Life with a toddler can seem like you're living out the movie Groundhog Day. Monday to Sunday it's the same schedule again and again, from singing a wake-up song in the morning to giving her a bath before bedtime at night. Although your child's toddlerhood is something you'll look back on and cherish, in the moment the everyday routine can start to feel pretty dull. But to your little one, it's heavenly. Case in point: If the consistency is broken -- when you head off on vacation, say -- she has no problem letting you (and everyone within a 16-foot radius) know how she feels about missing her morning snack-and-blocks session or sleeping in an unfamiliar room.
Toddlers are sticklers for predictability because a reliable schedule helps them feel safe (Mom might go to work in the morning, but she comes back in time to feed me dinner) while teaching them about their boundaries (we'll read three books before bed, not four). "It increases their sense of security because they know what's coming next," says Jean M. Thomas, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, in Washington, D.C. "The more secure toddlers feel, the more they can focus on things like learning, exploring, and playing." You can help your child establish good patterns and also increase her flexibility with these smart scheduling tips.