A Toddler Schedule That Works For Everyone – Does it Exist?
So, what does it take to create a toddler schedule that is beneficial for all?
Structure, structure, structure!
First, let me begin this story a few happy months ago when my husband and I used to have peaceful evenings and restful nights…
My daughter was born full term yet very small at only 5 lbs and 14oz so I have always gotten away with putting her in tiny clothes and keeping her in a crib – until recently. This last winter she finally hit her highly anticipated growth spurt that I knew was bound to take place. Little did I know that this would be both in maturity (just ask her) and size. To put it this way, she is actually on the charts now at the Dr.’s office as a toddler.
Along with this growth spurt came a new confidence and therefore a whole new schedule and world for my husband and me. I still remember the first time she escaped. It was during nap time, naturally. She came strolling out of her room as if she had just won the Olympic gold medal for high jump. After mentioning her new accomplishment to my husband we both decided this was not safe for a still smaller than average three year old. We removed the side rail of the crib (actually looks quite nice now – like a beautiful daybed) and I removed all of the “crib” bedding and replaced it with a new “toddler” sheet set and a hand-made quilt saved from her baby shower.
She has never been so excited!
So much so that she wanted to make her bed everyday because she loved the way her new quilt looked. Pretty cool when your kid sets their “own” toddler schedule.
Realizing that this would indefinitely propose a challenge when it comes to bed time, we were beyond nervous that first night she slept in her “new” bed. To our surprise though, she slept all night without getting up once. And the same for the second and third night! – a routine I was quickly falling in love with.
So … alright, we’re in the clear … not true! The fourth night she got out of bed many, many times. At first, she’d come out announcing her naughtiness only to get put back in bed. It didn’t take long for her to emerge very quiet and sneaky – as if we wouldn’t notice her crawling into the living room to watch TV with us. After some “talks” and persistence she slept through the night again.
Naps – well, those were a different story altogether.
So many distractions – with it being so light out and with chores and things going on, it did not matter how quiet or stern you were, she would not go to sleep. Of course, these naps were designed not only for my own sanity, but also for her own well being – everyone knows that when a three year old does not get their nap, they are very cranky, irrational little people.
After a few weeks of this sporadic napping, I asked my husband what it would take to set her on a real “toddler schedule” – you know, now that we have officially graduated from the “baby schedule!” We tried the dreaded time-outs, rewards and yes, mega-threats – nothing was working. Then, it got worse. She became sick and was unable to sleep well at night so she started coming in our room wanting to be cuddled back to sleep – there went the restful nights.
At my wits end I took her to the Dr. They prescribed for her, an inhaler to medicate and target her cough. Well, after one try of that thing she decided she would rather die than take that inhaler – seriously, it was not pretty. The next day I asked her if she would take her medicine and with that she ran into her room without a word and closed the door quietly (that’s when you know they’re serious; when it’s a quiet stubbornness).
After a few minutes I went and cracked the door open to see what she was up to. She was sound asleep on her bed, bum in the air. Yep, she would rather take a nap than take her medicine. Why is it that as kids we refuse naps but when we become adults we wish we could go back and collect all the naps we didn’t take? (sigh) If only they knew.
So, what are some toddler schedule musts?
– you know, ones that allow for “mom-time” and promote healthy habits such as napping…
Here are some things that I’ve found imperative
- Realize not only the needs of your toddler, but also, YOURS!
- Set a specific time for meals & snacks and stick to it
- Mental & Emotional stimulation – (flash cards, actual conversations, Legos, etc.)
- Always, always, always schedule a block of time for physical activity – really, this is a must
- Make time for your toddler and don’t shrug them off or ignore them
- Alone time – let them play, it’s ok!
- Video games, TV, Radio … what!?!?! – it’s alright in moderation
Unofficially – #8: Fear of medicine brings on the naps ; )