Do you find yourself in long, drawn-out days with your toddler? Yep, me too. Some days just seem to drag because even though there are things we COULD be doing, I can’t convince myself to just get up and do it. That leads to a toddler running around the house, acting like a maniac, jumping and climbing on me, and constantly whining. Being a stay-at-home mom can be rough because really, you don’t have a set work schedule and it’s so easy to get caught up in staying cooped up all day not doing anything. It’s taken me a little while to tweak some things in my day, but right now I think Allison and I have a good routine going. I have some tips to structure your day with a toddler, and while some might seem obvious, it helps me to have a list to run down in my head: Did we do this yet? Do we have time for this before lunch? It’s not perfect by any means, but hopefully this will give you a few ideas to add to your day.
I don’t know about your toddler, but mine loves to climb and run around. Most of her energy seems to be in the morning, so we usually go on an outing after breakfast. It varies depending on the day and week; if it’s a nice day outside, we’ll go the park (a 10 minute walk for us!), a local historical park, or even Kings Island during the summertime. On bad weather days, we’ll head to the children’s museum, our McDonalds playplace, or even just to the store to look around; Allison loves to visit the toy section to look at and play with the toys, and luckily she hasn’t learned to start asking for everything she sees!
Sometimes I feel bad for dragging her out every morning, but I think we both need it. I tend to get really bad cabin fever, and Allison needs to run around and I need steps, so it works out. I dread the winter again, so I’ll have to load up on ideas to keep her active inside on those cold days.
I’m not sure if Allison really needs a morning snack anymore. She eats breakfast around 7:30 and lunch is at noon, and she’s gone without snacks during that time fairly often; but I usually eat breakfast at 6:00, and I always get a morning snack, so I figure it’s not fair for her to just watch me eat. Her snacks typically consist of Goldfish or other crackers/cereal of some sort, and very rarely it’s string cheese. It’s something simple that I can easily pack in a little container if we go out somewhere.
I figured I’d put lunch on here, even though you should obviously feed your kid lunch; but I put it here to say that we eat at pretty much the same time every day, which is when we get home from our morning outing. That way Allison knows what to expect.
Quiet time/nap time
This happens in the middle of our day, when we both need a short break to wind down from the morning. Our routine for after lunch is go potty, read 2 books, and watch a movie. Allison doesn’t nap anymore, which I’m very sad about, but we can both sit on the couch together, watching a movie while I get a little more work done. For some of you, you can replace the movie with an actual nap, or have them lay quietly in bed reading a book. We just happen to like our screen time. =)
The time between quiet time and cooking dinner, from about 2:30-4:00, seems to be the hardest part of the day for me. We already went out, already had some screen time… so now I try to find little things to keep her busy. For us, this includes:
- Reading books (Sometimes ALL the books)
- Playing with her Little People
- Felt cutouts
- Crafts (Only if I’m feeling adventurous, like painting)
- Play Doh
Sometimes we’ll even just go outside for a little while, to play with chalk or go for a walk around the neighborhood. We’ve actually gone to the park a couple times recently, because Allison’s suddenly all wound up again and is bouncing off the walls.
I’ll be honest, cooking dinner with a toddler used to be tough. I used to just have her play in the living room, sometimes whining because I wasn’t playing with her. I tried little activities to keep her busy, but they didn’t last very long. So I’m “that mom” that lets her little toddler play with a tablet while I cook. She has her own Kindle with a childproof cover, and she’ll sit at the kitchen table and do puzzles, memory games, color, and sometimes watch Daniel Tiger. She can’t download anything she’s not supposed to, and she’s learning at the same time she’s playing these games. I’m actually surprised at how good her memory is when she plays those card games!
For those who don’t have a tablet or choose not to have screentime, here are some other activities your toddler might enjoy:
I need to tell you how important it is to have a bedtime routine. When Allison knows what’s coming up next, she has a much better time adjusting and gearing her mind toward the next activity. And it doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out routine; here’s what we do every night:
- Bath (Every other night)
- Brush teeth
- Get water
- Read 2 books
- Pray, then get into bed
On a typical night, that’ll take between 20-30 minutes, depending on how well she cooperates. And let me just tell you how much she throws a fit if we don’t do any of these things. One night we were driving home from Indiana, which was about a 2 hour drive. It was after 10:00 when we got home, and I just wanted to go to bed. She finally fell asleep like 20 minutes before we got home, and I attempted to get her out and put her straight in bed, but she woke up and FREAKED because I didn’t do any of the routine. She cried the entire time we did everything because she was just so tired, but had to complete everything on our checklist. That’s how strong a routine is, friends. If you can find something that works for you, do it every night without fail. I promise, it gets easier.
I hope you have a better idea now of how you can keep your day a little more structured! I’m definitely not perfect, but doing these things every day makes life run more smoothly, and we’re so much happier. I’d love to hear about your routines as well; I’m always in search of more ideas!