Simplify mom life by establishing a routine for your toddler to help them feel safe & secure, stop arguments, develop healthy habits, introduce chores and teach responsibility.
Routines Help Life Go More Smoothly
When Emi was 3-months-old she developed some bad sleeping habits. We’d put her to bed around 7 pm but she’d be up by 11 and have no interest in going back to sleep for hours.
Matt was on summer break at the time which was a huge blessing! He would stay up with her until she fell back to sleep and then I’d get up with her in the morning.
This worked out great right up until August and Matt would be returning to school within a matter of weeks. Staying up until 3 am would no longer work.
Of course, I did what any new mom does, I turned to Pinterest to figure out how to get my baby to sleep through the night. It seemed like all the mom blogs had one suggestion in common. Establish a bedtime routine.
So we did. I sat down and wrote out all the steps I thought her bedtime routine should have. It looked something like this:
- Diaper Change
- Read scriptures and a book
- Sing Lullaby
- Lay down when sleepy but not asleep.
All the mom blogs said a routine like this would help signal to her body that it was time for bed and help her wind down and stay asleep longer.
It worked almost immediately! After a few nights we were all getting a good night sleep and Matt was able to return to school well-rested.
Fast forward a few years and we still follow that exact same routine every single night when we put Emi to bed. It still helps her wind down and sleep through the night.
This was my first experience with routines and their power to help make life go more smoothly.
4 Reasons Your Toddler Needs a Routine
Right before I started this blog I was 95% sure my baby girl had been replaced with a monster. It seemed like she was always crying, whining, or throwing a tantrum. We were arguing constantly and about the simplest things, things that HAD to be done like going potty and getting dressed.
As a result I had turned into grumpy mom. I was yelling… a lot, and had about zero patience.
I couldn’t understand why it was so difficult for her to understand that these things had to be done everyday and just do them! We’d spend 3x’s as much time arguing about doing them than it took to just do them.
We were both miserable and something had to change.
Once I took a step back and breathed the answer came pretty readily from my Human Development background. We needed another routine.
Just like before I wrote out all the things I thought should be part of our routine and then presented them to my almost 3-year-old, telling her we’d be doing these things every single morning after breakfast.
- Feed Rego
- Brush Teeth
- Go Potty & Wash Hands
- Get Dressed & Do Hair
- Clean Room
I swear it was a miracle! 90% of the crying, whining, and tantrums disappeared, I got my little girl back and we are SO much happier!
So why do routines not only work, but work so well? Here are the 4 reasons your toddler needs a routine for your sanity as well as hers.
1. To Help Them Feel Safe & Secure
Did you know that kids crave boundaries. Of course they don’t know enough to ask for them and will push against them as they grow, but boundaries are super important in creating a secure attachment and helping kids feel safe a secure.
Think about it, imagine for a second that you’re back in school. Imagine that instead of a schedule with classes at the same time everyday its all random. Sometimes you have Chemistry at 8 am on Monday and sometimes it’s English at 8:15 and it changes every week without rhyme or reason.
It wouldn’t take long for all that uncertainty and unpredictability to drive you totally crazy. Imagine trying to keep track of your tests and assignments. It stresses me out just thinking about it.
The sameness isn’t boring, the structure reduces stress because its predictable. Plus, within those confines is where we find all the fun, like socializing!
Kids, and especially toddlers, crave the predictability of a routine.
I realized that because we didn’t have a consistent routine, Emi was always caught off guard when I suddenly wanted her to stop playing and do a less fun, but necessary activity. My reaction to her protests just left her more confused and frustrated.
Establishing a routine for your toddler will help them feel safe and secure in their environment.
2. To Stop The Arguing
“Be kind to everyone you meet, you never know who lost an argument with a 3 year old today.”
This meme is hilarious because, as any toddler mom will attest, its totally true. But it’s less funny when you’re living it every hour of every day. It’s SO draining!
When I implemented Emi’s routine I didn’t think the arguing would stop, I just thought I’d have more ammunition. “You have to go potty because this is your routine and we can’t do anything else til we’re done.”
And that is exactly what I say if there ever is an argument about doing her routine. But the truly amazing part is that those are happening less and less frequently.
Just like the structure helps her feel safe and secure, the predictability means she doesn’t have a reason to argue anymore, that’s just what we do to start our day.
3. To Develop Healthy Habits & Teach Self-Care
Toddlers are often too young to grasp complicated concepts like plaque, cavities, bacteria, and germs and so don’t always understand WHY they have to brush their teeth or wash their hands. But those activities are still important and need to happen multiple times a day.
By ritualizing those actions as part of a routine we set a foundation for healthy habits that will continue as kids get older and start taking more and more responsibility for their own hygiene and self-care.
It also signals to them the importance of taking care of their bodies and shows them how to do it, even if they can’t fully grasp why.
4. To Introduce Chores & Responsibility
In our house we believe in chores to teach responsibility and a healthy work ethic. There is this golden stage of toddler-hood where all they want to do is help, quick! Let them! Before they realize it’s not a game!
Routines are the perfect way to give even young children responsibilities, help them succeed, and set expectations about chores as they grow.
Emi is in charge of feeding the dog, picking up her toys, and cleaning her room. I especially love that she can practice her independence and do many of her chores with minimal mom supervision.
How To Establish a Toddler Routine + FREE Printable
Establishing a routine for your toddler can be life changing but implementing it is actually super simple.
To start, simply identify all the areas of your life that you could benefit from a routine. For example, morning, nap time, and bedtime are all a great place to start. Then list out all the things you need or want to include to make your life easier.
I find they work best when it’s more about an order of events than sticking to a specific timetable but try to at least stick to a similar time of day. For example if you have a morning routine, try to complete it before lunch to avoid confusion.
Don’t ambush your toddler with the new routine, spend some time talking and introduce the idea of a routine and how you will use it. Tell them all the things they’ll get to do as part of their routine and help them get excited for their first go at it.
Then do it!
Feel free to adjust as needed, maybe something doesn’t work well as part of your routine or fits better at a different time of day. Stay focused on creating systems that work for you and make your life simpler. If it’s making you frustrated or complicating your life, something is wrong.
Free printable routine planners
To help you get started I’ve created printable daily and weekly routine worksheets. They can be used digitally with apps like GoodNotes on an iPad or, if you’re old school, you can print it out and hang it on your fridge. Get them by clicking HERE!
These worksheets will help you plan and implement a toddler routine and help them feel safe and secure, put an end to arguing, teach healthy habits, and introduce responsibility.
Come back and share how you’re using routines to transform your family life.