down for a nap unless she really needs it. If she does nap, she will have a much harder time falling asleep, and often will stay awake until 8/8:30 but will still wake up at 6 AM.
Many moms of preschoolers must mourn the loss of naptime for their older child, but there is a little give and take involved. I would much rather have her asleep by 6:30 than up until 8:30, especially since no matter what time she goes to bed, she is always up at 6 AM.
3:30-4:30 PM: Outside time!
After my 16 month old is up from her nap, I like to get the kids outside in the fresh air for as long as I can before dinner.
During this time, they like to:
- Walk the dogs
- Ride trikes
- Sidewalk chalk
- Outdoor playhouse
- Literally play in dirt
Mom-to-mom tip: If your kids have a hard time calling it quits on outside playtime, and really, what kid doesn’t, I’ve found it can be helpful to set a timer on your phone. When the timer goes off, you clean up and head inside. I also put my 3 year old in charge of clean up, and this seems to help move things along as well.
4:30-5:00 PM: Make dinner
Easier said than done. Through all of the many stages I’ve been through with these kids, this is by far the toughest when it comes to making dinner.
Having a 3 year old and 16 month old play together requires constant supervision. Lately I have been prepping a lot of food on the weekend and making freezer meals to help make weeknight dinners easier.
If the recipe requires lots of sauteeing or babysitting at the stove, it’s just not happening. Sheet pan dinners, one pot meals and freezer food all the way.
P.S. – I’m always saving easy dinner ideas on Pinterest!
More Dinnertime Resources
- No Recipe Required: Dinner Ideas from Real Moms
- Printable Meal Planning Cheat Sheet
- Life-Changing Meal Planning Hacks
- Ultimate Meal Planning Printables Bundle
5-5:30 PM: Family dinnertime!
If you’re experiencing dinnertime battles or picky eating problems with your toddler or preschooler, I highly recommend checking out our extensive resource on all things picky eating!
5:30-6:30 PM: Bathtime & Bedtime Routine
In our house we follow the basic Daniel Tiger bedtime routine and it is helpful that they teach a song on the show to go with it. If you’re not familiar with this song, you can find the “Good Morning/Goodnight Daniel” episode on Amazon Prime.
“Bathtime, PJs, brush teeth, story and song, and off to bed”
Of course things are always easier when both parents are home for bedtime, but if you find yourself flying solo with both kids, this incredible resource explains how to put both kids to bed easily on your own.
With any luck, both girls are asleep between 6:30-7 and my husband and I can clean up, relax, and decompress before it all starts again tomorrow.