Creating a routine for your toddler is very important. Routines supply toddlers with comfort, security, and predictability. It also gives them a sense of control when they know what is going to happen. This article is about my 20-month-old daughter and her toddler daily schedule and routine.
Sleep and wake windows
These two concepts are the building blocks of creating a workable toddler daily schedule.
A wake window is the amount of time that your child is awake between sleep periods, which includes night-time sleep and naps. As your child progresses from newborn to toddler, wake windows increase in length. Generally, for a toddler between 12 and 24 months, the wake window is four to six hours.
My toddler’s wake window is about 5 hours. If she’s up for longer than this, she tends to get overtired and cranky. On the other hand, if I try to put her down to sleep before the five hours, she will not fall asleep.
Of course, every toddler is different, and wake windows will vary across the board. I’m on a mommy forum on What to Expect, and some moms report that their toddlers stay up the entire day without a problem.
At some point between 12 and 24 months, your toddler will transition to one nap. My daughter made the transition around 14 to 15 months. Her one nap per day generally lasts between 1.5 to 2 hours.
When you determine your child’s wake window, you can then figure out a good nap time. For example, my toddler’s wake window is around five hours long. She normally gets up between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. every day, so her nap starts between 12:30 p.m. and 1:00 p.m.
Toddlers usually sleep 10 to 12 hours every single night. A toddler’s exact bedtime can depend on a number of factors and needs to fit into a family’s overall schedule and routine.
When my husband and I both worked outside of the home, our toddler’s bedtime was 7:00 p.m. This allowed us enough time to get ready in the morning and be at work and daycare by 8:00 a.m. Since I’ve been teleworking for the past 10 months, our toddler’s bedtime slowly transitioned to 8:00 p.m.
I can generally rely on the sleep and wake schedule below on most days. For the most part, our toddler sleeps through the entire night for 11-12 hours. Once in a while, she will cry out in the middle of the night but usually puts herself back to sleep.
I always find it fascinating when I think about my toddler’s wake windows. She is only awake for ten hours a day, which is so short compared to an adult’s 16-hour wake window. During those ten hours, she is absorbing and learning so much every day. When she sleeps, her little body processes all of that knowledge and grows.
Mealtimes, snacks, and play in toddler daily schedule
After the sleep and wake schedule is solidified, you then incorporate mealtimes, snack time, and playtime to complete the daily schedule for your toddler.
Toddler’s tummies are tiny, so they need small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day. My daughter generally has three main meals and two snacks.
Lunch is scheduled right before the main nap of the day. A full tummy contributes to a great nap.
This is our toddler’s daily schedule.
Whenever my daughter is not eating, napping, or asleep at night, she is generally learning, exploring, and playing, whether at daycare or at home with us.
When she is at home with me while I telework, I usually schedule some outdoor time in the morning or afternoon. New Mexico winters are pretty mild, so we’re able to bundle up and take walks or play in the backyard year-round.
When my daughter was in daycare full-time, her main daily schedule was inevitably set by the daycare. That was completely fine with us because, in our eyes, they were the experts in creating daily schedules for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
If your child is attending daycare part-time or full-time, the daycare will set a routine for all the children. My daughter’s daycare has the toddler daily schedule posted in the lobby for the parents.
Now that my daughter is attending daycare part-time, or two to three days a week, it’s important to keep the same daily schedule throughout the week so she’s not thrown off. For the most part, our at-home daily schedule aligns with my toddler’s daycare schedule.
Following the toddler daily schedule on the weekend
We generally stick to our toddler’s daily schedule as outlined above on the weekends. Our weekends usually consist of outdoor activities and family time. Since Covid, we’re not taking as many weekend trips and tend to stay at home or in the local area.
When your children are still young and need that midday nap, it can be kind of difficult to schedule outings on the weekends. If we plan something where we’ll be out all day, my daughter will take her nap wherever, whether it’s riding in the car, or on a hike, but it’s usually not a quality nap.
As much as I dislike having to plan around my daughter’s nap, we tend to do it anyway because it’s less of a fight and she gets her best naptime sleep in her crib with a sleepsack. So, if we plan local activities outside of the home, we usually do it in the morning before her nap or in the afternoon when she wakes up.
Traveling and trips
My toddler loves her daily routines, so much so that she is not easy to travel with because it is a break from her normal routine. When she got to the age where she was able to understand that we were away from home or she couldn’t sleep in her crib, which was around 12 months, she was not happy.
From about 12 to 20 months, we struggled with any type of overnight travel, almost to the point where I would rather opt out of a weekend trip than face my daughter’s unhappiness. Thankfully, during our last overnight trip a couple of weeks ago, she did fine. I’m hoping that she’s starting to outgrow that phase and adjust more easily to her surroundings.
I also struggle with mealtime and snacks when we travel. Unless you’re toting around a cooler of fresh and healthy snacks for your toddler, it can be difficult to plan out everything your toddler eats on a trip.
Final thoughts on daily schedule for toddler
Ultimately, your toddler’s daily schedule will change over time as they grow. As a first-time parent, I’ve learned to adjust to all the changes and it does get easier over time.