Schedules are Perfect When You are Tiered
Having a schedule for my toddler has been a savior but also a constant source of guilt. I can tell our toddler thrives from the consistency so every time I change something I feel like I’m failing at this mom thing.
I am bad at being consistent longterm, I often take into consideration what I feel like doing and deviate. This is why its important to have a routine as the backbone for your schedule.
Honestly I thrive from a schedule too.
Being a tiered mama like the rest of us, this allows me to save energy when I don’t have to constantly come up with the next activity.
Lets Have an Easy Schedule
Often when I look at sample schedules online, other moms seem to be SO involved in their children’s activities to the point that it resembles homeschooling at a very young age.
I don’t have the energy for that. I follow my toddlers interest and engage whenever he asks me to. I often take a back seat.
Also, we do screen time.
Our society often comes up with these unrealistic expectations for parenting. One of them being that a child should never be in front of a screen.
Let’s be real. Our society is NOT SET UP in a way to easily avoid this activity. Most children probably are exposed to screens to some degree (even if background noise) up to 4 hours cumulatively. Sometimes more.
What is the Difference between a Routine and a Schedule?
Lets break down what the actual difference is between these two terms and why one is easier to follow than the other.
The general flow of the day. Activities will vary but the sequence remains the same. There is no specific times for each activity.
For example a morning routine could be
- brush teeth / get dressed
The variables of a routine is the exact time and what you do in each activity slot but if you stay with the same sequence of activities your child can expect what will happen next.
A more detailed breakdown of the day, usually adhering to specific time slots. Schedules are more static and following the same one daily is difficult.
Our days are packed with so many variable out of our control, which can force changes in the schedule. You are better off adhering to a routine and allowing the schedule to change when necessary.
For example a schedule for the AM could be
- 7am wake up
- 7:30 breakfast
- 8am clean up and get dressed
- 9am lego play
- 10am go to the playground across the street
- 11am back home for a snack
- 12pm in bed for nap etc
As you can see a schedule has specific times slots and also defined activities for each period. A routine has a general flow which is more open ended (going outside can mean many different activities, going to the playground across the street is very specific).
You can Check out a Sample Toddler Routine Here:
Why is Routine Important, Especially for Toddlers?
Routine increases predictability in our children’s lives. This predictability tells them what the sequence of the day will look like which in return can decrease meltdowns and resistance.
Every schedule usually follows a general routine. While the routine is the general sequence of all days, a schedule is more specific to each individual day.
Our Children’s Plan Too
Why is this important?
We all make mental plans for ourselves. The difference between your plans and that of a toddler is that you have agency to follow through on yours. Our toddler’s are at the mercy of our approval.
If you keep a level of predictability in your day both you and your kid’s mental plans can sync up.
If you always have a snack when returning home from playing outside, your toddler will be expecting this sequence. Therefore it’s very likely for the transition to occur smoothly.
They are not expecting something different, like reading a book and therefore not surprised when you go to the kitchen to prepare food. You’ll be met with less resistance because the sequence of the day becomes muscle memory.
If each day is different with zero predictability your child will expend unneccesary energy trying to figure out what’s next. Consequently the fuel in their tank will quickly run low and consequently increase irritability and crankiness.
Visual charts are great here too and can be used at an early age. Once you child knows what their day will look like they can delegate their energy accordingly.
This is also the reason children thrive at daycare. Their day is very predictable and this makes our little one’s feel very safe.
The Messy Reality of a Routine
I like the idea of consistency and routine. It allows both child and parent to transition easily throughout the day.
The reality though is that the world around us doesn’t work on predictability. In fact, because there are so many variables happening every second it would be unrealistic to assume each day can be exactly the same. (Unless you live in a bubble).
Then there’s also the question of how disciplined the parent is at following a routine when there’s push back.
I’m personally not great at this, specially if I feel like doing something is arbitrary and not necessary.
Bath time is a big one. If my son is not dirty and he doesn’t want to do bath time. I’m not the mom that will push it just for the sake of keeping the routine. Instead we’ll do some free play or whatever he seems to want.
Then our children are continuously developing which makes for everything changing needs. The moment I feel like we’ve come into a rhythm during the day he changes things up.
Luca will either shift what time he falls asleep or completely reject an activity he’s been passionately engaging in for weeks.
They keep us on our toes so finding a routine that has wiggle room for change will set your family up for success.
Toddler Schedule Printable
Simple Meals are my Favorite
Our meal times are very low key. Neither my husband or I enjoy cooking so meals are simple. We make basic dishes or order out and eat at the kitchen island.
We can go days without turning the stove on!
A few common dishes
- Salads with some type of meat in it like canned tuna or chicken or sliced lunch meat.
- Bagels and cream cheese
- Frozen pizzas
- Crock pot dishes.
Luca has a Naked Smoothy in his Contigo Cup (love these because they are easy to clean) and my husband has Chobani Greek yoghurt with cereal.
(Yes my husband does not drink coffee)
This snack is often enjoyed outside and on the go so I try to bring options that are not so messy.
Usually I’ll have one of these items with me.
- Cut up Grapes (green seedless usually)
- Apples (Fuji all the way!)
- Crackers (Goldfish is a favorite here)
- Fruit Snacks (I like Welch’s the best)
- Baked Chips (we are big on the Sun Chips)
Normally right before nap time, Luca is a bit hit or miss on his hunger level here. Often Lunch can look like a bigger version of his snack, but because we are home and seated our menu expands a bit.
If he didn’t finish his smoothy from breakfast he’ll drink that and I’ll fill his plate with a few options that cover carbs / protein / veggies / fruit.
I’m not gonna lie, often he’ll demand a bagel again at lunch and sometimes at dinner too. He’ll have a total meltdown with anything else. I give it to him… Guilty as charged.
I don’t want meals to be a power struggle so I serve him bagels when he’s asking for them. There is something about bagels right now that makes him feel good, so we are riding this fixation out.
If you are worried about your kid eating too much of one thing I’d suggest not having it in the home and telling them there isn’t any.
Snack – afternoon
Luca has a snack after his nap while watching his iPad. He’s pretty grumpy usually and needs his space to zone out a bit.
If he ate very little at lunch this snack can sometimes be bigger. We follow his cue in regards to how much to serve.
I usually have my second coffee here and enjoy something sweet so Luca might get some kid cookies or a banana. Sometimes we’ll share a blueberry muffin.
If we’ve been outside dinner usually happens right away. When Luca played in the sandbox I’ll push a quick bath even if he’s not in the mood. He usually gets sand in his face and even up his diaper!
This is the time of day where we might have a cooked meal although the actual cooking usually is done earlier that day. We warm up the food so it’s fast and easy.
Neither my husband nor I are night people so just the thought of cooking and then dealing with a bunch of dishes when we are already tiered is a no go.
Some of the latest meals we’ve had that were reheated and still awesome is penne with vodka sauce, pulled pork and salmon.
Getting Ready in the Morning
Got to Get Into that Shower
I am a different person if I take a shower in the morning. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, just the freshness of it all sets me up to conquer the day.
Luca has a little bean bag chair and will sometimes keep me company. Otherwise he’ll go check what Papi is up to by the computer.
Luca’s Diaper-Free Time
I like delaying putting on Luca’s morning diaper to let him run around pantless. This is a bit of a Swedish thing and my husband being American, prefers the diaper to be on.
He amuses me by not saying anything when I do this but will almost always put a diaper on him when I’m in the shower.
Getting Dressed: AKA The Chasing Game
Our getting ready routine involves a lot of chasing. Luca runs around the house laughing his little heart out with me in toe. If I let him run for a bit he’ll usually stop and let me dress him without a fuss.
Toddlers do NOTHING quickly, so allowing yourself time to get things done makes for a more peaceful home. Every time I need to stress in order to get out the house there is a ton of resistance.
Nursing a Two Year Old
At the time of writing this our son Luca is 2.5 years old and despite the nursing sessions decreasing, he is definitely a booby monster!
We nurse on demand but in all honestly the demand is fewer and far between. We nurse to sleep for nap and night time and then we have 1-2 nursing sessions on the couch, usually as he watches his iPad.
I don’t know when we’ll wean from breastfeeding. It would feel very fulfilling if he weaned in his own time. I’m not thinking too far forward. It’s working now and that’s all that matters.
Safe Bed Sharing
As a breastfeeding Mama, I lay in bed and nurse Luca to sleep for all naps and bedtime. We have never sleep trained, we have never owned a crib. We practice Safe Bed Sharing (yes that is a thing) and although it can be tough I am really proud of the work we’ve put in to setting this up for our toddler.
All children are different and in all honesty some don’t want to bed share. They WANT their own space. Luca made it clear very early on that he thrived on skin-to-skin contact when sleeping. Infant, to this day he is a very cuddly boy.
The downside with the training your child to sleep in their own sleep surface is that you often get trapped in bed with them through the entirety of their sleeping cycle.
At around two years of age many toddlers start to form their own sleep autonomy and will roll away from their mother allowing for her to leave the bedroom.
I spent countless hours reading during this time, working on my phone (I am lucky that this is possible for me) and watching TV Shows. This time where I am forced to stop has been really important for my type A personality of Go-Go-Go.
Outdoor Activities for a City Kid
No Backyard = More New Friends
We are city dwellers. We live in a condo and have zero outdoor space that is private. Although we enjoy this type of life, I do sometimes miss having a private backyard.
I could have Luca run around without hauling everything out the door in order to go play like we do now. Because once we are out a meltdown will ensure if I’ve forgotten something and we have to go back inside to get it.
As a city kid we meet a lot of new friends since our play is in public spaces. I love the sense of community we get when you walk down the street and meet acquaintances to stop and chat with.
Life Without a Car
The city life also allows us to live without a car. We can walk to all necessary stores as well as doctor appointments and school. (Luca’s preschool is three block away from our building.
Outdoor City Play Examples
- Scooter down the streets
- Bike down the streets
- Take walks down the streets and explore new blocks or alleyways
- Stop by construction sites and look at the vehicles.
- Jump up and down from various steps where safe
- Bring a toy car to roll around on surfaces
Night Time Routine
This is How we Wind Down
After dinner the focus is to go to bed. Normally Luca is not ready but we help him slow down his energy level by not introducing any new activities and closing the screen for the night.
This is the time of day Luca seems most inclined to playing independently. We will usually hang out on the couch while he plays with his cars on the carpet.
I’m changing his diaper and clothing as he plays which results in a game of chase (again). He thinks it is hilarious, and honestly- so do I.
Brushing teeth is ALWAYS a struggle and I often wonder if I’m doing a good enough job. I’m following the notion of “a little bit is better than nothing” and hoping for the best.
I am thinking about getting an electric toothbrush like this one.
Right now I use this one.
The Last 30min Looks like This
We end the night with all three of us on Luca’s floor bed hanging out. Luca loves climbing on us and there are many giggles during these sessions.
We’ve also started reading at bedtime and nap time. This is led by Luca and I am following suit. I can sometimes stop a meltdown over bedtime by bringing up a book he likes and he’ll follow me to bed!
At two years old I can almost consistently leave the bedroom after he’s fallen asleep. Often he’ll roll away from me even before he’s completely dozed off.
Many times though I fall asleep with him which I think is the constant mom struggle. Do I get up for “me-time” or do I sleep?
Don’t forget to be flexible
Thank you for getting this far. I hope you have an idea of how to set up your day in such a way to create consistency but also allow for unexpected changes to occur.
Routines and Schedules are hard- hard work. Don’t beat yourself up if it just isn’t working one day. Every morning you have the possibility to try again!