Want your child to stay calm and cooperate? A daily routine is your secret weapon for getting him to go with the flow.
Life with a toddler can seem like the movie Groundhog Day. It’s the same schedule again and again, from singing a wake-up song in the
morning to giving her a bath and telling her a story before bedtime. Although the daily routine can feel pretty monotonous to you, it’s heavenly for kids this age. Toddlers thrive on having lots of structure to their day. The consistency helps them cope during a period of rapid language, social, and motor development, giving them the self-assurance to explore the world.
A predictable routine also helps your toddler feel safe (Mummy goes to work, but she comes back in time to feed me dinner) and teaches them about boundaries (we’ll read three books before bed, not four). “It increases her sense of security because she knows what’s coming next,” says Jean M. Thomas, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry. You can help your child establish good patterns and increase her flexibility with these smart scheduling tips.
- Map out your day
It’s the heart of any routine: Figure out what tasks need to be done, then line them up in the same order every day. Your toddler will love knowing that he eats breakfast at his little table, then gets dressed, and then helps you feed the cat. “The pattern of repetition helps lay down critical pathways in a young child’s brain,” explains Dr. Thomas. The more robust those mental links become, the more confident and calm your little one will be, knowing that he can anticipate the next activity in his day. That means he’ll be less anxious overall—and less prone to throwing temper tantrums.
- Plan ahead
We all have days where we end up rushing around to get everything done at once. But that can wreak havoc on your toddler’s need for structure. If you nix her usual morning outdoor activity, she might be cranky until lunchtime. One smart fix: If you’re a night owl, do some prep the night before (or do it in the morning if you’re an early riser). Get breakfast pulled together, and pack a snack and everything you need for the child-care centre.
- Encourage flexibility
Although a set schedule is a major comfort for your kid, you don’t want to make him so dependent on predictability that he’ll fall apart the minute something is different. Now is a perfect time to teach him to become adaptable so he’ll be more resilient when he’s older. If you’re suddenly dealing with an urgent situation, talk about it with your toddler. Using language she can understand, give her very basic information while reassuring her that everything’s going to be fine (“Grandma is sick, and I’m going to go take care of her for a little while. Daddy’s going to be reading your bedtime stories tonight”). Keep everything super-simple and calm.
Just keep in mind that by introducing to your child to a few changes in routine, you’ll be establishing the groundwork for teaching them coping skills they’ll use later in life.
What are your tips for planning a schedule for toddlers? Leave us a comment down below.