Set A Routine for Your Toddler

There is nothing more calming to a child then having a more or less constant routine. Here is what I used to have as a day's worth of learning and fun when my little ones were too young for school. Some days they would be interested in these activities and other days we would have to be flexible and do something else.


The thing about these activities is they can be interspersed with normal daily activities like breakfast, washing hands times, etc. They help the day go by. There also has to be periods of free play where there is no "set activities planned" and at these times, I would set up about four books in a corner of the room and have different toys available, but if they wanted to sit and stare into the air, then they could - everyone needs downtime!

Here is a sample lesson plan I would have for my toddlers and young kids when they were at home:

On a piece of paper I would write the following headings - Math, Science/Nature, Manipulatives, and Music. (You can add more headings like DVD viewing times or a quiet music tape you buy for nap-time)

Put five squares under them like a calendar for five days, and fill them in with the activities you wish to do. The key is to be flexible, if one thing doesn't take off very well, skip to another thing. The idea is to have fun together. None of these actions should take more than ten minutes, unless the child just has fun doing the activity.


Here is my sample lesson plan for a weeks worth of each heading: You can buy lesson planning books at the teacher supply stores too.


  • Stuffed Animals in a Barrel: Play or throw different sized stuffed animals in a barrel or basket. This is good at teaching the child where to keep them, too. In this activity, you look at each animal and feel of it and hug it and then put it in the basket. You can count, or you can just put them in the barrel. You can put in two at a time, three at a time, etc.

  • Dominoes: Playing with dominoes is fun and this helps to see lots of things put into groups. There are little cardboard squares with dominoes on square has one domino on it, another square has two dominoes on it, etc. This becomes a math puzzle of matching, You can use anything, like pop sticks or squares, anything that can be put on the little squares. Of course the lining up and knocking down of dominoes is a favorite of young and old alike.

  • Clothespins and Empty Bottle: I like to have them fill up a bottle with clothespins, the kind that don't have a metal thing on them, the old fashioned kind. It is fun to have a plastic jar or some such jar or plastic container and see if you can drop the clothespins into the bottle. You can count as you do this or just do it to see how fast the container fills up.

  • Blocks: You can make blocks out of boxes of things and tape them together. Just keep a lot of the smaller and medium size boxes handy. You can build, and then sort in a row from littlest to largest and back.. The child mainly watches and does not have to understand what is being done, if they tear up the boxes, good, it recycles them for the trash. If the child likes to tear up boxes, save them and that is one less chore you will have to do later. Of course, you can build with them too.

  • Stacking Cups: These are fun to do, You can buy something to stack but I prefer to make my own or buy a couple of dollar stacks of cups from the dollar fun to stack together and unstack...I would keep some aside just for stacking.


The theme here is leaves:

  • Leaf pictures: you draw a leaf and you both color on it.

  • Leaf rubbings: You take a rubbing of a leaf by putting it under a piece of paper and rubbing a crayon long ways on it.

  • Leaf book: I would read a book on leaves from the library or make up a book on your own. This would be like a field trip to the library or you could already have checked it out or made your own leaf book.

  • Throw Leaves in a Basket: This would be having a few leaves in a basket, that you are sure are not poison ivy, and picking them up and throwing them in the wind. This is usually a great hit!

  • Leaf Puzzle: Take an old piece of paper or cardboard or posterboard and draw a big leaf shape on it, then cut it into different parts and put it back together.


These are the toys that work your child's fine muscles, such as Legos, Mr. Potato Head, etc. I would have the larger sized Legos the smaller the child is, sometimes the small ones are a choking hazard.

I would have time each day to work on:

  • Lego type toys
  • Puzzles
  • Blocks
  • Stacking
  • Sorting Crayons by Color

Any kind of toy or activity that requires them to sit down with their little hands and pick one thing up and then another will do. I like to make shapes out of board that is like greeting card paper, and then have them put like shapes together, this also counts as a math activity/art activity when it involves crayons.



I always had a video or some such tape that got played all the time, but it was themed around fun things like potty training, counting etc. There are so many good shows on now and there are music tapes you can make of soft music or buy that are good for nap-time, and pre-nap time readiness.

Most of these things can be made at home, making them even more frugal than ever!

By Robyn Fed from Tri-Cities, TN

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May 4, 20110 found this helpful

I didn't have school type activities for my toddlers, in between scheduled times for eating, and naps, they played with their toys. If they wanted to color or do a puzzle I got that out and they sat by the table and did that. The same applies to if they wanted to play one of their games. I read them a story before they laid down for their naps. Before the story was read we went around and picked up their toys and put them away. I kept their colors, puzzles, games and books in a closet where they couldn't be reached and when played with, unless there was some supervison. The kids weren't allowed to drag that stuff all over the house. I wouldn't have had time to clean house, cook, do laundry, etc. if I had been home pre-schooling my kids. Oh yes, my kids weren't rambunctious or anything, they were well behaved kids.

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May 5, 20110 found this helpful

You sound very organised and thriftily sensible at the same time - well done you. I'm a grandmother and in my day with nothing like even a washing machine to help; my children fitted into my MY routine and learnt as we went along. I got them to pick up coloured pegs and hand them to me, counting as we hung up the clothes, naming the colours etc.

I like to see them doing similarly with their little ones now!

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May 5, 20110 found this helpful

I applaud you for being so organized. You have some wonderful hints here. I think that if a mom is staying home with her kids, she should put priority on planning activities for them, helping them get the most out of their toys and books, and providing the much needed interaction with them. This is the main job of a mom; the cleaning, laundry, etc. need to get done, but raising the children should be the focus.

Supernanny Jo Frost encourages parents to plan crafts and outings and imaginative play time with their children; this develops language skills, prevents boredom, encourages creativity and co-operation, and provides mom (or dad) and kid time that is so essential. Of course, kids, even toddlers, can help out with household routines and tasks too -- setting the table, helping bake cookies, learning to pick up their own toys and put them away.

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May 5, 20110 found this helpful

I don't know about some of these ideas. Children can learn without being put on a schedule. Plus children need to learn that sometimes things they want to do has to wait because other things need to be done first. My children had a toy box and they could play with their toys anytime they wanted. Children are little only once. I did not make them wait until I could sit down with them for books and puzzles. They were allowed to play in the family room or their room. They knew they had to clean up when they finished. I took time and spent time with my children and they learned as we went.They also learned that sometimes things come before playing like cooking supper or cleaning the house. Speaking as a daycare teacher for 21 years children learn a lot when unexpected things come about. I cleaned my house, cooked, did laundry and so forth and my kids were kids. In my years of teaching pre-K I can tell which child has not been a child at home. Let children be children. My children were well behaved and I always got good compliments on how well my children behaved when we went out or to someone else's house. I also taught my children to take care of books, puzzles and toys.We also used car time as teaching time.

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May 5, 20110 found this helpful

I think this is lovely!
You have a great balance of directed, undirected, and flexibility.
I am sending this on to my daughter to encourage her as she has little ones, and the 3 year old enjoys teaching time.

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May 6, 20110 found this helpful

These are all wonderful responses, thank you for them all! Blessings and have fun teaching and learning, they are only young once!


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