What’s your daily routine with toddlers?
If I had a dollar for every time I was asked about my daily routine…. well, I’d have like $100 but I know you get me. I’m asked this question all the time and I’m more than happy to share what our typical day looks like.
I’ll be honest – it doesn’t seem terribly Earth shattering to me, but you know what? It’s working, it’s working well, and it’s been working for me for 5 years now so I definitely get an A+ for finding a daily routine that jives with my life.
The best daily routine is what’s best for you!
Every family is different and it would be crazy town to think we’d all have a similar schedule. The best schedule is whatever schedule works for you and your kids. Don’t get bogged down by my schedule. It’s meant for me.
Things to know about my family
1. My kids aren’t in any activities outside the home. We don’t have school or day care, we don’t have sports or dance, we don’t take any lessons. Being “unbusy” is a big deal to me but that’s a topic for a whole different post. But I wanted to mention it so you weren’t trying to figure out how I juggle those pieces. I don’t juggle them because they aren’t there.
2. My kids are all 20 months apart from each other. At the time of this post, my kids are newly 5, 3 years old, and 21 months old.
3. This has pretty much been my daily routine since my first born came home from the hospital.
My daily routine with 3 kids – here we go!
(You’ve probably already figured out that I’m a Stay-At-Home-Mom, but real quick: I’m also a former kindergarten and first grade teacher. Little ones are my life’s work.
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7 am (ish): Wake Up – I get ready FIRST
I start my day before my kids. Let me rephrase that: I start my day WITHOUT my kids. I wake up a tad before them or at the same time, and begin getting myself showered and ready WITHOUT them. Call me crazy, but I don’t need an audience for my shower.
Where are my kids?
With exception to any child still in “baby” form, my kids are playing quietly in their rooms. We taught them to do this when we transitioned them from crib to bed. When they wake up, they simply begin quietly playing. This is around 6:30 – 7 am.
We taught them this by placing a toddler door lock on their door for safety reasons (I didn’t need to worry about a 20 month old wandering my house at night). When they got older and needed to use the bathroom, we removed the lock but the expectation remained the same: quietly play until we (mom or dad) come get you.
Want to start this process with your child? Try using an OK to Wake Clock. Let your child know they can’t leave their room until the clock turns green. It works. I know lots of friends who do this.
So, I wake up and start getting dressed while my oldest two have independent playtime. They love this and I love this. My 21 month old is still in “baby form”, so he’s my morning get-ready helper and I’m cool with that.
My whole day hinges on this – this sets the tone. A clean and showered Mom who had a chance to start coffee and maybe make her bed, is a happy Mom.
8 am (ish): Get the “Big” Kids – and tidy up
Now that I’m dressed and ready for the day, it’s time to get the big kids, around 8 am. They’ve just had plenty of time to wake up, have had loads of independent / imaginative play, and are ready to start the day.
First stop: tidying up their room WITH THEM immediately after saying good morning.
Well, for starters, we’re all there so we might as well clean up. AND it motivates them to NOT make it a giant mess. Little messes clean up quick.
Yep, it’s cartoon time. Or Mister Rogers time. Whatever we feel like that morning. Paw Patrol isn’t that bad.
I make breakfast while they watch ONE show. This helps me cook in peace and get things set downstairs in peace.
But I try (keyword: try) to turn off the TV after that single episode rather than leaving it on. Life is better for us that way. It becomes harder and harder to turn off as the morning wears on.
Time for some “every day” chores
We all eat breakfast together but the kids eat slow so I finish and chat with them as I unload the dishwasher (I always start it after dinner the night before). I clean up the kitchen from breakfast and by now, the kids are done and it’s 9 ish.
I wipe them down and off they scatter to go play – back to independent play. I’m a big believer in what Mister Rogers said, “Play is the work of childhood.” So off they go to their jobs, and I can do mine.
This is when I start laundry, tidy up the downstairs, and get kids dressed.
My trick to keeping the house clean?
I never clean the house all-at-once. I don’t have an hour to devote to cleaning.
You know what I do have?
5 minutes here and 5 minutes there. I Clorox wipe the bathroom after I use it. I start the laundry as I come downstairs to get the kids snacks. I Windex while they’re eating lunch. A little here. A little there.
If time is ticking backwards….
This is when we often do an activity. If we need a little something extra and fun to do OR if we have time before we need to be somewhere. I never do a complicated activity – those aren’t my style. Just something quick and easy, and fun for the kids.
I also set up activities if I need a minute to breathe.
Or I need to do some extra cleaning.
Or someone is having a rough morning and needs something extra.
**if I have a baby who is taking a morning nap, this is when that nap would happen and we’d leave the house after their nap.
10:30 ish: We leave the house. ALWAYS.
Everyday, around 10-10:30 am, we have a quick snack and then leave the house.
(expect in a pandemic. Read my pandemic daily schedule here)
This is crucial to my day. My mom taught me to leave the house everyday. “It’s something to do!”
We don’t do giant activities each day, like visit a zoo. We do small things. Mondays are the grocery store. On Thursday, we see my Mom. Costco is an outing. Going to a construction site and sitting in the car is an outing. Driving to Starbucks just to go through the drive-thru – it counts!
Anything to leave the house.
12:30 pm: We come back home for lunch.
Around noon-ish, we come back home for lunch.
Some days, I’m really up on my game and make our lunch sandwiches in the morning – back around breakfast time when things were calm.
Now it’s mid-day, naps are near and people are hangry. Making sandwiches ahead of time is a HUGE help.
We have lunch and then guess what? The kids scatter to play (yep, back to playing) and I tidy up from lunch.
Before their naps, we ALL do one final “blitz” of the house and tidy up their toys, we all play “vacuum chase” and suddenly it’s 1:30 pm and the biggest chunk of the day is mostly done (insert dancing lady emoji).
1:30 pm – 3:30 pm: Nap time is sacred time.
I’m a big believer in naps. I’m a big believer in rest time. My two youngest nap from about 1:30-3:30 pm.
My oldest plays in his room quietly and has his own personal time in there. We kept the nap time ritual / expectation with him: play quietly and rest up. (read more about quite time here)
I have some strict rules for myself during this time: I don’t clean at nap time. I don’t do house work. I take my “union break” and rest.
Actually, I work my be-hind off on Busy Toddler but that’s my life, not yours (wink). You should sit.
But when do I prep dinner?
You know the very end of nap time? How you can just “hear” it coming? You hear the moving of beds and bodies. That’s when I move to the kitchen real quick to get dinner prepped.
Sometimes, I just get it all prepped into little bowls so I can play “Food Network Star” as I throw my ingredients together later.
Other times, I’ll make the whole casserole and set it to the side to bake later.
(Sometimes, I prep dinner while they eat lunch because they are contained and busy eating so no one bugs me – wink.)
3:30 – 5:30 pm: The end of day, before dinner drag
We’re lucky: we have neighborhood kids who all play together almost every day. Days when we don’t all play together are days I remember how lucky I am.
The before dinner, after nap time can draaaaaag. So this is another time where we do activities – easy activities that don’t require much work.
This is also the time I work the hardest to keep the TV off, so we go on walks, or to parks, or into the backyard. Or take Popsicles baths.
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5:30 pm: Dinnertime and the changing of the guard
Around 5:30, Dad gets home and we high five – and transfer the “primary parenting role” from one to the other. Dad takes over as primary caregiver for the evening. He facilitates after dinner play, baths, and getting ready for bed. I’m his behind the scenes assistant getting things ready for the next day.
We start the bedtime process at 7 pm and all kids are in bed with the lights off by 7:30. Baths and bedtime go fast for us – we keep things smooth, on schedule, and on script. Bath, teeth brush, books, drinks, bed. Done.
7:30 pm: The day is done!
I make sure the house is in good condition before I go to bed so I’m never facing a giant clean up tasks. Those are depressing and no one wants to wake up to that.
It’s not a fancy day, but it’s a good day. It’s a simple day. We play a lot – they play independently or with each other so well. And I can come and go, sit and watch, or play along too. “Play is the work of childhood” and I want my kids to be good at it.
A few questions I’ve gotten about our daily routine:
- When did the baby nap in the morning? When I had a morning nap baby, this always happened right after breakfast, around 9 am. Baby could nap, big kids could play and do activities, and I could get some housework done. Once baby was up, we’d hit the road.
- How do you get your kids to play independently? This is a big answer for another post, but mostly, it’s an expectation – the same way I expect them to sit at the table or to keep their car seat buckled.
- How do you leave each day with 3 kids?! I taught myself how. We didn’t go to the zoo on the first day. We went to McDonalds, if I’m being honest, and my Mom was our adult chaperone. But through baby steps, believing in myself, being willing to ask strangers for help, and by having the attitude that “worst case scenario: we leave and go back home” – we’ve made it.
So that’s my daily routine!
What’s working for your daily routine? I’d love to hear more about how you schedule your day – it’s always fun hearing how everyone structures their days.