July 20, 2018

Why Your Toddler Needs a Schedule

I catch a lot of grief from my family because I rarely deviate from Lela’s schedule. Like, a lot of grief. The older generations are quick to judge that I’m too strict but then also judge if I allow a deviation and my child acts out because of it. Being a parent today is hard. Not only are the older generations quick to tell you what you’re doing wrong, but the internet is also paralyzing you with information at every turn. I’ve made being on a consistent schedule a priority because it’s been linked to better sleep, fewer tantrums and overall happiness. Who can argue with that?

I consider myself a pretty relaxed parent. I was never really a germaphobe, I make sure that Lela eats healthy but that she also enjoys the occasional ice cream cone or cookie and I don’t care if she makes a huge mess while I’m in the bathroom trying to get ready. The only thing I’ve ever been strict about is her schedule (and limited screen time but that’s for another day).

In the beginning, when babies are still infants, you want to follow their schedule. For the first three months of life, they’re establishing their circadian rhythm. Think about it; they spent nine months in the womb where they had no idea if it was day or night. They were continuously fed through the umbilical cord and never had to worry about going to the bathroom. Once in the real world, it’s going to take a little time to sort everything out.

The older Lela has gotten, the easier it’s been for me to see that she needs to be on a consistent schedule. Babies, and toddlers especially, need to be on a schedule because a reliable schedule helps them feel safe. By knowing what to expect it increases their sense of security, and the more secure they feel, the more they can focus on things such as exploring and learning. By creating a consistent schedule, you are helping your child establish strong mental connections to what should happen next in their day. This ultimately cuts down on anxiety and temper tantrums.

It wasn’t until I went back to work after maternity leave that I started getting Lela on to a schedule. I read a study that suggested a bedtime routine “resulted in significant reductions in problematic sleep behaviors for infants and toddlers” (Mindell, Telofksi, Wiegand, Kurtz, 2009), so I started by establishing a nightly bedtime. No matter what, every night she goes to bed at 7 pm. That action alone got us into a nightly routine. We’d get home from work, make dinner, play, take a bath, read a story then go to bed. By having a consistent bedtime, Lela consistently gets a good night’s rest which in turn helps with my own happiness.

As Lela got older, being in daycare has helped tremendously with maintaining a consistent schedule. Her schedule looks something like this:
6:30 am-7 am: Wake Up
7 am-8 am: Eat breakfast and play before school
8 am: Drop off at school
8 am-11 am: Activities
11 am: Lunch
11:30 am-2 pm: Nap
2 pm-4 pm: Activities
4 pm: Pick up from school
5:30 pm: Dinner
6:30 pm: Bath, Story, Snuggle time
7:30 pm: Bed 

I have to say its kind of amazing on the weekends to put her down for her nap at 11:30 am, and she just lays down. There is zero struggle, and, we both know what to expect during that time of the day. She's sleeping and I can do my "mom-duties."

I wholeheartedly think that babies and toddler's need to be on a schedule. If not for their sanity, then for yours! The above example is what works for my family but I highly encourage you to give it a shot and find what works best for you and your family. 


Mindell, Jodie A, Telofski, Lorena S, Wiegand, Benajmin, Kurts, Ellen S. (2009, May) A Nightly Bedtime Routine: Impact on Sleep in Young Children and Maternal Mood. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2675894/

1 comment:

  1. It feels so good to read that someone else out there puts their little one to bed at 7. I definitely feel so alone in this. We started a wind down routine with our baby around 1 month old just because we noticed she was overstimulated by the end of the day. We noticed that when she "napped" after our wind down routine, she had a really long stretch of sleep. Eventually, this turned into the "bedtime routine" and it's been so great for her.

    I totally agree though on all the information out there. It's overwhelming! I'm terrified to say "schedule" or "routine" to certain people because of some criticism I've received.

    It looks like you're doing great and your daughter has a loving and fulfilled life. :)