Should my toddler be on a schedule? Activities

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Happy toddler-age girl smiling.
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Many toddlers thrive on routine, and structuring your days can make life easier for Mom, too. See what scheduling strategies have worked best for these moms and caregivers, and then decide what you might want to try for your own family.

Children Crave a Schedule

"Children love living according to a schedule. You will see this as they learn the schedule and anticipate what comes next. You can also make a schedule out of pictures for the child to follow. This helps with behavior issues if needed. Schedules do get broken, but I believe it's very important anyway. When a schedule needs to be broken, explain this to the child, even if you feel they are too young to understand. Enjoy the schedule, laugh about changes, and go with the flow!" -- Sue Stockman, early childhood educator, Caldwell, NJ

It Can Be Flexible

"In school, we use pictures in a pocket chart, so children can see, on their own, what activity is next. The routine is similar each day, so children can be more independent, knowing that cleanup time will be followed by snack, then outdoor time, etc. Special activities should be introduced when toddlers are not too tired to enjoy them, and it is always best to warn children when a change of plans will occur. Children's sense of time is not well-developed, so we also let them know when each...

"In school, we use pictures in a pocket chart, so children can see, on their own, what activity is next. The routine is similar each day, so children can be more independent, knowing that cleanup time will be followed by snack, then outdoor time, etc. Special activities should be introduced when toddlers are not too tired to enjoy them, and it is always best to warn children when a change of plans will occur. Children's sense of time is not well-developed, so we also let them know when each activity in the typical routine is about to change. The 'two-minute warning' is important, because toddlers don't transition quickly and need time to stop an activity. Bedtime routine is important to toddlers. Though it is very difficult for some parents to set an early bedtime, we find that children who are well rested are most able to have a productive day at school."  -- Debbie Propper Lesnoy, teacher at Helen Troum Nursery School and Kindergarten, Fair Lawn, NJ

Avoid Tantrums

"I try to limit the events that pop up outside of our schedule, because when we go with the flow too often, my daughter tends to throw tantrums; usually it's when she misses sleep or when meals get pushed back."

A Little Unpredictability Is Good

"Having things change every now and then is good. I mean, how else are they going to figure out how to deal with change? So, every now and then, I introduce a bit of change to our day-to-day lives. But the important stuff is on a schedule."

We Go With the Flow

"I've never had my toddler on a schedule. Life is unpredictable and some things you just can't plan for. I find that there's less stress for me to go with the flow and my daughter as well. She never whines or cries or complains."

Let the Mood Guide You

"We do get up about the same time every day, and meals are about the same time, but other than that I pace myself off of what kind of mood my son is in or his interest for the day."

The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.