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Use this printable toddler schedule to help your toddler play independently and move on from activity to activity without any tantrums.
Our son is almost 3 years old and is playing independently less and less – at a time when I need to work from home and need him to play independently more and more!
He just wants to play with us ALL THE TIME, and insists that we sit there for hours reading books to him.
This is all very sweet and I shouldn’t be complaining, but mama has work to do!
In addition, it can be a hassle getting him to sit down to eat or to use the potty if he is in the middle of playing.
So I thought about how we can visually show him when it’s time to play independently, play with mom and dad, time to eat, time to use the potty, time for bed, etc. And that’s when I came up with this idea:
A visual toddler schedule!
I want to share this because it might be helpful to moms who are trying to balance it all!
You can grab the printable pdf here: Printable Toddler Schedule, but make sure to keep reading to get all the tips for how to make this schedule work best.
Visual toddler schedule – how does it work?
This schedule uses visual pictures to create a daily schedule. The pictures are of all the activities that my son does.
And I do mean ALL the activities – playing with different toys, story time, potty time, time to wash our hands, eat, snack, drink, sit in the high chair – there is a little picture for EVERYTHING.
How to use the toddler schedule
- Print the schedule. Use card stock or thicker paper if you have it (You can get some here). Scroll through the pdf to see whether you need all the pages so you reduce ink usage if there are some pages you don’t need right now.
- Cut out the schedule pictures along the dotted line. If you’re working on scissor skills with your toddler, ask him or her to help you! Guide their hands and be super careful with the scissors, obvs.
- Laminate the individual pictures – if you have a laminator. This is optional, but it will make all the pictures last longer. We don’t have a laminator (it’s on the list of things to get!), but we are OK with re-printing this every few weeks if we need to.
- Create a daily schedule and tape the corresponding activity pictures up on a wall, a whiteboard, a chalkboard, a poster board – anything where your toddler can easily see it.
- Explain to your toddler what each activity means and what is expected of him or her.
- Give your child a 5 minute warning between activities, then remind them to refer to the calendar when it’s time to move on to the next activity. But keep this flexible! Keep reading below for tips for success.
How to make this schedule a success
- Be patient! This will not work immediately like magic. Just like any new habit, it takes repetition and consistency to get a toddler to learn something.
- Be flexible. Don’t force your child to go from one “fun” activity to another.
If they are enjoying silly play and you had “quiet time” scheduled for 10 AM, let them keep playing until they really need to switch because things are getting too rowdy and they need a little break.
- Don’t plan out the WHOLE DAY. It will be almost impossible to stick to a strict schedule all day – unless you have a unicorn perfect toddler.
Make a short schedule for the morning, afternoon, or evening. Leave out the exact times if they are not important for that time of day.
Or add the times in for must-do activities such as meals, snacks, naps, and bedtime… this way you can show your toddler the number on the schedule and the number on your clock and explain to them that it’s 8:00 PM, it’s time for bed time (This trick TOTALLY WORKS FOR US FOR BEDTIME!).
- Involve your toddler in planning the schedule – as much as you can.
Obviously don’t let them plan Pizza and TV all day every day, but let them pick their quiet time activity in advance, or choose their lunch picture. This way you can remind them that they did a great job making a schedule and now it’s time to follow it.
- Draw your own pictures, if you need to.
Examples of how to use this printable toddler schedule
Here are a couple of different ways to use it to help you plan your day with your toddler.
You can plan out the afternoon activities together and include the time of day, pointing out the time n a clock when your child needs to move on to a new activity:
Or create a schedule for the evening activities. This might help your child move through the evening activities with less fuss, even if there are some they don’t want to do (like tooth brushing – our son HATES that!)
Looking for more ways to keep toddlers busy?? Try these:
- Free I SPY printable – this one keeps my son busy for HOURS!
- Water play ideas for all budgets and spaces – indoor and outdoor water play
- Educational TV shows for toddlers (because sometimes you need to get some work done)
- Activities for active toddlers – tire them out, get the wiggles out so they can focus on quiet time activities later
- Life skills for 3 year old toddlers – lots of things to teach your toddler that are not the typical toddler “activities”
Do you know someone who NEEDS this idea?? Share it with them! And don’t forget to save it on Pinterest for later so you can find it again easily: