Inside: Learn how to establish a daily routine for toddlers & preschoolers. You’ll find everything you need to know from morning through bedtime (and ALL the things in between).
Tell me, what comes to mind when you hear the term “daily routine?” Does it make you think:
- I could never be that organized
- Don’t even know where to begin
- I’m not that strict / disciplined
If you’re feeling these feelings, that’s totally normal. It can seem overwhelming to establish a daily routine when you really don’t even know where to begin.
What is a good daily routine for a toddler?
And do they really need one?
The short answer is: YES. Not only do they need it, as moms (or dads, or caregivers!) we need it to.
Of course, everyone has that friend whose kids are insanely flexible, follows no schedule whatsoever and somehow they all sleep ’till 9 AM, but that’s not my life and never has been 😉
In general, toddlers, preschoolers and little kids thrive with a predictable daily schedule.
They like to know what’s happening and when it’s happening. Following a routine can help you establish predictable mealtimes, naptimes, and even independent play.
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.
My favorite parenting expert, Dr. Laura Markham states: “Use a schedule…otherwise, you have to invent everything as you go along, and every minute is an invitation to a power struggle.”
And if you’re the parent of a toddler or preschooler, I don’t think I need to tell you what it’s like to get into a power struggle with a 2 year old.
Here’s the good news: Routines don’t have to be complicated. In fact, once you get into a flow, you’ll find your toddler’s daily schedule feels pretty natural.
A routine doesn’t have to be strict, but it *should* provide you with some predictability in your day.
But if you’re at this stage of feeling really overwhelmed and unsure of where to begin when structuring your day, today I’m going to help you simplify that process.
How to Establish a Daily Routine for Toddlers & Preschoolers
Tip: You may find it more helpful, and much less overwhelming, to think of your day in 4 parts. Think of this like a schedule template where you fill in the blanks.
- Late Morning
If structuring your whole day seems like too much at this point, I’d recommend starting with just one part.
For example: Start with the morning. This is a *great* place to add more predictability into your day. It also helps to start with the morning as this can help set the tone for the day. That being said, if mornings are not a good place for you to start, my second recommendation would be to start with the evening, or your dinner through bedtime routine.
Let’s get started!
These are my 3 essential components of a successful morning with kids. Here are some resources to help you get started:
- 3 Year Old Morning Routine Makeover
- Quick Toddler Breakfast Ideas
- How to Get Your Toddler Dressed & Ready for Preschool
What comes next really depends on your schedule.
- Preschool drop off?
- Grocery store run?
Generally, between 9:30-12 is my favorite time of day to run errands, take my 3 year old to the playground or schedule any daily activities. I like to consider lunchtime the end of the first half of the day.
- Easy Toddler Lunch Ideas
- My Stay at Home Mom Schedule
- Simple Home Management Systems for Moms
- 2 Year Old’s Daily Routine
On weekdays, my 3 year old does quiet time in her room after lunch and then we pick up her 5 year old sister from Kindergarten at 2:30 PM. After school the girls play outside together and then watch TV while I cook dinner.
On the weekends, they mostly play all day until lunch. Then it’s quiet time in their separate rooms (R.I.P. naptime), and after quiet time, they get to watch a movie together.
However you can swing it, I encourage you to incorporate some sort of rest time or downtime into your afternoon.
- What to do When Your Toddler Won’t Nap
- How to Make a Quiet Time Bin
- Screentime Plan for Toddlers & Preschoolers
Congrats, you’ve made it to the end of the day!
There are a few basic components before you reach that proverbial finish line though, right?
Kids need to be fed and bathed, and there’s of course all the behind-the-scenes fun that happens after the kids are in bed like dishes, packing lunches, etc.
Here are some helpful resources for that last block of the day: