A daily schedule for a two-year-old

Feb 18, 2016

A satisfying daily rhythm with my little ones makes life easier and helps us to create more opportunities for fun and learning during the day. In this post I share our typical routine, and the kinds of activities we do together every day.

Schedule

As babies, my sons settled gradually and naturally into predictable routines of sleep, play and feeding. When they grew a bit older I started to sketch out schedules for their days in response to their natural rhythms. Knowing what to expect each day helps all of us. Although I’m using the word ‘schedule’ here, really we’re very flexible and adapt our days according to circumstances: a bad night, glorious weather or a family visit easily lead us in new directions.

Our day is structured by a few predictable routines, which provide the scaffolding for all the fun stuff we do around them. The routine events like meals and sleep don’t change much from day to day. My just-turned two-year-old and my three-year-old follow roughly the same pattern, and have done for about a year now, so for us this has worked from ages one to three.

6.30am: Wake up. I don’t wake them up, obviously! They’re naturally early risers. Once they’re washed and dressed, they each drink a cup of milk, then it’s free play time. I don’t play this early but I’ll read them a story or two if they can’t settle happily to free play together. I do any small tasks such as unloading the dishwasher, cleaning, or setting up activities for later, and I drink my first coffee!

8am: Breakfast.

9am: Playtime. (See below for our typical activities.)

10am: Outside play and explore. We generally head around the corner to the playground at this time. It’s used by the local playgroups so the kids get to meet other children and play outside together. Alternatively we might play and explore in the garden, have a morning playdate, or go on a trip, such as to the library or the zoo.

Midday: Lunch. I usually read the boys a couple of storybooks as they eat, and talk to them about the books and their morning. After they eat, I clean up while they race and wrestle off some more energy together!

1pm-3pm: Naptime. I am so grateful to have kids that nap! I read them a story, then while they sleep I read, write, or organize our activities for the afternoon. Just now, I’m working on a novel so this is golden time!

3pm-5pm: Afternoon play. (See below for our activities.) Twice a week we go to a toddler gym class, and most weeks we also have one afternoon playdate. On the other days we play at home until it’s time for me to make dinner.

5.30pm: Dinner.

6pm: Play with dad! My husband usually gets home from work to find himself mobbed by two boys who want to wrestle and run around pretending to be ninjas. I clean up from dinner and breath a sigh of relief – it’s almost bedtime!

6.30pm: Bath. The boys have a long, playful bath together every night. I know it isn’t necessary to have a bath every day, but they enjoy it and it gets them ready mentally for bed.

6.45pm: Milk and a video. They sit with a drink of milk and watch a show together. Although we don’t have a TV, they watch up to 30 minutes at this time using Netflix, a DVD or YouTube. Their current favorites are Puffin Rock, Ben and Holly, Abney and Teal, The Very Hungry Caterpillar DVD and LeapFrog DVDs. The three-year-old loves Paw Patrol but it gets him too excited before bed, so we have to save that for special occasions!

7.15pm: Story and bed. After brushing teeth, their dad takes them to bed with a story and a song or two. He speaks with them in Hebrew, so this is one of the ways we make sure they get Hebrew time every day.

Writing down this timetable gives the impression that there isn’t much time left over for activities, but I’d say there is about three hours of shared indoor playtime in there most days, including one hour every morning that’s guaranteed and fairly structured. So what do we do with all that time? Here’s what I’ve found the two-year-old enjoys and needs:

1. Fine Motor Skills Activities: Puzzles, play dough, stickers, blocks, Duplo, threading

2. Art and Sensory: Scribbling with crayons, painting, printing, sensory bins, cutting and sticking activities, very simple crafts

3. Imaginative Play: Play with the farm, dollhouse, pirate ship, vehicles or puppets; simple role-plays, such as doctor, kitchen, picnic, pirates, firefighters, café, dens…

4. Reading: We read together often over the course of the day, and I also try to do one reading-related activity most days, such as acting out a story or doing a related art project.

5. Singing and Music: We sing and do finger plays throughout the day, but especially in the afternoon just before I make dinner. About once a week we pull out the instruments for an afternoon parade and some music play (not my favorite activity as it’s soooo noisy!).

6. Gross Motor Skills Activities: Most days we go to the playground or to toddler gym, so we don’t always need to do gross motor skills activities indoors. On days when going out is not possible we play with balloons or light balls, set up an obstacle course, or have a dance party.

7. Games: Hide and seek is still a favorite, and we’ve accumulated a number of commercial games that are suitable even for a two-year-old, and provide great ways for the boys to play together, develop cognitive skills, and learn about turn-taking. My youngest enjoys Roll & Play, Pop-up Pirate, Dotty Dinosaurs and this simple Lotto game. We also make up our own games, such as toddler charades.

We do something from each of these categories every day. I usually start around 9am with a fine motor activity, as these take the most concentration. We usually do the art activity right after their nap, and singing just before dinner. This flexible schedule keeps my two-year-old happy and exploring. My three-year-old has recently become a little more demanding and needs activities to suit his growing maturity, so although he does all this with his brother, I also include special activities for him each day, which I’ll write about in another post.

I understand that having my little ones at home with me through the day is an enormous blessing. Most parents will be structuring their days around work demands and other outside constraints. We have the luxury of being able to fall in with what works for us by nature, and I’m grateful for that. If you have come to this post looking for ways to organize your toddler’s day, I hope you found it useful. As a parent to a toddler, I’m sure you already know your little one’s particular needs for a successful day. For us, we need a gentle rhythm, time to play outside, plenty of stories, a variety of engaging activities catering to the children’s developmental needs, and lots of love!


If you’d like ideas for hundreds of simple playtime activities, check out my book: Word Boosting: A practical guide to encouraging your toddler’s language skills, with 365+ easy playtime activities. The book includes suggestions and strategies for supporting language learning as you play.


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This post is shared at Hip Homeschool Hop, A Little Bird Told Me and The Mommy Monday Blog Hop.

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