When your baby was born, he threw your life completely out of whack for a while. Feedings took hours, and by the time you had him settled, he wanted to eat again.
The nights were long, exhausting, and unpredictable. You never knew when your baby would sleep. Getting anything done seemed impossible.
By around six months of age, most babies have settled into a sleep routine. They usually sleep for about two hours twice a day, and a longer stretch during the night. Feeding routines are also established, as baby’s stomach begins to process larger meals and can go for three to four hours between feedings.
Your relief is palpable. Finally, you “get” your baby and his needs. You can plan your day and his, get some housework done, or leave instructions for the babysitter, minus the impossible guesswork.
Interestingly enough, as much as you crave predictability and routine, your baby is much the same way. As they grow, infants and toddlers feel safe and secure knowing what comes next and what is expected of them. As they grow and develop little minds and reasoning skills, toddlers are more likely to behave and cooperate with adults within familiar routines and activities.
They depend on the adults in their lives to create and enforce these structures. Toddlers need to be busy and active, and switch activities and environments frequently. This prevents a lot of the “acting out” that has parents pulling out hair.
A healthy, structured day for a two year old may look something like this:
- 6:30 AM: wake up, drink milk from favorite cup. Look at books, play, or watch 30 minutes of TV.
- 8:00 AM: Clean-up time. Eat breakfast, get dressed in day clothes. Playtime.
- 9:45 AM: Go out with Mom or Dad. Take a walk, go shopping, or visit a friend.
- 12:00 PM: Eat lunch. Take a nap.
- 2:00 PM: Wake up from nap. Have a snack and a drink. Do an activity with Mom or Dad, like a craft, baking, or housework.
- 3:45 PM: Go out and visit the park or library. Bring along a fruit or vegetable to munch on.
- 4:15 PM: Play with play-dough or puzzle at the table while parent cooks dinner.
- 5:45 PM: Dinner time! Then take a bath or play.
- 6:30 PM: Get into pajamas. Have story time and cuddle with Mom or Dad.
- 7:30 PM: Bed time
Many moms and dads are not used to living with a lot of daily structure. If you are one of those, you may enjoy hanging out with friends until late at night, sleeping late in the morning, and doing your own thing during the day. Be aware that the best thing for your child is a consistent, predictable routine. At the very least, providing consistent sleep and meal times helps set up your little one for success.
The above routine may not be exactly right for you, and you can tweak it to meet your own needs. The main thing is to have a predictable, repetitive structure that keeps your child feeling busy, safe and secure.
If you’re not sure how to create a daily routine, talk to a friend, mentor, or your child’s therapist. Find a combination that works for you and your child. Because as much as you need to know what’s coming next, your child needs it, too.