Evidence based routines

I have seen a few websites that suggest routines for toddlers. What strikes me about many of these routines is that they are primarily based on what makes life easiest for the caregiver (lots of independent play) or what will minimise boredom in the child, rather than providing for what the child needs. Many of them while being high on sensory play or reading are very low on physical activity or provide no allowance for it at all.
There are some guidelines for what you should make sure a toddler does every day.
Physical Activity: 3 hours a day 1
      30 minutes of this should be structured 2 - I have interpreted this to include playing with the parent as long as you are engaging them in an active game
Outside Play: 2 hours a day, preferably before 10 or after 2 especially in summer months 3

Plus they should be sleeping 10-12 hours overnight and napping for 1-2 hours a day, so that takes up about 14 hours of the day (the outside play and activity can and will overlap).  What should you do with the rest of it?
Well child directed or unstructured free play should take up most of it. Toddlers need this time to learn about the world and how it works. This play should include some of the below on a semiregular basis:

  •    Playing with other children
  •    Messy or sensory play
  •    Water play
  •    Discovery play e.g. putting objects through holes
  •    Basic counting or logic play
  •    Craft and creating
  •    Puzzles

On a daily basis you should also be sure to include time for reading (at least one book a day) and time to connect with your child. It is recommended that you schedule some one on one time with each family member and take this time to talk and listen to each child. You should also schedule at least one meal to be eaten together as a family.
Easy right?
If you want to see what this looks like, here's a day for us:

7:00: MissC wakes up
7:00 - 7:30: MissC does puzzles or drawing in bed
7:30-8:00: Preparing and eating breakfast together
8:00-8:30: Getting dressed and ready
8:30-930: Free play: Usually involving some outside play
9:30-11:30: Outing usually involves outside play, playing with other children or active play
11:30-12:30: Active play inside
12:30-1:30: Preparing and eating lunch together
1:30: Story
1:45- 3:30: Nap
3:30-4:30: Time to reconnect: Play together, talking, sensory  play or craft
4:30-5:30: Outside play
5:30-6:30: MrC comes home and reconnects/plays with MissC one on one
6:30-7:00: Dinner
7:00-7:30: Bath
7:30-8:00: Stories and going outside to look at the stars
8:00: MissC goes to bed

Although that's how my days normally map out I don't actually like to schedule every minute of the day and I tend to adjust our schedule depending on what else is going on in her play or generally in our life. However I try to work on goals, so if I note that her play that day has been inactive I will try to engage her in more active games when we play together or if we've had a busy morning without much interaction I'll make sure I set aside more time to play with her in the afternoon.
Our routine has changed a lot over the months as her interests and activity level has changed but keeping these goals in mind have helped us to have some pattern to our days.


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