For many parents, especially those home all day watching them, may have a difficult time thinking of fun, new, educational, and engaging ways to entertain their toddler. While it is tempting to sit them in front of the television, quality time spent together will benefit them from a socially, creatively, and educationally.
Keep in mind that these activities don’t need to be overly complicated, scheduled in advance, or cost tons of money. Children enjoy quality time with their parents and peers.
Many parents struggle to find a balance between quiet time, active time, eating schedules, and educational opportunities. You’re not alone in asking yourself, “what is the best routine I can provide for my little one?”
There is no perfect formula for creating the perfect day. However, it should contain several of the following elements: playtime, rest or quiet time, and a time to be physically active. Children at this age thrive on consistency and routine.
On the other hand, anyone who has cared for a toddler knows that they can quickly lose interest in repetitive routines. They often go through phases of loving one activity for several weeks or days and hating it the next.
This reason is why it is important to strike the balance of routine and unstructured play. Try including time in every day for imaginative play, active play, and rest—but the fun can come from finding new activities that fit these categories!
A Sample Daily Routine
Here is one example of what a day could look like for your little one!
- 7:00-7:30. Wake up routine & breakfast
- 7:30-8:00 Independent play during breakfast cleanup
- 8:00-8:15 Get dressed, brush teeth
- 8:15- 9:00 Interest-led learning activity (see weekly schedule below)
- 9:00 -11:00 Outing, to the store, park, etc. Be sure to bring some healthy snacks!
- 11:00-11:45 Lunchtime
- 12:00-2:30 Quiet time or naps
- 2:30-3:00 Snack & Book time
- 3:00-4:00 Backyard play or park time
- 4:00-5:00 Independent play while the parent cooks dinner
- 5:00-6:00 Eat together as a family
- 6:00-6:45 Family playtime & dinner cleanup
- 6:45- 7:15 Bath time & PJs on
- 7:15-7:30 Goodnight books & Prayers
- 7:30 pm Bedtime
As mentioned above, outings do not need to be expensive to be beneficial or engaging for your child. Excursions can include going to the grocery store or running other errands, playing in the park, walking around the neighborhood, or even going to the library or bookstore.
Other, more planned, ideas include going to the zoo, museum, play-dates, local exhibits or craft fairs, and even swimming during the summer.
By getting out of the house, you’re giving yourself and your little one the opportunity to socialize, which is SO important (especially for your sanity)!
Making sure your child can play independently is crucial to making sure you have time alone to get tasks done or relax yourself. Even if your child is not the most independent, as a parent, you can help them begin to entertain themselves.
Take Advantage of Favorite Activities
One way to get started is by setting out a variety of activities your little one is comfortable doing on their own. Set up the toys in an engaging fashion, and introduce new household items that can encourage them to see play in a new way. For example, try placing a plastic mixing bowl by a boat toy and tell your child it is a lake for the boat.
Another way to establish independent play is to tell your child exactly how long you expect them to play by themselves.
Try giving them a timeline by telling them to color on their own and you will be back in fifteen minutes after cleaning the bedroom to see what they’ve made.
This gives them a timeline for play and discourages them from running to you so frequently to show whatever they are creating.
Weekly Schedule Ideas
Some parents have success with her children by planning out ideas for activities ahead of time to avoid having to think of ideas on the spot. In the above schedule, some ideas for interest-led learning activities broken up by day include:
- Monday: Playing with clay or age-appropriate sensory games
- Tuesday: Preschool Day (1/2 day)
- Wednesday: Sorting or color matching
- Thursday: Preschool Day
- Friday: Painting or Books on Tape
Don’t Forget the Library
If your child is not yet in preschool, Tuesdays and Thursdays could be a good day to take him or her to the library. This is a free way to make sure they are still getting intellectual engagement.
The library also has a variety of books that can cater to whatever interest your child has chosen to develop that week!
Libraries typically have schedules of children’s activities that are engaging and often free! These activities range from puppet shows to shared story-time with other toddlers and even science experiments.
It is worth checking out your local library’s events page or speaking with the front desk!
Mommy and Me Classes
Another alternative to preschool may include signing up for a mommy and me class. If your child is not quite ready to be in a half-day preschool class, a mommy and me class is a great alternative to encourage social interaction.
Some little ones are not ready to leave your side and still heavily rely on their parent for guidance in social situations.
These classes may help ease them into social settings until they are ready to go to preschool or daycare.
Repetition is Okay
It’s not uncommon to have a child who only wants to finger paint for the entire week. That is ok and normal! The most effective learning happens when the child is interested.
Also, by continuing to practice the same skill set, you will see the confidence in your little one grow as they master the activity.
Ultimately, Do What Works Best for You
Hopefully, the above schedules and activities may help you find a daily routine that works best for your little one!
As you begin to create a schedule for your child, you may find that life will become a bit easier as you’re not trying to keep them entertained all day.
Your child will also learn to play independently, explore their interests, and most importantly foster their bond with you!