Building routines for your toddler

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Thought Series : Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 11


As humans we have an inbuilt need for security, for feeling safe. And, one of the ways in which we feel safe is when ‘everything is predictable’ or when we know what can happen next. Sadly, in our adult life, this is not always possible. But as parents, we can surely make this possible for our toddlers.

That’s the next need in line for a HAPPIE toddler – Predictability.

Like us, our toddlers also seek ‘predictability’. When they know what’s going to happen next – it makes them feel safe, it gives them a sense of power & control.

Toddlers tend to meltdown more often, when their days are haywire – that’s because it makes them feel out of control & unsafe, thus activating their brain’s stress hormones and then causing the meltdowns, crankiness & clinginess.

The simplest way to give them predictability on a daily basis is through a ‘consistent routine‘.

When it comes to routines, most parents are often at two extremes – either following a strict timetable or not following any routine at all. Let me explain what a balanced routine looks like that’s enough to give your toddler the much-needed predictability and a sense of power, control & safety.

A strict timetable looks like :
We get up at 8 am,
Brush at 8.15am
Breakfast at 8.30am & so on.

The problem with this approach is that – toddlers have a way of ‘extending’ every little normal chore in some way or form. If you’re too strict with the time, it can cause unnecessary stress to you – when your toddler wants to have a bit of fun while brushing or is taking longer for breakfast. That stress will cause you to react with unnecessary scolding or yelling, spoiling the day for you & your toddler.

A more balanced approach to having a daily routine is to have a FLOW.
For example:
We wake up — Then we brush — Then Breakfast — Then playtime — Then Bath — Then Lunch… and so on.
Toddlers don’t understand time, but they understand FLOW. When done consistently, it helps them predict what comes next (after brushing), giving them a feeling of control over their day.

You can definitely have a rough timeline behind the flow, in your mind – but make sure you’re flexible to incorporate some special fun requests or tantrum that your toddler might decide to have.

Handling change in routine

Toddlers need and love routines! Now, the downside to this is – if you’ve been following a set flow & routine consistently, and your child is used to that – any change in routine can also easily upset him/her.

For example, if you decide to visit your Mom and stay there for a week, or a change in Nanny, or a new playschool / daycare. These changes can be difficult for your toddler, and she might take time to adapt.

How you can help in the process : Through PREP.
Whenever the change is predictable (which it often is) – Make sure you’re informing your child much beforehand, helping her imagine how the new change would look & feel like, validating her fears and reassuring her of your presence.

Prepping your toddler beforehand can work for all of the above situations plus other common scenarios like guests visiting, doctor’s appointment or anything new & different from their normal routine. Yes, even after prep, it’s possible that your child might resist or cry, but prepping helps you calm their nerves, most of the time!

Thought for Today:

Reflect and share : Do you think your toddler prefers having a consistent routine? Does he/she have trouble with change in routines?

What kind of routine do you prefer or which one would you like to adopt?
Strict / Flexible with Flow / No specific routine


How to bring in ‘predictability’ in the rules & responses towards our toddler?


Access Previous Days In This Series: Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 0 : Laying out Universal Human Needs
Day 1 : Healthy Parent = HAPPIE Child
Day 2 : Making Self-Care A Habit
Day 3 : Meeting your toddler’s physical needs
Day 4: Identifying your own triggers before you tend to your child’s
Day 5: Dealing with feelings of guilt & inadequacy (Moms!)
Day 6: Attention v/s Connection Parenting
Day 7: Ways to connect with your Toddler
Day 8: Making way for ‘special time’
Day 9: Identifying Power Struggles
Day 10: How to end Power Struggles with your toddler

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