Inside: A 2 year old routine that will help make more peaceful days with your little one. Know that these samples take into account “optimal” meal times and nap times according to common wisdom, but of course, every family is different.
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I love me some 2 year olds. I mean… they’re just *that* much easier than 1-year-olds (the hardest age for me) and they are so busy.
Developing skills, personality, and vocabulary.
They also need to be occupied well, supervised constantly, and stimulated more than their younger siblings.
This 2 year old routine is also generally the one I use for my 3-year-olds as well, but this is the age where they come into their own.
They’ve dropped their morning naps, are able to go with the flow a bit more, and can even play by themselves without constant monitoring for longer periods.
In This 2 Year Old Routine Post...
Basis of a Schedule or Routine for 2 Year Olds
Here are things to take into account when creating a good 2 year old routine.
- Wake times
- Nap times
- Bed times
- Play times
- Meal times
- Snack times
Needs of a 2-year-old
2-year-olds are their own breed.
They are a lot of work, but they say the dangdest things, don’t they?
- Repetition | Toddlers need repetition and consistency. This is the easiest way to teach them to follow their routine without nagging.
- Boundaries | Your 2-year-old will push the envelope, test the waters, and find out where the family boundaries lie. This is good all around, but does require consistency on your part.
- Emotional help | There are big emotions going on at this age. You’ll need to both hear them out, make them feel understood, and teach them how they are allowed to express their emotions and how they are not.
- Sleep | 2-year-olds still need a nap. They’ll try to pretend they don’t and will even go a few weeks at a time where they lay in the crib talking to themselves instead of sleeping. Persevere, don’t give up because of a 2 year sleep regression, and they’ll nap again soon. Also, lack of sleep will contribute to night terrors so, we want to avoid that.
- Routine | Never is a routine more helpful than when your child is growing so much developmentally. Again, you don’t have to be hampered by the clock, but find something that works and stick with it. And know that not having a routine can result in over-tiredness and even bedtime battles in the evening.
Sample Routine / Schedule for a 2 year old
- 7:30 am – Wake up and eat breakfast
- 8:30 am – Free play or sibling play
- 9:00 am – Independent play in location chosen by mom
- 10:00 am – Outside play and snack (snacking tips here)
- 11:00 am – Indoor activity, reading, crafts
- 12:00 pm – Lunch
- 12:30 pm – Wind down to nap
- 1:00 pm – Afternoon nap
- 3:30 pm (or when nap is over) – Afternoon snack
- 4:00 pm – Free play, calm activity, screen time
- 5:30 pm – Dinner
- 6:15 pm – Bath and bedtime routine for whole family
- 7:15 to 7:30 – Bedtime
Now, let’s break it down.
Now, if you are not a “clock oriented” person you’ll be very interested to read my post on how South Africans manage their time.
This will give you all the benefits of a schedule, but that may better fit your own personality.
Because, no matter how good a routine is for your child, if you can’t manage to keep the routine, then you’ll be the one who’s frustrated!
7:30 am | Wake Up
Even if my toddler wakes up a bit early, he stays in his crib until this time. This is breakfast time. Awesome tip: when you serve breakfast is when their metabolism signals them to wake up. It’s the easiest way to get them to sleep later.
If you feed them at 5:30 am they’ll wake then. I’m a stay-at-home-mom so I know this time won’t work for everyone. This clock might help if they are an early riser.
8:30 am | Free play
We do breakfast leisurely. We eat slow, put dishes away slow, and mosey away from the table slow. After that I let the kids free play for a bit to ease into the day.
I try not to let this go on long enough they start fighting and going nuts, but I let them figure out what they’d like to do next whether it’s riding bikes, playing with the bunny, or just messing around with toys. You can find age appropriate bestselling toys here.
9:00 am | Independent play
Now, depending on the season, this time slot may change. Independent play is essentially letting your child play alone with their toys uninterrupted by you or siblings.
10:00 am | Outside play and snack
If we skip snack time, things go haywire. I am okay with letting the kids go hungry on occasion.
However, without a proper fulfilling snack they may stand by your side begging for veggie sticks or grapes until you want to bang your head against the wall.
I love sending them all outside. We have a designated fenced play area, but if it’s summer we’re by the pool all morning or in the front yard with the hose and the dirt.
There is usually a lot less fighting outside and the squeals seem less… grating. (Here are 7 things to do when it gets too noisy)
10:45 am | Indoor activity
I don’t do an indoor activity every day. And, the days I do, “activity” is loose over here. This can mean building together, reading a book, or even doing chores.
There will be a time during the day when you need to do something structured or – at least – led by you.
This is character building, helps teach them to obey instructions, and means they aren’t trying to find something to get into or throw in the toilet.
11:15 am | Free play
I let my son (who is currently 2) find something he likes to do and either let him at it or join in if I’m able. On the days when my mother’s helper (2 mornings a week) is here, she will often play with him.
This might be Spot It or it might be trucks in the dirt.
12:00 pm | Lunch
I aim for lunches that are filling enough to last through a good long nap. I don’t do short order cooking, but I try to offer quite a few filling options on their plate so even if they don’t eat it all (and since I don’t engage in meal time battles) they are still fairly full.
After lunch, I have them put their dishes in the sink or dishwasher (ahem, if I’ve emptied it from the night before) then we mosey down the hall to get ready for naps.
Nap time can be a struggle if your child isn’t “Buying In.” Here is how you can get your child to buy into their routine.
Hang these cards up and teach your child to follow their routine.
12:30 pm | Wind down to nap
This doesn’t always pan out as I hope, but all in all I try to utilize this calm down method or have someone else (if they’re around) read to some of the kids so I can get the others to their rooms.
Here are some wind down routines for bedtime and many apply to nap time as well.
1:00 pm | Nap
It doesn’t always happen at exactly 1, but 1 is the goal. This means by around this time all the kids are in their rooms with lights out to nap or, those who are old enough they don’t need a nap every day, have a few quiet activities they can play independently.
My 5-year-old may only nap once a week, and my 4-year-old only 4 days a week or so.
4:00 pm | Wake up and snack
The time at which everyone wakes up varies. If my older kids aren’t napping they can come out of their rooms after a couple of hours and do something quiet.
Or they often go into each other’s rooms to play quietly. Often all the nappers will sleep until 5:00 pm if I let them!
I’ve found waking up cranky is remedied by a quick snack (not too filling or sweet).
4:30 pm | Free play, TV, or calm activity
If the weather is good the kids may play outside. If we are currently watching TV each day for a bit (I go through seasons where we do no TV all week except movie night for this particular reason) they may watch TV.
I like when the kids offer to help with dinner, but I can’t have all the kids underfoot so rotating which child can help avoids this and allows you one on one time.
5:30 pm | Dinner
We aim for eating between 5 and 5:30 pm. This is early, I know, but means we aren’t in a manic panic to do the wind down routine and the kids still get to bed at a reasonable hour.
Reasonable being between 7 and 7:30 pm most nights. This works for our family.
6:00 pm | Bath and bedtime routine
If we haven’t swam that day then it’s usually bath time, books, pajamas, and calm play before bed. That said, kids will be kids and calm can turn to chaos quickly.
My husband and I conquer and divide so each child can have a few minutes alone with each parent before bed. These wind down routines are key for babies, and I normally get baby duty. A mommy privilege!
7:15 pm | Bed
Sometimes this is a bit earlier or later, but around this time most kids are in bed.
My 2-year-old may often stay up and talk to himself (or sing God Bless America) in his crib if he’s had a late nap, but we’re okay with that.
He doesn’t cry or fuss so it’s less stimulating and more relaxing (not to mention consistent) for him to be in bed at similar times.
The Key to a Good 2 Year Old Routine
This may be so simple it goes without saying… but the key to a good routine is keeping the routine.
It can be hard to remember what all you want to do with an energetic two year old running around, but once you get the hang of it, routine will be second nature.
Here are some ways you can learn to keep your routine without the hassle.
Hang a routine reminder up.
If need help remembering the routine and want to teach your budding toddler to follow the routine at the same time (so you don’t have to nag) I recommend using our routine cards (shown below) or something similar you can whip up at home.
You hang them up in the appropriate room (bedroom for morning routine, bathroom for bath routine, kitchen fridge for mealtime routine, etc.) and then use them to help your child learn independence.
Set alarms around the house or on your phone.
While you don’t need to live and die by the clock, setting your phone, watch, or a timer will help you keep aware of routine transitions.
We can often get so wrapped up in what we’re doing we forget and we’re an hour or two past nap time and now they’re having trouble going down.
I set alarms on my phone that show on my watch and this works for us.
As with anything, if you want something to work then work it. Keep pushing what you’ve decided to do.
If it doesn’t work then change it up a bit and keep going. Move forward. I assure you 100% that a routine will work if you keep at it.
Want a copy of a 2 year old routine to hang up and follow? Print yours here.
Want Routine Printables to hang up?
We use these in our home and my Kindergartner even uses them to help herself get ready each morning. My son is looking forward to hanging his in his room as well.
These will help you point out what your child should do without always issuing commands and – you may be surprised – how much more cooperative your child becomes when they can see what’s next.
Get your own printable routine cards here!
I’ve created a free email series just for you! If you struggle with creating an easy flowing routine or rhythm in your home… this is it. I’ve gathered all my easiest routine hacks into one free series and, best of all, you can get a big sneak peak into our book that has over 25+ routines for babies ages 6 weeks to 5 years. This series will help you:
- find a routine and rhythm for your child
- learn how to juggle multiple routines (for 2 or 3+ kids)
- know what is and isn’t working so you can make one tweak that’ll change your day
Click here to sign up for my free email series or simply click on the image below.
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