“The best plans are made in pencil.” I don’t recall where I heard this, but it has become my mantra since; especially in regards to routines. There is a constant dual within me to have everything really structured or just go where the wind blows. A happy equilibrium I have found is to make a plan in pencil and hold it loosely. That attitude has never been more applicable in my life then having a toddler.
I’ve learned a lot as a young Mom, and I’ve learned that it doesn’t work for me to create a timed play by play of the day for us. There are too many factors involved, and it can feel like it’s always one of “those” weeks where life presents a lot of surprises. On the flip side, not having any kind of plan hasn’t served me well either. It results in us both still in our pajamas at 4:00 P.M and not having any idea what we did with our day. There is definitely a time and a place for both of the those extremes, but I don’t want it as my norm. So, here is our real life toddler routine. It’s metaphorically written in pencil and has probably never gone perfectly once.
Get Dressed and Have Breakfast
I’ve been struggling to wake up early enough to do my own morning routine before little wakes up, but I’m always so glad when I do. Then, I’m all situated for the day, and I can just greet my little girl and talk to her about how she slept and get her dressed. She doesn’t always like waiting for me to cook breakfast, so lately I’ve been setting her up with a little plate of fruit before I start cooking.
Most mornings after breakfast, we cuddle together on the couch and listen to the audio Bible from the Bible Gateway App. We probably cuddle for about a minute before she starts pulling out her toys from the toy box of the day. I don’t mind if she’s not sitting still and listening; I sit and enjoy watching her while we listen together.
Morning Chores / Independent Playtime
After that I usually let her continue to play in the living room and I step into the kitchen to clean up from breakfast and make my to-do list for the day. She almost always runs over and says, “Mommy color!” So, we each sit with a pencil and a piece of paper and make our “to-do lists.” We put them on the fridge and she always seems quite satisfied with herself.
We haven’t done this nearly as much as I would like, but with the hot summer behind us, I have high hopes of reinstating regular outdoor time. It is usually a walk, playing with chalk or watering the plants together.
Right now, morning snack is usually fruit or a LÄRABAR
Books with Mommy
We like to sit and read whatever her favorite book is at the time, plus our library books.
At this point, Little’s received a lot of quality time with Mommy and does well with independent playtime. I usually sit next to where she is playing and do blog work or home administrative things.
Occasionally, Often, I can get caught up in what I’m doing and wait a little to long to make lunch and Little starts to get tired. Ideally, I would be perfectly in tune with her and make lunch right on time, but it’s honestly not a strong point of mine. So, eventually, we have lunch together and I’m working on being present at the table with her. It’s easy for me to jump on social media while I’m sitting at the table with her, but I’m trying to have more self-control in this area.
Nap Time Routine
Depending on how desperately tired she is, we start nap time routine with a book. However, if she’s already over-tired we skip this part. She gets a clean diaper, helps me close the blinds and we sing a song.
During this time I clean up from lunch, do blog work, or…take a nap too. Haha, lately it’s been the latter.
Often our afternoon snack is a green smoothie, which Little affectionately refers to as her “buddy.” She enjoys helping me make it and looks for a little reassurance when the blender is running.
This is currently the most idealistic part of our routine. We have done some music, numbers or Spanish activities. These activities only take about 10 minutes in actuality. I’m currently working on putting together a realistic curriculum for this part of the day.
This is one of our favorite parts of the day. We get two brooms, two spray bottles (one filled with water) and two wash cloths and do our chore of the day. It definitely takes a lot longer when we clean this way, but she looks so proud of herself and I enjoy the time with her. We’ve also used this time to do baking or meal prep together. She likes to take things that I’ve chopped and put them in the mixing bowl for me, or she has her own little bowl to put things in and stir with a spoon.
Independent Play / Errands
I’m not sure what it is, but usually this is around 3:00 P.M and I’m dragging. Sometimes we get out of the house to run errands, but more often than not, I do blog work or read next to her while she plays.
Make Dinner / Clean Toys
This is usually Little’s most impatient time of the day and she just wants to be picked up. I am far from the master of this time of day, and am open to any good advice!
At this point, Hubby is usually home and we have dinner together.
Lately Hubby has been reading portions of a toddler devotional with us after dinner.
We slowly make our way to Little’s room and do her bedtime routine. The phrase, “Just one more book,” is our constant companion at this time of day. Whether that book was actually the last one remains to be seen.
There is another, more ambiguous, if not more important part of our daily routine that you can read about in my most popular post, 5 Ways to Communicate Love to a Toddler. Again, this is an idealistic perspective that never plays out perfectly. I wouldn’t change that. It’s a cliché quote, but, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” This routine allows me to have actionable intentions through the day, but I won’t be dis-heartened or feel like a failure if our day doesn’t look like this. Here’s to plans written in pencil!
I love this! My husband and I are trying to have a baby, so I am so happy I cam across this. Bookmarking it 🙂
Love this! Our mornings are pretty lazy, but I do love the devotional time so much. What a great idea!
Jacki Q says
This is a great routine and very similar to ours! I agree that there should be some kind of expected routine as it helps littles one tremendously.
I love this .. our schedule is very similar too and I love that you add in devotional time! Great job mama!
LOVE this! Our devotional time is set to the side for the evening, when all the family is together. Favorite part of my day!
That’s great Pamela! It’s a special time of day. 🙂
Nichole Snellgrove says
I love how you included devotional time into your days together! Our schedule looks completely different because I am a working mom, but I love the idea of making a schedule in writing. Today was the first day I woke up an extra 30 minutes early to have some time to myself before waking up my son and getting him ready for the day. It was so helpful and I am going to try to continue waking up early, although it is something I really struggle at. Thanks so much for sharing!
Thanks Nichole! That’s an awesome way to start the week!
Marla | Because I Said So Baby says
Having a good routine – even if it doesn’t happen every day, is essential for me! You’re right, otherwise by mid-day we still be in pjs!
AMIRA AZIMI says
The quote you started with says it all, but this is a great start! I love that you have Bible time here. My kids and I do bible time before bed.
Niki @ Toot's Mom is Tired says
I usually try to get a nap in when she takes a nap in the afternoon too. I usually have a long day with her on Saturdays because her dad works all day and sometimes doesn’t get home until after she goes to bed so I need that nap to recharge!
Megan | ChickadeeLIt.com says
Lauren, this looks great! A perfect guide for newer parents. If you are ever looking for new books for storytime, check out my blog or Instagram @chickadee.lit. I’m OBSESSED with kids books. <3
Thanks Megan! I will check it out!
tineke - workingmommyabroad says
Love your routine! I should be a bit more intentional with or routine… And i really like the little helper idea, so fun!
Ashley Freligh says
Love the routine! Routines work for us, but I am working on “penciling” in our schedule so I don’t get flustered if we are off.
Five Marigolds says
We are not nearly this intentional with our routine! Having older children throws a wrench into some of this, with other activities to attend, school pick up and drop off, etc. but I love the idea. 🙂
I can imagine! We are having our second baby at the end of this year, and I can’t even imagine what our schedule will look like after that!
Suzanne Hines says
This is a really great list! I think that I need to start incorporating more intentional and educational times into our days. I’m not quite ready for “preschool”, but I’m loving the idea of adding an educational activity in every day!
Thanks Suzanne! I’m definitely still trying to figure that out for us, it can be tricky. 🙂
What a sweet routine! I love having a routine with my little. It makes the day go much smoother! Thanks for sharing!!
What book do you use for toddler devotional?
Hi Savannah. Right now we are using “My Little Treasury Bible Stories.” I think it works better for young toddlers.
Bre | Maintaining Me says
Thanks for sharing! I love seeing how other people plan their day.
Angela Kim says
I especially like the part of starting the day with the bible and ending it with a devotional. Just those two alone can make all the difference. I need to make a habit of this too. Thank you for the reminder!
This is very similar to our schedule! Although, I use the term “schedule” loosely because my toddler tends to love to throw me curveballs 😉
Great read! The routine is so similar to ours except our naps have seemed to be consistent before lunches! But independent play is so important for our little ones!
Thanks Chelsea! You’re absolutely right about independent play.