Inside: Find out the latest tips and ideas for how to structure your 2 Year Old’s Daily Routine.
It goes a little something like this: your sweet baby turns 1, starts walking and becomes more interested in life. Enter your 1 year old’s daily routine.
Then suddenly your wobbly one year old is a more confident (but still undeniably sweet) 18 month old. They’ve likely dropped a nap and are ready for more, more, more.
6 months later, your little one turns two, and suddenly it feels like someone’s pulled the tab on a grenade, thrown it your way and said “see ya!”
Alright so maybe that’s a teensy bit dramatic, but you see where I’m going with this, right?
So what’s the deal with being two?
A few weeks ago I shared how to potty train before two (yes – it can be done). In that post I also opened up about the real struggles of life with a two year old. Life for them (and for us) goes from zero to sixty in many ways (which is why I chose to potty train before two).
Turning two brings SO many changes to a toddler’s life:
- New sibling
- Possibly outgrowing crib
- Explosion of language
- Starting preschool or “morning school”
- Turning carseat around
- Potty training
- Resisting naps – this is a fun one
That is a lot of things for a tiny human to experience in a small frame of time.
Of course, each of these items won’t apply to everyone, but for the majority of toddlers, these are all things they’ll face right around age two. It’s no wonder being two is HARD. With all they are experiencing, can we really blame them for their sassy personalities and big emotions?
This is why having a set daily routine for your two year old is essential. When kids have a routine they know what to expect and when to expect it. Meaning, whether they *want* to take a nap or not, you still put them down for a nap every day at 1 PM right after lunch because that is your routine.
Now, you may be thinking: “A routine? Life is so unpredictable. How can I stick to a routine with a toddler?”
And mama, you would be right. Life is unpredictable.
Just this last week, my 4 year old had a double ear infection, my two year old had bronchitis, a major hurricane was heading our way – and on top of all that – my dryer stopped working.
Amidst all of this craziness, we still stuck to our daily routine, chaos and all.
Please know, this is not to say that a routine equals perfection, or that because you have a routine, your two year old won’t throw tantrums or refuse naps ←these things happen, and the good news is, these things are normal.
Having a set routine in place ensures that you have a plan for the day. This means your two year old is given the opportunity to learn the structures of daily life, which can help minimize meltdowns and encourage cooperation. This means that when you wake up in the morning, you have a road-map for the day ahead.
Even if you’ve never had a routine in place before, it’s never too late to start.
Before we move on, you should know…
2 years old with my first child was much different. Her baby sister was born six days after she turned two. If you’re looking for a daily routine with a 2 year old plus a baby, this resource provides a step by step daily routine with a toddler and a baby.
Two Year Old’s Get a Bad Rap
While this is not a post on “parenting” a two year old, I would be remiss if I didn’t share this piece of advice with you.
Susie from Busy Toddler said it best: “Being two is fine.”
Two year old’s get a bad rap. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
With my first daughter, everything she did at two seemed so serious, so intense. All of a sudden she had trouble listening, napping, controlling herself, etc. Her new behaviors plus a new baby exacerbated just about everything.
If I could go back and talk to myself then, I would say: RELAX. Everything your two year old does is NOT so serious and intense. SHE’S ONLY TWO.
While we label them toddlers they really are more like *big* babies. So brush it off, lighten the mood, redirect, distract, and stick to your daily routine. As Susie said, “being two is fine” – it is what it is.
A few notes before we dive in to my 2 year old’s daily routine:
- Times given are approximate. If your toddler is not on the same schedule, that’s okay. Adjust your times accordingly based on three factors: wake up time, naptime, and bedtime.
- Routines vary depending on how many kids are involved. For a routine with multiple kids see: Routine with a Baby & Toddler // Routine with a Toddler & Preschooler
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Tips & Ideas for Your Two Year Old’s Daily Routine
7 AM: Wake Up
This is the mom-approved wake-up time for 2 year old’s in my house. What should you do if your toddler wakes up WAY too early wanting to party?
- If they sleep in a crib, I would not be in any rush to “allow” them to wake up and come out of their crib.
- If my daughter wakes up any time before 7, I let her stay in her crib, even if she is awake, until at least 7 AM. Usually she just rolls around singing to herself, and sometimes she will stand up and lay back down.
- If your toddler is crying or screaming for you, go in their room, comfort them, and lay them back down, just like you would if it was the middle of the night. Because before the sun comes up, it sure feels like the middle of the night.
7:00-8:30 AM: Morning Routine for 2 Year Olds
When my 2 year old wakes up, I like to have 3 things ready for her:
- A drink of water
- A morning snack (banana, applesauce, dry cereal, etc.)
- An easy activity
Do you have an Ikea Latt Table? (pictured above). These fun little activity tables are amazing, and the perfect size for toddlers. I like to put out something inviting, but not intimidating. Basically, she needs to be able to do the activity independently while I make breakfast and get my 4 year old ready for school.
Here are some easy examples:
- Melissa & Doug Latches and Locks Puzzle
- Melissa & Doug Latches and Locks Barn
- Crayons + Coloring Book
- Animal Rescue (tape plastic animals with blue tape right to the Ikea table)
By this time I’ll have breakfast ready!
After breakfast, the “leaving the house routine” is simple. In order for your two year old to want to comply, it’s essential to keep the steps minimal, and to practice, practice, practice until things become second-nature.
- Get dressed
- Shoes on
- Go potty (if applicable)
- Pick a book for the car
We use these Printable Routine cards and absolutely love them.
8:30-9:00 AM: Drop off big sister at Pre-K
The next step is VERY important so make sure you pay close attention.
–> STARBUCKS. I do not ever skip this part of the routine, and my two year old actually looks forward to it as well.
9:30 AM – 12:00 PM: Activities + Errands
Whether you have an older child in school, or just your two year old with you, now is the golden time to get out of the house, run errands and attend activities or playdates.
As a “stay at home mom” who’s rarely at home, I have always made it my goal to get out and do something every day with my kids. Even if you don’t get in the car (or have a car!), promise yourself that you’ll do something outside of the house (weather permitting) every day.
If you don’t have an older child with a school schedule or you’re looking for some fun activities to do at home, here are two posts with TONS of ideas you can easily adapt for your 2 year old:
- Indoor Activities for 1 Year Olds (can be adapted for twos)
- Hands-On Sensory Play for 4 Year Olds (most of these activities work for twos)
Here are some easy ideas:
- Toddler gym (at gymnastics studio)
- Storytime at the library
- Art studio (pictured above)
- Playdate with a friend
- Target Run??
- Grocery shopping
- Miscellaneous errands
The night before, I always pack my two year old’s lunchbox with easy snack and lunch options so I can give her lunch while we’re on-the-go.
Follow me on IG for more toddler lunchbox inspo and daily routine tips.
12:30 PM – 1:00 PM: Pick up 4 year old from Pre-K // Arrive Home
By the time we get home, my toddler is tired. Luckily, she won’t fall asleep in the car anymore and can make it home for her afternoon nap!
1:00 PM – 3:00 PM: 2 Year Old Naptime
To me, this is *perfect* naptime for 2 year olds. If your toddler naps for less time or more time, that’s okay. But remember this rule regarding toddler sleep: Your 2 year old should be in bed four hours after they wake up from their nap.
So if they wake up at 3 PM, they should be in bed at 7 PM. It’s important to note, some kids are more flexible than others. My girls need SLEEP. Without enough sleep, they are both cranky and unreasonable, which is why I prioritize an early bedtime.
If your 2 year old struggles with napping (whose doesn’t??) this post details what to do when your toddler won’t nap.
3:00 PM – 3:30 PM: Post-Nap
Once my two year old is up from her nap:
- We have an afternoon snack (something simple like fresh fruit, Simple Mills crackers, cheese and/or hummus)
- Get changed
- Sunscreen and shoes
3:30 PM – 4:30 PM: Outside Playtime!
Simple ideas for afternoon playtime outdoors:
- Water table
- Sidewalk chalk
- Ride trike
- Play catch or roll ball
4:30 PM – 5:00 PM: Mom makes dinner
After outside playtime is over, we head inside, get washed up and my 2 year old watches TV (with my 4 year old) while I make dinner. They usually watch Daniel Tiger or Tumble Leaf on Amazon Prime.
This is a great time for her to relax, and for me to be able to get dinner on the table without having to do a million other things.
If your house is screen-free, this is a great time to pull out a sensory bin, racing cars, magnetic tiles, or anything interesting your 2 year old can play with in the kitchen while you cook.
5:00 PM – 6:00 PM: Family Dinnertime!
Get my Time-Saving Toddler Meals ebook for ALL the easy toddler dinner ideas using store-bought and make-ahead foods!
Essential Dinnertime Resources:
- Practical Solutions for Picky Eaters
- Life-Changing Meal Planning Hacks
- Feeding Toddlers Guide
- Simple 2 Year Old Feeding Schedule
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM – 2 Year Old Bedtime Routine
Bedtime with a two year old needs to be short and simple. This is the age where your little one suddenly becomes very demanding and opinionated. This is why it’s essential to let them be “in charge” of certain decisions.
Here are some helpful phrases to make your bedtime routine run smoothly:
“Looks like we’re almost out of bubbles. When all the bubbles have disappeared, we’ll rinse off and get out of the tub.”
“Would you like to wear your dinosaur pajamas or your shark pajamas?”
“Let’s pick out 3 stories to read together. Grab 3 books from the shelf, and then show me which one you want first.”
Want more helpful phrases?
This book is a game-changer for gaining better cooperation from your toddler. Just trust me.
Take a look at our basic order of events after dinner:
- Brush Teeth
- Read Stories (3 books)
- Final Potty (if applicable)
- Songs (3 songs)
- Lights Out!
7 PM & On: Mommy’s Prep & Relax Time
After my toddler is asleep, before I sit down to relax, I prep for the next day.
Being organized and ready-to-go does NOT happen magically. You have to set aside time at the end of the day (or early the next morning) to get things together.
This is a sample of my evening clean-up/prep routine:
- Clean up stray toys & books
- Load/Unload the dishes
- Pack lunches & snacks for next day
- Fill up water bottles for next day (we each have a reusable stainless steel bottle)
- Restock my bag/car if necessary (I always like to have 2 full changes of clothes in case of accidents)
- Set out a morning activity (see morning routine)
At night, I also make time to do one thing for myself. Even if that means I end up staying up a little late. Sometimes this “me” time is as simple as standing at my island counter like a flamingo eating dark chocolate, other times I actually convince myself to shower and wash my hair. The best nights are when both of these things happen + watching Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce (so good).
Life with a two year old is downright exhausting. It’s important to take some “you” time at the end of each day; because tomorrow, it starts all over again.
Have any tips for ideas to share for a 2 year old’s daily routine?