Why Routines are Important for Toddlers

Establishing a morning routine for your toddler will help prevent negativity, frustration and delays for you and your children. The earlier this routine is established, the more organized your morning will be. Children are eager to learn, give them something they can grasp and improve upon. Once the routine is established, as your child/children get older, they will be able to take on more tasks themselves, thus giving you more time for other duties in the morning. Taking on more tasks will also increase their independence. The routine, when learned as a toddler, will become a natural part of the day.

Clear Expectations

Establish clear routine goals and expectations for your toddler. Keep it clear and simple. A toddler will not be able to remember multiple items at one time. A child learns best through experience and observation. Create 3-5 concise action items for the morning routine and refer to them often. Ensure all rules are visible (consider the use of illustrations) to your toddler and easily discernible.

The List

Give your toddler routine items that are simple for them, but essential for seamless morning routine. A few examples of action items include:

Get dressed Eat breakfast Brush teeth Put on shoes Clean floor

A toddler knows to go to the kitchen when it’s time to eat. Have breakfast ready to go. This will ensure your toddler doesn’t get distracted thus derailing the routine. You can lay out the toothpaste or place it in an easily accessible location so he/she can get to it independently. Dressing and putting on shoes are also tasks that a toddler learns early and can do independently. All these items promote independence. The last item, clean floors, refers to picking up your toddler’s bedroom, which also promotes personal responsibility.

Evening Prep

To get things moving more fluid in the morning, consider prepping the night before. You are not taking away anything from your toddler’s routine by preparing materials for the next day. Lay out their outfit the night before. Ensure the toothpaste and toothbrush is in an easily accessible location in the bathroom. Pre-arrange breakfast items on the counter for the morning meal. These preparatory techniques can be modified as your toddler ages so they can take part in evening preparation as well. The child/children can lay out their own outfit, independently selected, and preapproved by mom, of course.

For further reading on this subject: Rethinking the Brain: New Insights into Early Development. New York, NY: Families and Work Institute. Shore, R. (1997).