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The Importance of Toddler Routines

by Rachel Paxton

Routines are very important for toddlers. Routines give structure to their day and help to reduce temper tantrums and crankiness that result from irregular sleeping and eating schedules.

Daily routines are great for moms too, whether you stay at home or you work outside of the home.

The effectiveness of a daily routine isn't so much what time you do something, but that you do something at the same time every day. Setting a time that works for your family allows flexibility for individual family schedules and needs.

Getting enough sleep is very important for young children. Many toddlers need up to 12 hours of sleep at night and at least a 2 hour nap every afternoon. The times that your toddlers sleep will be partly dependent on your family's schedule. Our boys are in bed by 7 p.m. every night, but that time wouldn't work as well for parents who don't get home until later in the evening. Just make sure your children have a regular bed time and a regular nap time. Their bodies adjust to these times and they anticipate those times to sleep every day, even if they don't act like they want to go to sleep. Lack of sleep makes them very cranky and irritable.

A regular eating schedule is also very important for toddlers. You know what I mean if you've ever been away from home at lunch time! Children's bodies also become accustomed to eating at certain times, even if we as parents don't always have our own eating schedules. Your toddler's mood will also improve if he or she eats at regular times. Don't forget to schedule times for snacks also. If you let them snack too much during the day they won't want to eat at meal time.

Whatever else you want to schedule into your toddler's day is up to you. I take my boys for a walk every morning, and they really look forward to this time every day. It is good exercise for me and they enjoy the fresh air.

Nighttime routines are also important for children of any age. Toddlers transition to bedtime much more easily when they know what to expect every night. A common bedtime routine is a bath and reading a story before bed. It is also a good time to occasionally sit down and watch one of your toddler's favorite videos with them.

I have found that having a basic schedule for the entire day makes my day go by more smoothly and I don't have to think much about what I'm doing to do during the day. That's really nice when you're chasing more than one toddler around the house. Regardless of how much time you spend at home with your children during the day, anyone can benefit from scheduling family activities. It also helps you to not forget to get anything done!

Here is my toddlers' daily schedule:

  • 7:00 a.m. - wake up
  • 7:30 a.m. - get up, get dressed, have breakfast
  • 8:30 a.m. - go for a walk
  • 9:00 a.m. - play
  • 10:00 a.m. - morning snack
  • 12:00 p.m. - lunch
  • 1:00 p.m. - afternoon nap
  • 3:30 p.m. - afternoon snack
  • 5:00 p.m. - dinner
  • 6:30 p.m. - bath, stories
  • 7:00 p.m. - bed

I do most of my housework or grocery shopping in the evenings after the boys are in bed. During play times is when we occasionally go to the park or have grandma or grandpa come over to visit. There is just enough flexibility, while the boys also know what to expect every day.

If you don't already have your toddlers into a daily routine, start slow. Regular eating times are the easiest for them to adjust to, new sleeping times may be harder. If you are changing your child's sleeping schedule vary their sleeping time by 10 minutes a day until they are sleeping at the desired time. Make sure your child is getting up at the same time every morning. This will help them adjust to set nap and bed times.

Good luck! Setting a daily routine for you and your toddler just might save your sanity!

About the Author:
Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom who is the author of What's for Dinner?, an e-cookbook containing more than 250 quick easy dinner ideas. For more recipes, organizing tips, home decorating, crafts, holiday hints, and more, visit Creative Homemaking at

If you have any educational articles, homeschooling techniques, activities for elementary aged children, parenting resources, hobbies/crafts, money-saving ideas, or family time activities, please submit them and we will be posting them soon! We would love to hear from you!

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