Skip to main content

The 5 daily routines every toddler should have

As much as toddlers enjoy their exploration, their playtime, and their naps, their daily routine needs to be … well, a routine. We definitely want the best for our little ones, and that includes structure that gives them an element of security in knowing what’s going to happen next and tons of opportunities for learning, as noted by the Department of Health & Human Services.

So we have some insights to share about setting up a daily routine for your toddler.

Morning routine

Mornings should start off with a consistent wake-up time. Getting up at the same time every morning establishes a healthy pattern for your toddler’s sleep cycle, which paves the way for a more pleasant day. If you’re not in too much of a rush to head out the door, this time also provides an opportunity for your child to learn basic self-care such as getting dressed, grooming, and brushing teeth.

Part of the morning routine should also include a healthy breakfast that’s preferably not loaded with sugary cereal that can cause a mid-morning crash and a bad case of the “grumpies” for your little one.

Playtime with parent or playgroup

Once your toddler’s day is underway, he or she should also have time allotted to play, which at this age serves as the main vehicle for learning. Children gain so many skills from one-on-one time with parents or a playdate with friends. Communication and socialization are just two valuable advantages of playtime. Plus, depending on the activities, toddlers also gain more development of their fine motor skills if modeling clay or coloring are involved, not to mention all of the benefits connected with music if you incorporate singing and dancing.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Snack and mealtimes

Not only do toddlers get to partake of tasty and nutritious food, but the meal and snack times also provide opportunities for incorporating life skills in the following areas:

  • Nutrition
  • Table manners and etiquette
  • The importance of helping out

Older toddlers can take turns handing out the napkins or plates, which sets a positive tone for completing simple chores. Plus, this gives you (or the caregiver) some time to get off your feet and have a seat while the children are eating.

Outdoor play and exploration

When the weather allows, toddlers should also have a chance to go outside to play or to go for a short walk. Any climbing that takes place on the playground or any games that are played outdoors not only give children time to get some fresh air but also to develop their gross motor skills. In relation to games, they also learn how to take turns and follow the rules of a game.

The change of seasons also offers opportunities to learn some simple aspects of science, like why leaves change colors in the fall or how caterpillars turn into butterflies. Toddlers would enjoy and learn a lot from interacting with nature. Another great idea is to allow your toddler to help with simple gardening tasks like watering the plants or picking vegetables.

Evening and bedtime routine

As the day draws to a close, you’ll need to carve out time in the evening for your toddler to wind down and relax before eating dinner and going to bed. This is also a good time to pass on some more valuable lessons through the following practices:

  • Allowing your toddler to choose a part of or the entire outfit for the next day
  • Encouraging your toddler to pick up toys and to put them back where they belong

In addition to these activities, toddlers can pick up the lessons on self-care again through the nighttime habits of brushing their teeth and bathing before going to bed. Finally, keeping the bedtime consistent every night will allow your little one to get adequate rest, which is important especially during the growth-spurt phase when energy levels tend to fluctuate.  And of course, don’t forget the bedtime story.

Young boy lying in bed with Teddy bear
Milos Vucicevic/

Basically, keeping a daily routine can easily become automatic for toddlers. Indeed, some flexibility might be needed in the event of emergencies or changes in the family dynamic, like the birth of a sibling, but consistency provides a safe haven for your little one to feel secure when he or she has a clear picture of what each day will bring.

Editors' Recommendations

Leslie Anderson
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Leslie Anderson is a freelance writer/writing coach from Roswell, N.M. She enjoys gardening, cooking, and helping students…
This one sure signal your toddler feels out of control
Toddler pulling hair may mean they're feeling out of control
Toddler pulling their hair

The toddler years are full of development and discovery that can often be a bit overwhelming for them at times. Let's face it, toddlers are inundated with new experiences almost daily, which can often lead to some behaviors you may find troubling. As a result, they can often become frustrated as they try to process all this new information. They don't call them the 'terrible twos' for nothing!

While temper tantrums and meltdowns come hand in hand with having a toddler, there are other behaviors that may be a sign that they're not quite feeling like themselves. If your toddler is pulling their own hair, it may be because they feel out of control, which can be completely understandable. Toddlers pulling their hair is a very common behavior and is often a form of self-soothing that helps them cope with stressful situations. If you've noticed your toddler has begun to pull their hair, there are some things you can do to help.

Read more
Can babies have nightmares? What you need to know
How to help your baby when they have a bad dream
Toddler being comforted in bed after a nightmare.

Can babies have nightmares? If your baby has woken up crying for no apparent reason, you may find yourself wondering if a nightmare was the cause. After all, when there seems to be no other logical explanation for why they are waking up upset, the culprit could be a nightmare, or could it?

Often when we think of nightmares, we think of how they're subconsciously caused by our fears, or by something scary we may have watched on television. But, if babies are exposed to mostly positive and comforting stimuli, can they really experience nightmares? Also, if bad dreams cause your baby to wake up screaming, how can you soothe him or her back to sleep? Read on to find out the answers to this dilemma.

Read more
How old do you have to be to wear makeup? What every parent needs to know about this rite of passage
Advice for parents wondering how old a child has to be to wear makeup
Mother and daughter playing with makeup

Giving out your personal makeup tips to your teenager may be a rite of passage — but what about your younger kids? It seems that children are wearing makeup now at younger and younger ages, and as your child transitions into their tween years, and sometimes even younger, they may want to start wearing some makeup as a way to express themselves. Experimenting with makeup doesn't have to be taboo, and it can even be a safe and healthy way for your child to experiment with their creativity and express their personality.

You may find yourself wondering how old do you have to be to wear makeup, especially if your parents were strict about the matter. Take a look at our helpful parenting tips below as a guide for how to talk to your child about makeup.

Read more