Inside: The days are long and it’s absolutely freezing! This time of year, you *need* a solid daily routine for your toddler in the winter. Today we’re sharing activities to do with toddlers at home in the winter plus how to structure your day and what to do when it’s cold out.
Taking little kids to play outside in the summer heat is a hard sell.
There’s sunscreen, bugs, rain, humidity, and burning sun to contend with.
But when that weather turns crisp and cool, being outside is easy, right?
However, then there’s Winter.
You may not be smearing on sunscreen, but there are bulky jackets, sometimes snow shoes, hats, mittens, scarves, etc. – that by the time you get your toddler dressed, it doesn’t feel worth it to be out in the biting cold for all of 15 minutes.
That being said, even with all those factors in play, we can still create a daily routine for your toddler in the winter.
P.S. – Hi! I’m Marla, full-time SAHM to 3 little girls. If you’re all about step-by-step help, I teach a course called the Ultimate Stay at Home Mom Course that will help you take your stay at home mom life from chaos to control. There’s an entire module dedicated to Daily Routines: how to create one, plus helpful info on how to include screentime, independent play, cleaning, cooking, AKA all the things.
What should a toddler’s daily schedule be?
Without trying to oversimplify it, your toddler’s daily schedule should be one that works for you and your family.
As I am writing this, I also have my oldest in 2nd grade, my middle girl in Kindergarten, plus my toddler (17 months) home full-time with me.
Each phase of life (and season of the year) will present its own unique challenges. So whatever combination of kids you have and whatever your family looks like, you can create a daily routine that works for you (and I will be here cheering you on!).
HOW TO CREATE A ROUTINE FOR YOUR TODDLER:
- Consider their wake-up time, naptime or quiet time, and bedtime
- Establish a feeding schedule (or what times meals/snacks are offered)
- Make a list of available activities and outings (playground, errands, playdate, etc.)
- Capitalize on what you have at home (indoor play ideas, toy rotation, learning shelves, etc.)
How do I keep my toddler busy in the winter?
Today we’re going to chat about some ways to entertain your 1, 2, or 3 year old in the wintertime.
Throughout the year I heavily rely on morning outings as part of my daily routine with kids, however, this time of year it can be a lot more work to load them up in the car to do something.
Rather than trying to “wing it” or walk in circles “wondering what to do” – it’s helpful to have a predictable flow to your day so that your toddler knows what to expect.
- This can help minimize tantrums and whining as your toddler begins to learn exactly what to expect from their day.
- As a stay at home mom to a toddler, it can also feel like you’re always “on” – now add to that being stuck in the house while it’s snowing or freezing and it can really feel like you need to be the cruise ship entertainment director all day.
- But not to worry, in this post we’re going to break down a step-by-step daily routine for a toddler in the winter that will keep them busy and help you regain some sanity.
Can toddlers play outside in the winter?
While some days may be far too cold or windy to go outside, there will be days where it’s okay to bundle them up and go out for a walk or play in the cold weather or snow.
Make sure your toddler has a warm hat, mittens, and a puffer jacket. If it snows where you live, snow boots and wool socks are great as well.
- A “good” daily routine is one that works for you and your family. Consider wake times, feeding, activities, screen-time (if applicable), and other children + their schedules.
- Keep your toddler busy in the winter by having a predictable routine with built-in time for indoor and outdoor play.
- Weather-permitting, toddlers can play outside in the Winter if you have the appropriate gear for them to wear.
Related: My 2 Year Old’s Daily Routine
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Daily Routine for a Toddler in the Winter
Here you’ll find some daily activities for toddlers at home, plus how to structure their day from when they wake up until bedtime! And if your toddler is high energy (and you’re stuck inside), we’ll cover that as well.
The times listed are approximate and are just to give you an idea of how we’re spacing out the day. Rather than worrying about the times given, try to think in terms of the flow of the day.
7 AM: Wake Up
If your toddler has transitioned from a crib to a toddler bed, you may find that they have trouble staying in bed in the morning or sleeping to a normal time.
This post: 3 Year Old Morning Routine Makeover details step-by-step how I kept my first 2 kids in their rooms until 7 AM when they were toddlers (regardless of what time they would wake up). My 17 month old is currently still in her crib.
As a stay at home mom, it’s important for you to start your day before your kids and to also have a set time that you’re “ready” for them to start their day.
If your toddler is still in their crib, I’d recommend keeping them in there as long as possible in order to avoid disruptions to your morning routine.
7:00 – 8:30 AM: MORNING ROUTINE FOR TODDLERS
When my toddler comes downstairs, I like to have 3 things ready for her:
- Water and milk
- A morning snack (applesauce pouch, dry cereal, fruit) to snack on while I make breakfast
- Play shelf set up or morning basket
While she plays, I make us a “mommy & me” breakfast, which is a fancy term for: I make us the same thing :). You’ll absolutely love these quick breakfast ideas for toddlers (and mom).
Mom-to-Mom Tip: Depending on your toddler’s age, you might include TV as part of your morning routine, but personally I’ve found that this starts the day on the wrong foot. While it might buy you a couple of minutes, ultimately it might make things more difficult. We introduced TV around 2 years old and just kept screen-time after naptime or while I made dinner.
8:30 – 9 AM: WALK DOG & MOM’S EXERCISE TIME
When I wake up in the morning, I always get dressed right away in my workout clothes. That way I’m ready to go. If it’s not too cold, I’ll bundle up my toddler in the stroller and take the dog for a walk – this kind of doubles as a workout if I take my jogging stroller.
If it’s too cold to go out, I’ll throw on a quick YouTube video. I like to do the workouts from Tone it Up. They’re quick and effective!
Sometimes I’ll put her morning basket on the floor nearby while I do the video, or sometimes she’ll entertain herself by playing or watching me do the video. And of course, sometimes she’s climbing on top of me and the workout becomes part strength-training, but either way, I always feel better after 🙂
9:30 AM – 12 PM: DAILY OUTING or PLAY AT HOME
This time block really depends on the weather. If it’s nice enough and I’m able to get out, this is a preferable time to leave the house as it gives us enough time to get out but also get back for afternoon naptime.
Here are some favorite outing ideas with toddlers:
- Toddler gym (at gymnastics studio)
- Storytime at the library
- Children’s museum
- Playdate with a friend
- Target Run??
- Starbucks or Chick-Fil-A drive thru
- Grocery shopping
- Miscellaneous errands
- Indoor trampoline park (ours has a toddler section)
However, if it’s snowing heavily or too cold to leave the house, this is a great time to do some indoor activities.
- Hands-on Sensory & Tactile Play Ideas (good for older toddlers)
- Indoor Activities for Toddlers
- Preschool at Home Activities
- The Preschool Playbook
- 5 Minute Sensory Bin
Other indoor winter activities:
- Play bath (play in the tub with Duplos, Mega Bloks or favorite figurines like Paw Patrol)
- Obstacle course / floor is lava (perfect for high-energy toddlers!)
- Bring snow inside to paint or add dyed water
- Build a fort / tent to play in
- Make a playdough kit
- Indoor Activities for Preschoolers book (filled with ideas!)
Mom-to-Mom Tip: It’s easy to find ideas, the hard part is actually remembering to do them when you really need something most! Rather than just pinning or collecting ideas you’ll ultimately forget about, write down a few favorite ideas in your planner, and then create an actual plan for how you’ll use them.
M: Paint snow / snow activities
T: Play bath w/ Disney Princess figurines
W: Build a fort & read books inside
TH: Set up & play obstacle course
F: Bake something together
Pick a time of day you’ll do these activities, maybe before lunch or after naptime. Instead of feeling lost or like you don’t know what to do with your toddler all day, create a plan for yourself that has these activities built-in to your daily routine.
12 PM: Lunch & Clean up
While home with your toddler in the winter, you may find it helpful to have their lunches prepped in advance, as if you were packing a lunch for school.
Especially if you’re heading out for the morning, it’s super helpful to come home to a lunch that’s already made, or even to bring that lunch with you if possible.
Here are some favorite toddler lunch ideas: Easy & Healthy Toddler Lunch Ideas
1-3 PM: Naptime or Quiet Time
Depending on their age, your toddler may need to nap earlier than 1 PM, so adjust as necessary.
If your toddler struggles with naptime, read: What to do When Your Toddler Won’t Nap
And if they don’t nap anymore, quiet time is a great alternative, especially if you’re with them at home all day. There’s no need to be “on” all day! You’re allowed to have time apart and a “break” for yourself 😉
Wondering how to get your toddler to do quiet time?
3-4 PM: Outdoor Time
For me, this is another great opportunity to get my toddler outside before the sun goes down and it gets too cold again.
We also like to get outside after her nap as I’ve found this improves moods all around. Typically I’ll bring a snack outside with us like applesauce pouches and dry cereal or a Larabar and string cheese.
Of course, if it’s snowing lightly or recently snowed, that’s built-in entertainment, however, if it’s just winter-time cold, here are some simple outdoor activities to add to your rotation:
- Ride scooter or trike (add painter’s tape or chalk to ground to make it a course)
- Collect pinecones or dried leaves to paint
- Play catch or kick the ball into a net (say the ABCs or sing a song for older toddlers)
- Sidewalk chalk & bubbles / sidewalk chalk obstacle course
4-5 PM: TV Time
If your toddler is old enough to watch TV, this a great opportunity for you to be able to make dinner, while they sit in one place.
Favorite toddler TV shows:
- Daniel Tiger (PBS Kids)
- Super Why (PBS Kids)
- If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (Amazon Prime)
- Tumble Leaf (Amazon Prime)
- Doc McStuffins (Disney +)
You also may want to flip this part of the routine and do TV after nap and then play outside, it just depends on the weather and your toddler’s mood after their nap.
If your toddler is not old enough to watch TV, keep some favorite toys close by so they can play while you cook dinner. I made a reel on IG all about this you may find helpful! You can also have something prepped in the slow cooker so dinner is basically hands-off.
Grab my Time-Saving Toddler Meals ebook for quick toddler meal ideas using store-bought options!!
5-6 PM: Dinner & Clean up
Dinnertime! We eat dinner fairly early as I’ve found this is when my family is starving. Pick a dinnertime that works for your family’s schedule.
My husband is usually home from work by 5, so this time works well for us.
After dinner we do a quick family clean up, picking up toys and random things from around the house.
6-7 PM: Bedtime Routine
Over the years I’ve learned it’s best to keep bedtime simple, predictable, and a little boring 🙂 There’s nothing worse than an over-excited toddler at bedtime.
Sometimes in the winter, we’ll do a play bath earlier in the day as an activity, so in that case, we don’t do a bath as part of the bedtime routine.
Sample Toddler Bedtime Routine:
- Take a bath (if haven’t already)
- Brush teeth
- PJs on
- 3 bedtime stories
- Bedtime song & say goodnight
Does your toddler struggle at bedtime? Read this: Bedtime Battles & How to Stop Them
7 PM – 10 PM: Mom’s Time!
I feel like this part is often left out of daily routine posts.
This is an essential time for me to decompress and also prep for the next day. If I don’t get things ready the night before, I know I’ll be a mess in the morning trying to run around and piece 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 portion)
If you struggle with getting yourself organized and keeping track of everything, you can actually learn how to put these systems in place in my Ultimate Stay at Home Mom Course.
HERE’S MY Daily Routine for a Toddler in the Winter BREAKDOWN:
- 7 AM: Wake Up
- 7 – 8:30 AM: Morning Activity, Breakfast, Get Ready
- 8:30-9 AM: Mom’s Exercise Time & Walk Dog
- 9:30 AM – 12 PM: Daily Outing or Indoor Activities at Home
- 12 – 1 PM: Lunch & Clean up
- 1 – 3 PM: Quiet-time or Naptime
- 3 – 4 PM: Outdoor Playtime (or indoors if too cold)
- 4 – 6 PM: TV & Dinner
- 6 – 7 PM: Bedtime Routine
What to Read Next:
- How to Create a Daily Routine for Toddlers
- My 18 Month Old’s Daily Routine
- Stay at Home Mom Daily Schedule
- 7 Ways to Make Being a SAHM easier