Establishing Toddler Routines

5 Perks of a Structured Day

It's worth the effort: Within a few weeks of establishing a routine, you'll notice these five benefits.

Your toddler will gain confidence.

When a 1-year-old can identify what comes next in his day, he feels more comfortable and capable. It's soothing too: Knowing there's always a sippy cup waiting for him after his nap or that he'll get to read Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? once he brushes his teeth will help him feel he has a little more control over his world.

You'll put an end to bedtime battles.

Toddlers with consistent nighttime schedules tend to fall asleep easier and sleep longer than kids who don't have a regular evening routine, says Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, editor of The Wonder Years. That's because once your child gets used to a specific sequence of events, she'll settle down and get ready to nod off. Maya Feehely, a 14-month-old from Toronto, has a cup of milk at 8:30 p.m. Then she and her mother, Anne, play for a while. At 9:00, her dad takes her upstairs for a bath, books, and a prayer. Then he puts her down at 9:30 (the Feehelys pushed back Maya's bedtime because she had been waking up extremely early in the morning). "She smiles and waves to me and goes upstairs, which tells me she understands that the bedtime routine is starting," says her mom.

A schedule can be flexible.

Once you have a routine in place, your child may actually be more adaptable when you need to shift it, such as when you?re going out for the evening or spending an overnight at Grandma's. "Toddlers with routines also seem to adjust better to stressful situations, such as moving, switching daycare centers, or welcoming a baby sibling," says Dr. Altmann. Carol Carmody was concerned about how her 19-month-old son, Jimmy, would handle a recent plane ride. "We knew we'd have to wake him up halfway through his nap to make our flight," says the mom from Kensington, Maryland. "But as it turned out, he was fine. I think putting him down at a consistent time was more important than how long he slept."

Your child may have fewer meltdowns.

You know how quickly a 1-year-old can become cranky when she's tired or hungry. But a schedule can help her chill out (for a while). For instance, once your toddler gets used to the idea that she'll eat lunch as soon as you get home from picking up her older sibling at preschool, she'll learn to wait a bit before losing it. "Kids with a routine are better at handling momentary chaos," says Dr. Burnham.

It helps moms get through the day.

Having a routine lets you know exactly when you'll get a respite, which makes it easier to deal with the trying moments during the day. Just ask Michele Staron, a mom in Las Vegas. "I'm wiped out by dinnertime," she says, "but since I know with certainty that my 17-month-old, Austin, will be asleep at 8 p.m., I can get through those last few hours without losing it."

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