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The Stress free Daily Toddler Schedule: sample Routine for toddlers and preschoolers

A daily rhythm perfect for toddlers and preschoolers starting a small at-home curriculum with the goal of connecting more as a family

Ok, this post is all about my own schedule. I share how I make connecting more as a family the focus of our day and how you can do it too! I have a post full of tips on how to make your own daily rhythm and why a daily rhythm is important for toddlers and preschoolers. Check it out here!

mom holding out cards for a daily rhythm for toddlers or preschoolers

My current daily rhythm (aka daily routine)

Let’s break that down

So that seems simple but let’s take a minute to talk out what each of these sections really looks like (ps. that sample schedule is customizable!)

Pick a goal

This will be your guiding idea as you make your own daily schedule. When you adjust your routine the most important thing is to remember your goal and make sure your changes aline with it.

My goal: create family connection and space to do regular life together;

Secondary goal: Introduce the idea of lessons but keep it interest focused and flexible with lots of play and nature time

daily rhythm goal, quote on green background with leaves

Early Morning Rhythm

6/6:30am wake up: Kids wake up and they wake up mom and dad. Mom and dad roll out of bed and get everybody gets dressed for the day. I get dressed right away. Once I walk downstairs I may never get a second to go back and get ready! Thats the life of the primary caregiver! So I take 5 minutes here (literally) to get ready.

Note: I have seen many parents who wake up at 5am to get an hour of quiet time either for themselves or time for them and their partner to connect as adults. I think this idea is wonderful and worth trying. This currently does not work for us. Nighttime is a struggle and every little bit of sleep is precious (because there is never enough sleep currently!). But, I can see us adding this in the future.

Morning snack: my kids wake up ravenous! My son is in charge of the morning snack. He usually runs right to the fridge and picks fruit or a popsicle (something easy and usually a healthy snack). He also grabs one for his sister.

6:30am to 7:30am: Family Connection time! No screens, just family. Spending the first 30minutes to hour of our day connecting as a family really sets the tone for the day and starts my kids off in a relaxed safe headspace. It’s always a good morning when we can start slow and be together!  

mom sitting on floor with kids in a messy house
real-life messy house, but we ignore it and just play together

Spring/summer/early fall we usually go for a walk. In late fall/winter we read books or maybe build with blocks. The kids lead this time and they pick the activities (those are just what they normally pick). 

7:30am Coffee and breakfast prep: The kids usually continue to play together and I’ll make coffee for me and tea for them and then prep breakfast. Sometimes they join in on the prep as well.

bother and sister unloading dishes together
Working together to unload the dishwasher. For reasons unknown I feel so much better about my day when the dishwasher starts empty and ready to be loaded…please tell me I am not alone here!

Chore time: we clean up from breakfast together then each kid has a chore. At 2 and 4 years old both kids have age-appropriate chores. I am always so impressed with how capable they are! See my article on doing life as a family for more info and my articles on how to start chores that are developmentally appropriate here.

Note: you will notice that there are no times on my schedule after this. That is because chores can take longer depending on what we end up doing. We might get more involved and clean the house a bit or we might comb out my daughter’s wild curly hair (this takes a full 20 minutes…not kidding). So, we keep it flexible and just start school once we are done with whatever chore goals we had for the morning. The time of day is not as important as keeping predictable routines. We also might do a little free play before we start the next section of our day if the kids seem to need that. So, we might start the next section of our day at 8:30am or it might not start until 9:30am

mom and kids using a homeschool curriculum during their morning routine
We love our school time! Photo: Jenn Bakos Photography

Middle Morning Rhythm

Stretch Break: my son has some exercises his occupational therapist wants him to do daily. We’ve turned this into a group stretch break prior to starting school. He usually loves the movement and it gets his body ready. Stretching and small exercise are great toddler activities!

School Time:

  • Calendar time
  • Letters (1-2 days a week)
  • Music time
  • Nature lesson and art time

We LOVE school time. We use Tree House School House’s nature curriculum. I just adjust it a little so it works for my kids ages. It has a nature theme for each week and incorporates music, poetry, art, nature, and reading. This school time can take 15 minutes or it can take us an hour and a half. I let my kids lead the length. There are just some days we all get really into it and do extra music time or extra art time. There are other days that they have a harder time and we keep it short and sweet. Having a relaxed approach to this time keeps it stress free for young children and for me! Check out my full review of the curriculum coming soon!

Lunch (or snack): school time finishes anywhere from 9:30 to 11am. If it’s an earlier end then we just have a snack if it’s close to 11am we try and sit and do lunch time (which is random snack foods half the time anyways!).

mother and too kids on an nature adventure during their afternoon routine
Jenn Bakos Photography

Afternoon time

This time starts right after lunch and is open for whatever feels right or whatever is needed. There are three options that I usually fill this time with: adventures, free play or “get things done”. We can often fit two of these or all three of these into the afternoon time.

  • Adventures: many days I will plan a themed adventure that coordinates with our nature study. For example, if our weekly topic was apples one day we might go to an apple orchard, pick apples and hike the trails there. A different day that week we might do a baking adventure and make some pies and other apple treats. Then a third day we might go to the store and get an apple from every available variety and take them home to compare and contrast them. Many of our adventure days involve outdoor time.
  • free play: we do many adventure days so sometimes my kids want a quieter day playing at home. So we will just stay home and play together. We might do sensory play or more outdoor time, but its at our house which gives them a sense of security. This is also a great time for independent playtime and imaginative play.
  • “get things done”: this is the time that if there are things that have to be done (errands, house projects, those kind of things), this is the open time in the day to do that. I let the kids know in advance: “hey guys this afternoon is a get stuff done day!”. Then, I share with them the stuff we have to get done. I try to not do this type of afternoon more then once a week. I also make sure that its activities that we can do together. Usually, I pair this type of day with some free play time.

Side note: if my kids were older than 6 yrs old I would add different lessons here, still making sure there were movement breaks and that the lessons met their developmental needs.

Quiet time:

Our adventure time usually takes us to 3/3:30pm. After our adventures we are all (aka me), very ready for some rest time. Both of my kids are out of the nap phase which is nice to be free of that schedule, but also I very much miss my own downtime! If you are still doing naps, then this would be a great place for an afternoon nap. Currently, quiet time is together time. We will read, draw or play a board game. I am working on them doing independent activities for this time. One day we will get there!

Evening time

Me time!

Well, by this time it has been a full and wonderful and long day of learning, adventures, lots of questions, gentle parenting. I love our long days, but they are still long and 10hrs in I am pretty much ready to take a breath and not be touched or asked a question for a little bit!

So, my partner and I made a plan. He gets out of work at 4:30pm and then he TAKES THE KIDS. They play and he is the parent in charge. I get about on hour of quiet time in the kitchen to make dinner. This is not technically a break, I am just switching jobs (and so is my husband). But, Cooking and inventing yummy and nourishing meals (by myself in a clean kitchen) is something that I enjoy. If the kitchen isn’t clean I take a few minutes to pick it up then I look around, turn on my music, take a breath and smile. I love my days and this keeps me loving it. See my post on nourishing yourself as a parent (Coming soon) for more tips!

Dinner time: This is pretty self explanatory…we eat dinner. But, before dinner we try and clean up together as a family.


We do a pretty simple bedtime routine: brush teeth, put on jammies, sing our bedtime song, say a pray and thats it. We will add in a story some nights if dinner was early or went particularly fast.

Because we are early risers, the kids are in bed by 7:00pm (sometimes a little earlier). This is a time I stick to because after these full days of building into my little ones, I am ready for adult stuff like reading my own book, doing a project, or having a glass of wine with my husband. By cleaning up together before dinner it ensures that 7pm to 10pm is adult time (not more clean up after kid time). A full break!

When you do have something to get to

Some days you do have things to get to, so you can adjust your rhythm accordingly. See below for ways to adjust for different appointment times. I would like to add a gentle reminder that if every day is an exception you don’t have a rhythm, just a collection of different days in a busy schedule. If you want a rhythm you need to simplify life (read my ideas here).

Adjusting for an early morning appointment

One day a week we have Community Bible study at 10am.

I had a choice: 

Option 1:  Rush through the early and late morning rhythms to try and make it to Bible school on time…do not do this, it creates stress not connection.  

Option 2: Remember my goal: “family connection”, and adjust. Rushing is the opposite of family connection (you can read more here). This is why it’s helpful to set your goal when you make a rhythm so you can refer back to it and make sure the rhythm and adjustments actually meet your goal. If they do not then it’s time to either adjust your goal or adjust the rhythm. 

So instead of rushing we adjust Thursdays to be a big breakfast day. We take a long time prepping breakfast and make something fun together, then we clean up together and get ready for Bible school. We completely skip the Late Morning section and make the Early Morning section slow and easy. No rushing, a simple rhythm that adjusted to focus on family connection. This is one day a week.

That’s the beauty of a rhythm, you can make it work for your family without the stress of “getting out of your routine”.

Adjusting for a late morning appointment

my son has an occupational therapy appointment at 11 am one day a week. So knowing that, we have an easy breakfast that day and I don’t do my daughter’s hair (She’s learning the benefit of a messy bun early). This makes the early morning pass more quickly without anybody having to be rushed. I also do an abbreviation of “middle Morning.” So the rhythm feels the same even though it takes a bit less time.

Cards from a toddler schedule with toddler looking at them

Guiding questions to ask yourself when adjusting 2 year old routines and 3 year old routines

  • What parts of my daily rhythm can I move through quicker without impacting the feel of the rhythm?
    • For example shorten breakfast prep to granola and milk rather than pancakes
  • What can I prepare the night before so the morning is easier?
    • Lay out kids clothes, pre- make a picnic lunch
  • How do I ensure the kids (who can’t read a schedule) know what the day will look like?
    • “Today is a zigger-zagger day! We have a dentist appointment”
    • A visual schedule is great for this

Well thats how we do it! That is a typical day, obviously real life happens, but that’s the goal. Let me know your thoughts! Are you thinking about adding some rhythm to your day? What would you do the same and what would you change?

Post Disclaimer

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice.  Consult you health care provider for your individual nutritional and medical needs.  The opinions are strictly those of the author and are not necessarily those of any professional group or other individual

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