Toddler Schedules: Proven Schedules You Need to Know About
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Welcome! Here you will find an abundance of toddler schedules that have been used in real life situations.
They are proven to work and work well.
For some context, I’m a mom of three (currently 4, 2, and 8 months). We are home most days and my children are not currently participating in any set activities.
However, I work from home around 20-30 hours a week and therefore require set times to be able to get work done.
Some of these toddler routines are from before I was working, but a lot of them were also during the time I was working.
I hope you find them helpful!
You’ll find some great toddler sleep tips as well as a free printable toddler daily schedule. To find the schedules themselves, just scroll to the end of the post.
They are listed chronologically by age.
The Importance of Toddler Schedules and Routine
I’m sure that as a parent you’ve realized by now that your child is growing and developing at a rapid rate.
Their perception of the world is ever-changing as the learn and discover new things.
As a result, they can easily become overwhelmed with all the new information.
This is why having a routine is so important. It gives them something stable to lean on when everything else feels unsure.
Sure, they may push against the boundaries at times, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need them.
Having your toddler on a schedule is great for both their physical and mental development. It allows the opportunity for the metabolism to regulate and for them to get the sleep that they require.
At this age, routines can be a lot more flexible than during the baby stage. However, they are still very helpful to have.
If your toddler doesn’t have any kind of routine or struggles with the concept of routine, then you may want to invest in some routine cards.
Having something that they can visualize and see as tangible can make a big difference to their level of comprehension.
Besides that, there is an element of reward to using these that is often highly motivating to them.
They’ll get the opportunity to practice independence within safe boundaries.
These cards are well worth checking out. They’re affordable and made well!
Toddler Sleep Needs
So many moms are tempted to drop naps around this age, but the reality is that almost all toddlers still NEED them.
Some have lower sleep needs and can get away with shorter naps or a shorter night span of sleep, but there are very few that can make it through the day without a nap at all.
Sure, one day might be fine, but if you try to drop the nap for several days in a row, you may just find that your toddler’s behavior takes quite a drastic turn.
You may be wondering what is appropriate as far as sleep needs go so I’ve put together a chart to help you visualize everything.
Ideal Nap Time
There is more to a successful toddler sleep routine than just knowing HOW MUCH sleep they need.
In order for things to truly run smoothly, you also need to know WHEN they need to sleep.
In my experience, this is going to be somewhat different for every child. Wake times differ across the board.
A common schedule to use in the early toddler years is the 2-3-4 schedule. They are awake for 2 hours, then take a nap, awake for 3 hours, take a nap, and then go to bed after having been awake for 4 hours.
However, as toddlers get older and drop down to one nap, their wake time requirements will change.
Around 5 hours after waking in the morning is often a really sweet spot for their nap of the day.
And then you want to make sure that they are awake for at least 4 hours before bed.
The whole reason that you want to focus on finding the correct time is because you want to avoid your toddler being either overtired or under-tired.
If they fall into either of those categories, their sleep will likely be affected and they just won’t nap as well.
They can end up in a not-so-fun cycle which will make life challenging for everyone.
As your child is in the stage of exploring boundaries and still learning how to regulate their emotions, it is so important to allow them the rest that they need.
Think about how well you cope emotionally when you’re super tired…not so great, I bet?
Apply that to your child and you’ll have a deeper understanding of why nailing down the correct nap time is important.
Incorporating Independent Play
Independent playtime is something that I have personally incorporated into each of my children’s schedules once they are toddlers.
In fact, I start when they are babies, but by the toddler stage it is just part of everyday.
If you’re looking for practical tips on how to start this process, check out these two posts:
- How to Teach Your Child to Play Independently
- The Best Ways to Encourage Independent Play Time for a Toddler
As a rule, I like to implement independent play in the morning because that is when toddlers are typically happy and less likely to want your attention.
However, do what works for you and your child. Some toddlers will do better playing in the afternoon once their nap is over.
I’ve just always found my children to be a little groggy in the afternoon after waking up and they prefer some quiet time on the couch, or to be near me as I do chores/make dinner.
Tips for Handling Sleep Regressions
If you thought sleep regressions were only for the baby stage, you will unfortunately be disappointed to find out that there are some to be expected during the toddler stage as well.
One of the most challenging ones is the 2.5-year sleep regression where it seems as though your child has forgotten about the concept of sleeping entirely.
It can be frustrating and confusing, but you are not alone!
There is also a well-documented sleep regression at 18-months, so be prepared!
Here are some great tips for dealing with challenges that arise:
- Stay consistent (don’t drop everything in a heartbeat just because your toddler hasn’t napped for a day or two)
- Set consistent expectations
- Invest in a toddler clock and teach your toddler how to use it (we love THIS ONE)
- Make bedtime early if naps are skipped
- Enforce rest time even if they don’t sleep
Free Printable Toddler Daily Schedule
It can be super helpful to have a visual of your toddler’s day so that you can troubleshoot when things aren’t going to plan.
Feel free to grab a copy of this free toddler routine chart that you can print out and use to create the perfect routine for your child.