When parents talk about schedules for their infants and toddlers it is mostly thought of for parents of multiples. Schedules are a necessity for these parents, especially in the beginning, but research has shown that all children benefit from a solid routine.
Daily Schedule for Kids
According to the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning:
Studies have documented that schedules and routines influence children’s emotional, cognitive, and social development. Predictable and consistent schedules in preschool classrooms help children feel secure and comfortable. Also, schedules and routines help children understand the expectations of the environment and reduce the frequency of behavior problems, such as tantrums and acts of aggression.
It also helps parents to be able to manage their days, accomplish household tasks, plan outings and events with their children more effectively, and reduces overall stress in the house.
This does not mean you need to have a written schedule with strict time lines such as: lunch is at 12pm and never deviates. Instead think of it as a routine with a little leeway, especially for toddlers. Give yourself a half hour before or after a “scheduled time” for an event like a meal or nap.
Here is an example of a normal routine for an 18 month old:
7-7:30am Wake up, sippy, potty or diaper change
12:30-1pm Go down for nap
2:30-4pm Wake up from nap, sippy, and a snack
7pm Start bedtime routine and in bed by 7:30-8pm
It is important to have a bedtime routine. This helps signal the child that it is getting close to time to go to sleep. You should implement this as early as possible, even with newborns. It can be as simple as pj's, a bottle, singing a song, and putting down in their bed. It can also be as involved as a snack, sippy, bath, pj's, book, and then a “goodnight.” It is whatever works for your and your child.
Be consistent though. This will help the younger ones sleep through the night quicker and the older ones to sleep better and longer. Also be consistent with the time they go down. There will be occasions, like trips or family functions, that may result in a later bedtime but it shouldn't be an every week event. Also for the child to get the best sleep, it is recommended for infants and toddlers to be in bed by 8pm at the latest.
As your child gets older their schedules will change a little. Dropping naps, implementing solids, and just getting older means some changes to your routine. Be flexible and watch for cues from your child, and adjust as needed.
If you have never done a routine before and you have a toddler or older child, it is never too late to start. As with everything else just have patients and both of you will fall into it pretty easy. After all, kids naturally thrive on routines and it helps them to know what is coming and expected of them.