Toddlers are very active little people, and between trying to get out of the house in the morning, to coping with a tot who naps soundly at teatime and then spends much of the night wide awake, it can seem like your household is somewhat lacking in order, let alone a daily routine.
But it’s really worth working to get one sorted. “Having a routine in place can help keep you and your toddler calm and settled, and prepare her for starting school or nursery when the time comes,” explains childcare expert Katy Hayden (www.tinies.co.uk). Just take your toddler’s day bit by bit, and with a little planning and organisation you’ll keep her settled, and the rest of the family the right side of sane. Here’s how…
Boys are often slower than girls at becoming dry at night.
1) Stick to a wake-up time
Whatever you’ve got planned for the day ahead, try and have a set wake-up time for you and your child. “Whether you’re heading out or staying at home, it helps to have structure to your mornings,” says Katy. “This way your toddler will know what she’s going to be doing and when.” Go into her room and say good morning and half open her curtains or blinds so she can see it’s morning and time to get going.
Of course things will run more smoothly first thing if she rises bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to face the day with a grin. This will be largely dependent on how much sleep she’s had the night before and whether she’s still tired. “In an ideal world, aim for a 7pm bedtime and a 7am wake-up,” advises sleep expert Jo Tabiner. “Go for 12 hours sleep a night, and try not to let her sleep in late in the morning, as then she won’t be tired enough for any naps and bedtime that evening.”
Keep whatever wake-up time you pick consistent at weekends and on holidays so your toddler doesn’t fall out of sync with her routine.
2) Sit down for breakfast
Didn’t your mum always say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Well, she was right, as it gives your toddler (and you) energy to cope with the day ahead. Try as much as you can to sit together at the table to give her a chilled-out start.
“It can be difficult to eat as a family when you’re busy and running around in the morning,” says paediatric dietitian Judy More. “So plan ahead to eat together, and maybe think about getting up a little earlier to make time for this so your toddler doesn’t feel rushed and stressed, which can affect her appetite.”
Think about breakfast before you go to bed, and take five minutes to lay the table and check what you’ve got to eat so you don’t have a mad rush in the morning when you’ve got a hungry tot.
Make the most of the commons and parks in Wandsworth
3) Plan an outing
Mornings can be a long old slog for the under 3s, so have activities planned to keep your tot busy, and plan when and where you’ll be having your lunch. “It’s fine to have lazy days at home, but having a regular outing or class to go to will keep your toddler alert and give you something to tempt her with when you need to get out,” says Katy. “Let your child know what’s happening and where you’re both going. This way you’ll avoid tears and tantrums if you spring it on her.” If you’re going out, get your bag packed and at the door, and know your route. So, if she does throw a wobbly, she won’t delay you too much.
“Make a wall chart and buy stickers so your toddler can place each one on the chart at the time you’re going to be doing it,” suggests Katy. “For example, if you’re off to the park, get her to put a sticker with something to do with a park (a tree or some swings) on the chart. This way she can understand what’s happening and when.”
Get your baby used to taking drinks from a cup rather than a bottle
4) Keep the drinks flowing
If your toddler is always thirsty and stopping for a top-up, it can interrupt the routine for the day. “It’s normal for tots to drink a lot, so offer your little one 6 to 8 drinks a day, and offer them with each meal or snack your toddler eats so that you keep her fluid intake up,” advises Judy. If she asks for more then do give her a top-up as every child has different needs, but try to avoid lots of juice or squash as they have a high sugar content. “Water is the best drink to give during the day, but if you’re giving her juice, dilute it well with water,” suggests Judy. “Keep milk to a minimum of three small glasses a day, too, as it contains salt.”
If your tot is still using bottles, gradually phase in beakers whenever she sits down for a meal or snack so she starts to understand food and drink go together, and when she does drink, she uses a big girl’s cup.