My toddler son's ideal schedule includes lots of milk, snacks, free play, supervised play, sensory activities, and hugs. Does this schedule look anything like the schedule for your two year old toddler?
As a first time mom, there was a lot of trial and error in the first two years of my son's life. And lots of googling (I'm not the only one, right?). It took us a while to get into a consistent routine. I'm talking over a year.
If you're new here, this blog is about an extremely picky eater little boy who's had trouble gaining weight most of his life because of his eating issues. So a lot of our day revolves around trying to feed him and give him milk to get as many calories into him as possible. But doesn't every toddler's schedule revolve around snacks anyway? So maybe it's not that different.
By the way, you might be interested in these other blog posts:
- Free Printable Schedule - a visual picture schedule to help your toddler move from activity to activity and to encourage quiet play
- Picky eater toddler meal schedule
- Educational TV shows for toddlers - for when you need to get some work done during the day
My son goes to daycare ("school") Monday through Friday, and this schedule here is for days that there is no school. When he is in school, the schedule is very similar as far as meals and naps go. I made sure to follow the school schedule at home so that my son has as much routine for meal times and nap time as possible.
Take a look at our ideal schedule and see if this sounds anything like your two year old's schedule. Make sure to scroll down to read about what toys and books we LOVE and what kind of sensory play we do.
Please remember when you read this that this is the ideal schedule. It definitely doesn't happen every day. I am not super mom most days. There are days when I have no energy to do messy sensory play. There are days when I am too lazy to go to the pool. There are days when I turn on Mr. Rodgers for my son to watch while I make dinner because he just won't stop whining. But I try to stick to the schedule below as much as I can.
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Here is the ideal schedule for my two year old son:
6:45 AM: wake up
My son usually wakes up sometime between 6:30 - 7am.
6:45 - 7:30 AM: diaper change, clothes change, free play time
After I change his diaper and get him out of his pajamas and into his clothes, he plays for a few minutes while I fully wake up, brush my teeth, and get his milk ready. When I say milk, I mean soy milk because of my son's food allergies (read my post about testing babies for food allergies). We also add a little soy formula to his milk to add a few more calories.
7:30 AM: milk
My son has NEVER wanted breakfast early in the morning. Even as a baby he never drank much milk first thing in the morning. After my son turned 1, it took several months of consistent morning bottles to get him used to drinking milk in the morning.
This works out well for me because I am NOT a morning person. There is no way I can get it together to make breakfast for my son by 7:30 in the morning.
7:30 - 9:30 AM: free play time
In the mornings I let my son play on his own. This is the time that he is the least cranky so he is usually happy playing solo and showing me all his toys one by one. On his own, my son usually chooses to play with little toy cars, pushing them around all the furniture ledges and lining them up next to each other (like here, in my Instagram photo)
9:30 AM: breakfast
At 9:30 I try to sit my son down for breakfast. This is usually a homemade pureed baby food (read my post on how to make high calorie baby food) because he is not a big fan of eating in the morning. If I can get a 150-200 calorie pouch of food into him in the morning that takes some pressure off the rest of his meals.
This is also the time that I get hungry for breakfast, so we end up eating together.
9:30 AM - 12:00 PM: play time with mama
After breakfast, we play together. We read books, color, play with puzzles, build towers, break towers down, play peekaboo, play with trucks and cars, play catch (especially with sensory balls, such as these), pretend to be choo choo trains, snuggle, go outside, stack cups, pretend to feed the stuffed animals, tumble, dance, and get silly.
We often go outside to play or go to the pool if it's really hot (we live in the Bahamas).
12:00 PM: lunch
Lunch is often French fries or a sandwich for my son. Don't judge. I wrote a post about why French fries are actually a good idea for picky eaters. I always try to put something healthy and something different on his plate, but a lot of times it's French fries. Other times, it's a simple sandwich or tortilla, such as this easy 3-ingredient tuna salad sandwich, or this mini chicken quesadilla.
1:00 PM: milk
After lunch I give my son a bottle of warm milk and he promptly falls asleep for his nap.
1:30 - 3:30 PM: afternoon nap
I am lucky that my son still sleeps for at least 2 hours every day. He will often sleep 3 hours, but we try not to let him lately. If we let him sleep past 4 he is NEVER going down for bed at night.
4:00 PM: snack
Once Elliot is fully awake from his nap, I try to give him an afternoon snack. He often refuses to eat at this time (hence the milk below), but if he does eat, it's usually fruit, crackers, baby food, or some nitrate-free deli ham or turkey.
5:00 PM: milk (sometimes)
My son gets another few ounces of milk if he didn't have a snack, or if he is not having a good eating day. This bottle of milk risks ruining his appetite for dinner, but sometimes I just know he will not be interested in dinner that day, so I might as well get some calories into him while I can.
5:00 - 6:00 PM: sensory play time in the kitchen while mama cooks *or* playing outside
Our kitchen is blocked off with a baby gate, but Elliot gets to go into the kitchen with me while I tidy up and make dinner. This keeps him from whining from being kicked out of the kitchen, and I try to use this time in an educational way even though I am not 100% "present" to play with him: I let him play with homemade finger paint, stack bowls, make towers from the cat food cans, etc.
But the main activity I try to fit in during this time is sensory play with food and ingredients. The kitchen is a safe space to touch foods and ingredients that he would NOT want to touch at the dinner table, because when it is on his plate there is an expectation that he should be eating it. But if I give him a piece of chopped butternut squash, or a wedge of sweet potato, or a piece of wet broccoli to play with while he's sitting on the floor, it's a great way to get him to interact with the foods and see that they are not scary. Often the food is a bit slimy or wet, so it is a good sensory activity.
There have been times when my son decides to try the foods I give him! He's taken a few bites of raw asparagus and green beans while playing in the kitchen. The first time he ate cucumber was when he sat on my lap and played with the cucumber. I encouraged him to take a bite and he did, because he didn't have his guard up like he would if he was in his high chair. He ate a whole 2 inch piece of cucumber that way, and since then he has been eating cucumber semi-regularly!
The first time he ate mashed potatoes was when we made these mashed potato nuggets together.
If I am not cooking dinner that evening, we will often go outside and play or go to the pool.
6:30 PM: dinner
Around 6 PM, my husband gets home from work and we sit down for dinner.
7:00 - 7:30 PM: playtime with dad
I volunteer to clean up after dinner because I want my son to have 1-on-1 time with his father, and because I need a break after a whole day of toddlerhood. My husband speaks Spanish, so it is super-important to us that my son gets exposed to as much Spanish as possible during the time that my husband is home after work and on the weekends.
7:30 - 8:00 PM: put away toys, vitamin, brushing teeth, diaper change and pajama change, bed time story
After dinner and playtime, we start the bedtime routine. To be honest, it's not so much of a routine, as just trying to calm Elliot down and put him to sleep before he gets too tired and has a complete meltdown. So we don't get the tooth brushing or bed time story in every day. Sometimes we clean up his toys instead of asking him to help. We try.
My son's favorite books at 2 are The Gruffalo, Llama Llama Red Pajama, the Little Monster series (we have these in Spanish but they're the same book and illustrations as in English), and the First 100 Words Bilingual book - it's a HUGE book and I think that's one of the reasons my son loves it, he loves turning the big pages.
We don't usually give my son a bath as part of the bedtime routine because my son gets really wound up and excited after a bath. He LOVES being naked, so good luck chasing him down after he is toweled dry. And we don't give him baths every day, much to my grandma's dismay. Baths usually happen after our morning or afternoon play time, depending on how sweaty and messy things get.
Read about what I say to my son to get him to fall asleep on his own every night.
8:00 PM: milk
Once Elliot is ready for bed, he has one more bottle of milk and is hopefully asleep by 8:30.
8:30 PM: sleep
We finally get to relax!
So does this sound like your two year old's schedule? Do you anything differently? Let me know in a comment below, I'd love to see what other moms do with their kids! And don't forget to share this on Facebook or Pinterest if you found this helpful!