Starting a Schedule for a Toddler

Updated on March 31, 2010
C.C. asks from Cleveland, OH
9 answers

I have not established a schedule yet for my 16 month old. I initially thought that a child-led schedule made sense, but now I realize that it will greatly benefit everyone if there is a schedule. My daughter needs her world to be predictable. Can anyone offer suggestions on what a schedule should be? I feel so ignorant to even ask this question, but I don't know where to start. Thank you for any advice!

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answers from Cincinnati on

My 15 1/2 month old daughter has been on a routine since she was 4 weeks old. She didnt really "get it" until she was about 3 1/2- 4 months old.
The key is consistancy.....which means she gets up at the same time and then she will go to bed at the same time. In my opinion what you do during the day is not too important but keeping the night routine and nap schedules are very important. Here is our schedule. everything is usually within 15 mins give or take. She goes to daycare 5 days a week.

7-730 wake up, diaper change, get dressed, sippy cup of milk
745- drive to daycare
745-815 breakfast
830-945 read books/sing songs
###-###-#### sippy cup and snack
1015-1145 playtime with toys
1145-1230 lunch
1230-130 or 2 nap
2-330 sing/play
330 snack and sippy cup
330-5 play
5-6 mom picks up and we go to a park or go home and play
6-630 dinner
630-645 tv time while mom cleans up dinner
645-710 bath
710-730 listen to the same CD every night and read books in her bedroom. the LAST book is the same and we tell her "night night". and LEAVE...
She is in bed at 730 every night (no later than 740) and we do not hear from her until 7-730 the next day. she is very good for sleeping uninterupted for 11-12 hours
Good luck. I am HUGE fan of schedules for the kids. it makes our lives easier when we know what they will be doing that day



answers from Indianapolis on

I'm a little confused by the message, too.

You say that she needs her wold to be predictable? My question is how you are assessing this? Is it easier on you to have the predictability?

Our kids certainly have a strict routine in day care, but it's a different scenario at home each night - we try, but our kids are real troopers and adjust to different dinner times, etc. with us both being working parents and having a lot of different influenced affecting our schedules.

I believe children need a certain level of consistency (discipline, balance of play, nap/bedtime), but I've never adopted strict schedules.

On thing I wanted to say is that life is not predictable - no matter how much we want it to be. I should have been wrapped in the splendor of being a new mom after the birth of our second child, instead I was facing a diagnosis of cancer and many months of chemo. That shaped a lot of my approach to parenting. We have such a limited amount of time to make a profound impact upon our children. While I am still more of a disciplinarian than most of our friends, I don't schedule our day because sometimes it's OK just to let it unfold as it should.

Good luck.


answers from Atlanta on

Don't be hard on yourself. Parenting is a lifelong learning process... as long as one is willing to learn. Congrats to you for reaching out for a need that you know will benefit your family!

When considering a schedule please remember to include some time for yourself in which you meet your own needs... and I don't mean time to do laundry, cook or pay the bills. Make sure you nurture yourself and your sanity. Your level of stress needs to be in check so you can better care for your family. A little down time for Mom is a win win situation for everyone.




answers from Indianapolis on

My son is 30 months and we have had routine since the beginning, I cannot recommend anything better! Over time, you gradually adjust the schedule depending on their naps, I am assuming she may be down to one by now, not sure. My son wakes between 730-8. We get up, watch some cartoons and have breakfast. I try and get us dressed and out and about by 10 so we have a few hours of playtime, whether it be outside, at a park, a playdate, the museum or zoo, etc. We typically eat lunch around noon, have some more playtime before going down to nap at 130 or so. We always brush teeth, read stories & sing songs and I have him nap for 2 hours max now at this age of 2.5. If your daughter is just transitioning to one nap, 3 hours is fine for her. I will have him up no later than 4 and we always cuddle and watch a cartoon after nap, then its free game on his activities, more playtime until dinner. We usually eat around 6pm and then have more playtime before settling down and getting ready for bed at 8pm. We brush teeth, read stories, get in pj's, say prayers, sing songs and tuck him in. I like to have lights out by 830. He will sleep for 11 hours or so and we start all over again! Kids love routines and it helps them to know what is ahead, they fall into these patterns and it works so beautifully! Good luck!



answers from Columbia on

First of all, don't feel ignorant. At least you are aware of your child's needs and are willing to change and adjust as needed. That's a sign of a good mommy!!! There is a great book called "On Becoming Babywise". It is mostly for newborns, but it might give you some insight. Question... does your baby sleep through the night? Do you put her down awake or do you have to put her to sleep?
My twin girls just turned 1 this weekend. Here is their schedule. As you will see we haven't taken the bottle away. But I would simply switch the bottle out for a sippy cup of juice, milk etc.
7:30-8:00- wake up, have a bottle/sippy cup with milk
9:30- Breakfast
10:30- bottle/juice- morning nap
12:00-12:30- Lunch
3:00-3:30- Afternoon nap
5:30- Dinner, right before us
6:30- begins nighttime routine- Watch Yo Gabba Gabba, Bath, TV off, listen to "Sleepy Time Hits"
7:30- Lights dim, bottle, book, prayers, bed

Your daughter may resist your new routine at first, because she is happy with what is happening now. But just remember that you are the mommy. If she cries a little, it won't hurt her. I tried EVERYTHING when I was trying to get them to sleep at night and I mean EVERYTHING because I didn't want my babies to cry. My ped. told me I would have to teach them to go back to sleep when they wake but only do it when I was ready. It took 3 nights and they now sleep 10-13 hours a night. Good luck


answers from St. Louis on

I think your schedule will depend on whether or not you (or hubby) is home with your daughter or does she go to daycare? If she goes to daycare, you can create a schedule for the mornings as well as when you get home from daycare in the evenings.

Wake up
Get dressed
Leave (depending on the time you have, she could have playtime here - maybe sitting in your room with toys or books).

Daycare Routine

Pick her up
Go home / play at home
Have dinner
Bath (if bath nights)
Brush Teeth
Books, songs, bed (or whatever your routine is)

If she's at home and not daycare, then you'll need to fill your day with playing, eating and napping. I'm not sure how much she's napping (at that age my daughter did 1x in the morning and 1x in the afternoon). Try to schedule time outside every day, time everyday for you to play with her (letters, dolls, coloring, etc) and then some time for her to be alone and play (you can be in the room - reading a magazine, relaxing, making dinner in the next room, etc).

I am also like you in a way that children can establish routines and schedules but I also have become a firm believer in schedules that WE set because I have seen the opposite isn't working. For example, my 2.5 year old has a piece of paper on the refridgerator that tells (words) and shows (pictures) her what she has to do in the morning before daycare if she wants to watch cartoons. She has to go to the bathroom, brush her teeth and get dressed. Then she can watch cartoons. I created this for her about a month ago when she was fighting me to get dressed because she wanted to watch cartoons.

I think bedtime and meals are the most important schedule-wise. I am not a huge believer in a set naptime or schedule, but that is just me. My kids have never been great sleepers (2.5 year old daughter is just now sleeping great at night). Is that a response to our lack of schedule? Who knows? LOL



answers from Miami on

Here is our schedule since going to one nap (15-18 months)
read or quiet play
get dressed (some DVD time)
go out with dad for 1/2 hour; snack in stroller
go with mom to park to play with other kids.
brunch in park with other kids
home and nap
go to park or do errands with mom
home, dinner, bath, sleep routine



answers from Phoenix on

I guess I'm confused. Are you a stay-at-home mom? So you want an everyday schedule?

Wake up
Quiet Play
Get dressed, brush teeth, get ready
Play time/Book time/Activities
Bedtime routine

Does this make sense? I didn't put times, because you would know what times best suit you. I'm also not sure if you allow TV time, but you could use screen time in the mornings if you need a break, or while you make dinner if you need her to sit nicely if you like.

If she really needs structure, you could get a poster board and draw pictures for each item, so she knows what order it goes in. So for instance, if she's throwing a fit to go to the park in the morning, you point to the poster and say, it's book time now, we're going to go to the park after lunch. (Or, if she's not that needy of structure, you could just do the schedule, but break it if on occasion, park is needed before lunch or whatever). Does this make sense?

Good luck!



answers from Columbus on

I am a huge proponent of schedules realizing that there are times that you need to be flexible. My children have been on schedules since they were 6-8 weeks old. I am convinced that the schedules have resulted in my kids being great sleepers (naps and night time). Both my kids go down for naps and bed time awake and they put themselves to sleep. My kids are currently 16 months and 3 years 3 months. The following is how I would document our schedule, it shifts slightly from day to day but hopefully you get the idea.

7:00/7:30 am - wake up
8:00 am - breakfast
9:00/9:30am - 11:00/11:30am - nap (sometimes longer) - 16 month only
11:30/12:00pm - lunch (soon after nap)
1:30/2:00 - 3:30/4:00 - nap (sometimes longer)
4:00pm - snack
6:00/6:30pm - dinner
7:00-7:30pm - bedtime for 16 month old
8:00-8:30pm - bedtime for 3 year old

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Good luck!

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