As a new parent, you spend a good deal of time looking after your baby. Feeding, changing nappies, putting your little one to bed, and playtime are a part of your daily routine, and it can feel challenging to meet all these needs as well as your own, and balance chores and other responsibilities.
Many new parents find that it gets easier to look after babies as well as toddlers when you set some kind of a schedule for all their activities and therefore make things more planned and set a pattern.
What Does It Mean To Set A Schedule?
You will notice that your little one begins to have some kind of pattern in their everyday. To make things easier for both mom and baby, you can try to make a consistent pattern for meals, naps, sleep and play, called a schedule.
Why You Need A Schedule For Your Toddler
Setting a routine of timings for feeding, naps and playtime can help make your day easier and less chaotic. For your little one, a routine allows a sense of security, because they will know what to expect around what time.
Children find a sense of comfort when things go in a routine pattern, and this can put them in the right mood to explore their world, especially when they’re not sleep-deprived or hungry.
It also makes it easier for you to allow a grandparent or friend to babysit your little one when you can’t, because you simply have to let them know about the schedule your little one follows. The routine not being broken, your baby will be relatively comfortable.
When You Can Start
Babies are usually ready for a schedule around the age of 2-4 months. By this time, your baby might have started to follow certain patterns of eating, sleeping and active or awake time. You can encourage this to be more consistent by observing the baby’s regular patterns of eating and sleeping and trying to create the schedule around them.
Starting it early can help you set some kind of schedule for the baby when they grow up to be a toddler.
How To Create A Schedule
The schedule you set for your little one should have a rough structure, but also allow for flexibility. The schedule can either be based on the patterns your baby follows or a schedule that has been suggested by an expert. Here are some things you should keep in mind:
1. Wake Time
Try to set a wake time that is roughly the same everyday. Most babies wake at around 6.30 to 7 am so don’t try to wake them earlier. Don’t wake them up, because they usually will get up on their own. Allow them some time to get used to being awake - they may play in the crib, or just look around. Then, get them to brush their teeth and get ready for the rest of the day.
2. Make Breakfast Part Of The Routine
Always have a set time for breakfast, because eating breakfast is one of the good habits your toddler should form at a young age. Some kids may wake up hungry, so it’s a good idea to set a breakfast time that is close to wake time. Try to have breakfast together as a family, as it also gives your little one the social interaction and skills they need to learn now.
Usually, it’s good to include playtime in the late morning schedule, say, after breakfast. Playtime should also be a part of the late afternoon and evening. You usually don’t have to force playtime on your little one, because a well-fed and well-rested toddler often plays by themselves. Make sure to let playtime be a time for exploration, as well as a time when you can bond with your little one. Playtime is best enjoyed after breakfast, as well as after the afternoon nap, when your little one has been fed, as well as had enough rest.
4. Lunch And Dinner Times
Lunch time should ideally be around noon, so that you can also make time for a nap after. Allow your toddler some gap between dinner and bedtime. Before these meals, help them get cleaned up, change from dirty clothes to clean ones, and wash their hands - they’re good habits to teach your child right from the start. Have dinner together as a family, as this can help your little one understand table manners and social interaction better. It’s a great way for the family to bond.
Naps are important for toddlers, because between the age of 1 to 2 years, your little one’s growing body needs around 11 to 14 hours of sleep a night. You can schedule naps based on how much sleep your little one seems to need. A short nap of an hour or so after lunch helps your child feel well-rested while also leaving them sleepy enough to go to bed at night. You can also include a nap in the late morning, after playtime and before lunch, if they seem to be tired or sleepy.
6. Bedtime Routines
Stick to the same bedtime every night. Putting your toddler to bed can be really tricky, but when you follow a good routine every night before bed, it gives your little one an idea of when to expect bedtime, and will be able to sleep better. Allow for some playtime after dinner - it may help get your child tired and allow them to sleep. Whether it is a warm bath, a glass of milk, or a bedtime story, stick to the same routine as it allows your child to relax and feel secure before it is time to sleep.
7. Make Changes Slowly
Stick to a schedule for at least 2 months to make it a part of your toddler’s comfort zone. When you wish to adjust some the schedule, adjust one part of it at a time. Making too many changes at a time can make kids anxious, and throw your schedule out of control. For example, if you wish to change both snack times and nap times, start with changing either one, and wait for some time before you change the other.
It is also important to allow for some flexibility in your this schedule. Don’t feel the pressure to follow the schedule too strictly. Kids enjoy having some sense of freedom, so every once in a while, allow for a change from schedule. Parenting a little child is not exactly a cakewalk, so take small steps. You’ll eventually manage to form a schedule that feels right for both you and your baby!