What are the benefits of having a schedule? What does a typical day look like for a homeschooled 18-22-month-old? What do you do with them all day? What do you teach your toddler? What times are they napping?
(This is my son’s daily schedule from 18 months onwards. He is currently a few months shy of being 24 months old).
The benefits of having a schedule.
Before I get into my son’s daily schedule, I first want to point out the benefits of having a schedule for a toddler. It can be ‘boring’ and feel like ‘groundhog day for us to do the same things again, and again and again and again, but for a toddler, it’s heavenly and very important! Why? It gives people a sense of:
- Security (knowing what goes next). For a toddler, so much is constantly changing in their world, so they crave some consistency- a predictable sequence that lets him focus on exploring their world, learning, and playing without worry. My son responds very well to routine. He will smile and waves to daddy and goes upstairs, which tells me he understands that the bedtime routine is starting. He is comforted knowing that he’ll get to snug up with us and read Brown Bear Brown Bear, what do you see? once he brushes his teeth. It helps him feel he has a little more control over his world. Geez, sometimes he is often reminding ME of what the routine is, and he doesn’t even have a watch. Somehow he manages to know exactly when park time is, grab his snack from the cupboard and head to the door, telling me to come. I’m gobsmacked!
- Order. Kids who come from chaotic homes where belongings aren’t put away never learn structure, organization and the benefits of how smoothly life can run more if things are organized a little. I get a little window into that kind of lifestyle when I sometimes don’t put my keys back on the hook when I get home and can’t count how many times I have been on stressful panic runs looking for my keys when I am running late to a meeting.
- How to do things. Kids who don’t develop basic self-care routines, from grooming to making food, may find it hard to take care of themselves as young adults. We have been building on my little one’s participation levels in different parts of his daily routines (since he was a year old) so he can eventually be an independent person. When preparing his morning breakfast, we started off by showing him where things were kept and what they were called. Then moved on to him pointing or calling out what items we need to make his breakfast and where it was found. When he was 18 months old, he would scoop his own breakfast into his bowl out of a tub. At 21 months old, he brings all his own items to the table, scoops his own breakfast, pours his own milk and washes his own bowl after he is finished with it. Eventually, I won’t even have to talk him through the new steps and it will become second nature to do it all himself.
- Self-esteem: Knowing the words to a story I sing each night or where to get his shoes and socks from before we go for a walk really boosts his self-esteem. Even if my little one can’t do everything yet, he still enjoys learning, trying and the little wins when he gets better at something like spooning food into his mouth without spilling it. My son also loves doing thoughtful acts like handing me a hairbrush when he sees me getting ready in the morning or bringing me my favorite drink from the drinks fridge because he thinks I might be thirsty. It’s very sweet.
- Discipline and boundaries. The repetitiveness of the experiences helps to lay down critical pathways in the brain. When you repeat things over and over, you make those connections much stronger over time. The more robust those mental links become, the more confident and calm your little one will be, knowing that he can predict the next activity in his day. Structure and routines teach kids how to constructively control themselves and their environments. That means he’ll be less anxious overall and less prone to throwing temper tantrums. Learning to finish an unpleasant task like brushing their teeth before they get to enjoy a nice book before bed teaches many long-term good habits (from hygiene to self-discipline). When I say “Last book”, no more begging for more books will happen because it’s “Bedtime”. Our son sometimes likes to try to test the boundaries, divert from the schedule or skip a step. What I have found to be very effective with my 21-month-old is to talk through the schedule (or you could have a visual schedule on your wall) to set expectations. Usually, before we start a big chunk of a schedule we will run through it together and also alert him if anything is changed so he can expect it later. We go through our schedule verbally. I have him fill in the gaps with my sentences because I found he likes doing things this way with stories and songs. I say “First we are going to eat… (he replies, dinner), then you will drink your… (milk), then you will have a… (bath), then you will get dressed in your (Pajamas- My little one likes to call them Jum-Jums), then brush your… (teeth), and read a… (book) and go to…(sleep). If he wants to read a book before brushing his teeth, I will remind him of the schedule again, starting at the last step we have just finished. If he wants to play or do something else I gently remind him when he can do that tomorrow. When we have a Mexican standoff, I have to ensure to stand my ground because he is usually testing boundaries. By standing my ground, he knows for the future that the rules will not be bent.
The schedule we created was not challenging at all for us or my son as you may think. In fact, my little one helped dictate it. We have worked out when he gets tired, hungry and when he has higher concentration levels or less and built rituals around them.
It’s not a regimented military camp down to the minute schedule. There is definitely some flexibility to it. It does run an hour or so off here and there based on his needs or interests if we see a need for it. (I just will not run his lunchtime back too much because he gets hangry and I will not stay out later knowing I will run into his nap time- no one wants an overtired cranky baby!) Our child is quite flexible and adaptable now with our bedtime routine when we go out for dinner or are away on vacation.
Our Toddler’s Daytime Schedule
At a glance, this is how his 24 hours look broken down to its simplest format.
Awake Morning: 5 hours
Afternoon Nap: 3 hours
Awake Evening: 5 hours
Night time sleep: 11 hours.
7:00-7.30am Wake up
Greetings: I usually wait until I hear him call “Mamma” over the monitor because he likes to slowly wake up. When he is wide awake, he will call for me. I then knock on his door (for fun) and come in and give him a big enthusiastic “Good Morning”. Give him lots and lots of kisses. We say hi to all his teddies sleeping in his bed and he likes to have one last roll around play in his bed.
Diaper change: I take him out and change his diaper and then read books in his room till 8.00am.
*Mum goes to the gym: (My cousin Tori comes over in the mornings to look after my son till around 9.00-9.30 while I work out- It’s my dedicated Me-Time!!!)
Prepare and eat own breakfast: We made his own cupboard in the kitchen with plates, cutlery, cups etc. He will go collect his own bowl and spoon and bring it to the table. We have a cereal container with a scoop inside and he scoops his own cereal into his bowl. (It’s a mix of crumbled Wheet-a-bix, rolled oats, bran, flaxseed meal, and cheerios). Milk is in a cream pitcher (perfect serving size for his cereal) and he then pours his own milk into his cereal. We have paper towels under his bowl in case he misses.
You can watch part of our morning routine here:
8.30-8.50am Clean up and get dressed
Clean up: After breakfast, we take him to the sink to wash his own bowl and spoon and put it on the drying rack. He stands on a stepping stool to reach the sink.
Then he helps clean up any food on the floor, but most of the time he tries to get out of this because he wants to fit in a quick play.
Stair activity: On the way upstairs to our bathroom, I ask him to find a particular number on the staircase (We have then numbered from 1-19) or we count them going up. Towards the end of being 20 months old, we started saying the color and the number.
Brush teeth: My son brushes his teeth himself now as he is getting pretty good at it- I’m so proud!. I kneel in front of him so he can watch what I am doing in my mouth. I tell him “Let’s brush the front teeth… the side teeth… the top teeth… the bottom teeth and the back of the front teeth“.
Get dressed: Then we get dressed in his room. We talk about each item of clothing we are putting on and sometimes talk about what images are on the clothing or what color they are. I am starting to help him less and less getting dressed so he can eventually learn to get dressed by himself. I also give him opportunities to try new dressing tasks until he asks for help. I hold open his pants and he steps into them. I let him help pull them up over his bum. Putting on shirts, I ask him first to do up the buttons. He fumbles around with it then asks for my help. I will slowly do it and talk through what I am doing. When his hands get caught in his sleeves, I let him grab the material and pull it up so his hands come out. Putting on socks, I put his toes in and I let him pull the socks up over his heel. I let him attempt to put his shoes on himself first and then will put them on for him once he askes for help but I let him do up the velcro straps.
8.50-9.20am Walk around the block.
Go for a walk: He usually chooses the direction. We love meeting all the dogs on morning walks, looking for squirrels and finding cats. On our walks, I talk about our surroundings (showing off the words he knows, like “Lavender, Palm Tree, Yellow Truck, Footpath”, etc) or we play games like “I-Spy” or give walking instructions like “Go…Stop… Fast…Slow…Backward…. Forwards…Sidewards” etc with him, My little one also takes charge announcing instructions.
Snacks: He eats something small like some fruit, cheese, crackers, etc. (He loves peeling and then chopping a banana with a butter knife).
9.30- 11.00am Homeschooling/Play/Outing
This part of the day changes depending on the day of the week. 3 days a week we do an activity like gym class, story time and kids club and the rest of the week we fill this time with homeschooling activities and play time and/or outings to the zoo, hiking, music performances, museums etc.
Homeschooling: I have been working on my own homeschooling program for my son. I have always wanted to be a school teacher growing up my whole life. I spend a lot of spare time researching for my son’s education. I will share my curriculum with you guys when it’s in a more presentable format as it’s more in dot points that I can understand at this stage. He is a bit ahead with his learning with Colors, Numbers, Letters, and Shapes so we did activities that are slightly more advanced. Activities usually last between 1-30 minutes depending on his attention span and I offer lots of free play in between activities. (Activities that take a bit of setting up are usually done after his nap).
My homeschooling activities are grouped by a focus area. I have provided a few little examples of some broad activities we do under each one.
- Maths: Learning numerals, Counting, Sorting by color, size, shape same/different, etc.
- Critical Thinking/Memory Builder: Patterns, What comes next, Following directions, etc.
- Language: Alphabet, Vocabulary Building, Describing, etc. (Also each week we have a letter of the week- at 20 weeks old he was learning the letter G, upper case and lower).
- Science: Each month is a new theme- Living things, Things that go, Weather etc.
- Art: Painting, Stickers, Drawing, etc (sometimes based on the sub-weekly theme)
- Sensory Play: Playdough, Sensory bins, Nature, etc.
- Gross Motor Skills: Balancing, Riding his balance bike, Water pouring, etc.
- Sport: Playing sport, Running, Hiking, etc.
- Fine Motor Skills: Lacing, chopping food, puzzles, etc.
- Music: Actions to songs, Playing with instruments, Singing songs together (He fills in the blanks when I sing).
- Life Skills: Washing themselves, Preparing breakfast, Helping with washing, Clean up toys and spills, etc.
- Social/Emotional: Problem solving, Taking turns, Communicating needs with words, etc.
11.00-11:15am Lunch Prep
I will usually prep lunch while my son free plays but occasionally he likes to help or watch.
Lunch is usually some kind of protein with some fruit or veggies and a bit of a carb and a little bit of cheese. When we cook dinner, we usually portion a bit off for a future lunch meal for the next day or so which is helpful in making lunch quick.
11.45-12.00pm Bottle of milk
Milk time: My boy will have his milk on his favorite chair (sometimes while reading a story). Our bottle has a sippy cup spout because he is not ready to lose the milk in the bottle yet. I will also change his diaper.
Tidy up: I usually finish my lunch before him so I will clean up the kitchen while he is eating or drinking his milk. When emptying the dishwasher or tidying up, I sometimes ask him “What is this called?” or “Where does this go?”. He will to try to name it or point to where it goes.
12.00-12.15pm Brush Teeth
Brush teeth: We started brushing his teeth at lunchtime because it began replicating his bedtime routine and also because milk is quite sweet. (1 cup of milk has the same sugar content as 4 sugary Oreo cookies.)
Water: I also get my son to fill up his bedtime water bottle himself (We only put 3 oz in there).
My son helps darken his rooms with the curtains. We put on his white noise machine that plays running water. We give each other a few kisses and cuddles before putting him into bed and give him his favorite teddies blankets to cuddle. If he seems a bit resistant on going into his bed because he would rather do something “more fun’, i will lure him in by animating his teddy’s in his bed and have them ask my son to come in and lay down and cuddle them. Strange, but sometimes my boy listens to those teddies more than me!!! If he is still a bit restless, I suggest he gives some of his teddies some water before they “Go to sleep”, then ask him to lay down. I put his favorite blanket up near the side of his head to cuddle and say “Have a good nap, I love you, I’ll see you when you wake up… mummy is going for a sleep too in her room”. (I used to have a nap, but now its a bit of a habit to say).
I leave his water bottle next to some of his teddies so he can have a drink when he wakes up. (When I usually come in after a nap, it’s completely empty).
Then I leave the room and head straight downstairs with the monitor on.
I will clean up for an hour- do the washing, prep dinner, clean up toys or set up an afternoon activity for my son to do later, etc and then either do some blogging or relax.
2.30-3.30pm Wake up
When he wakes up, I will change him straight away into a dry diaper.
We usually do a few puzzles together, read books and play with his toys in his bedroom. It has completely different toys to his downstairs play space. Sometimes I may have set up a fun activity for him while he sleeps.
4.30-6.00/6.30pm Physical play
We try to burn out most of my toddler’s energy in the afternoon with lots of physical activities. We usually go riding bikes around the neighborhood, play in the backyard or going to the local playground.
While my son is playing with his dad or Aunty, I will prepare dinner. Sometimes we swap around too.
Toddler’s Evening Routine.
6.00/6.30- 7.00pm Dinner with the family
We usually will include our toddler in table talk and ask about his day, what he did, who he saw etc. He can usually only pull out 1-2 words to describe something but it’s super impressive. When he comes back from the park, he will usually say words like “Buddy” (a local dog’s name), party (usually parties held in the cabana on weekends), “Gracie…Nice” (his friend that he really likes), etc.
He likes to drink his milk while sitting in his favorite book chair in the lounge.
7.40-7.45pm Brush teeth and get dressed
How we brush his teeth: (This is the only time we brush his teeth ourselves. I usually sit on the toilet seat with my feet on the bath and lay him down on my legs and brush his teeth. I sing “This is the way we brush your teeth, brush your teeth, brush your teeth… OPEN WIDE… This is the way we tickle your teeth, tickle your teeth, tickle your teeth… OPEN WIDE… This is the way we clean your teeth, clean your teeth, clean your teeth OPEN” or say which parts of his teeth I need to clean and to open his mouth. Sometimes it a battle, and sometimes he is really good and accommodating. The more I make it sound fun, the better he is. For example, he likes the part where I say I’m going to tickle his teeth in a high pitch tone.
What he wears to bed: It’s the end of summer her and we usually have the air-conditioner on at night. For pajamas, I either put him in flannel pajamas and a light sleeping bag or a long sleeved top and a thick sleeping bag. I also put booster pads in his night time diapers to prevent leakages.
7.45-8.00pm: Read books
We close the curtains, dim the lights and read some books in his bedroom. Depending on the time we have left before 8pm, I will let him know how many books we have time for. Usually, it is 3. When we grab the last book, I say “This is the LAST book, and then we go to….” and he fills in the gap with “Sleep”. It helps him acknowledge that we won’t be reading anymore and prevents him from cracking it. He now repeats “Last book” when we bring down the last book off his shelf now.
8.00pm Lights out
We say goodnight to the teddy and the moon on his wall above his light switch. Sometimes he kisses it and sometimes he likes to scratch it. He also made his own routine of quickly swishing the measuring tape I have running down the side of the pictures. The measuring tape has all my sons’ ultrasound measurements marked on it when he was a fetus and his birth and a few monthly measurements on it after he was born). He gives both his mummy and daddy a good night kiss and cuddle. We tell him how much we love him and a few special nice words while we lay him in his bed. When we leave, I say that “We are just outside if you need us… sleep tight…see you in the morning“. (He has a very dim night light on in his room).
Just after my son goes to sleep, I spend 10 minutes resetting his toys in his play space and/or preparing breakfast, plan snacks for outings the next day and restock the diaper bag if needed.
10.30pm Before I go to sleep
Before I go to sleep, I absolutely love creeping in and checking out how cute he looks fast asleep. While in there, I will bring a fresh water bottle in his bed for him to drink if he gets thirsty, and place a light swaddle over him like a blanket if it’s slightly cool in his room, then I will turn the lights completely off in his room so it is very dark.