With limited patience and BIG energies, it can be very difficult to find toddler activities that will keep your kids engaged all.day.long. And since this time is crucial to kids’ development, the pressure is on to find activities that will keep your kids happy, playing, and growing the way they should.
Making up a toddler schedule can seem overwhelming– there are so many suggestions about how to keep a toddler busy (with each activity lasting for about three minutes).
By sticking to basics and establishing routine daily activities for toddlers, you can really help to create a toddler daily schedule that will leave both you and your child feeling fulfilled.
Creating a daily routine for your toddler helps to make sure that they are progressing in the key areas of language, cognition, gross motor, and fine motor skills.
They seem like heavy concepts (and they are), but when you break them down, there are super fun and simple ways to help toddlers learn the basic skills they need to be successful in preschool and beyond.
We think you’ll find that by fitting each of these activities into your toddler’s daily schedule, you’ll be nurturing their growth, and having lots of fun at the same time.
So without further ado, here are the ten things that you should fit into your toddlers’ schedule every day.
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Why Is Having a Toddler Daily Schedule So Important?
Look, we are HUGE proponents of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If you are doing fine without a schedule, there’s no need to make one.
However, if you’re here, it’s probably because you need a little help and are looking for more structure.
Toddler daily schedules are a great way to put more structure in your day, to get you a little sanity back, and to help you see the value in what you do all day.
You don’t NEED to check all these boxes (and you certainly don’t need to do it every day!) but these daily activities for toddlers help you see that you really are doing important work, even on the days you feel like you did “nothing.”
Do Toddlers Need to Have Daily Schedules?
The short answer to this is no- toddlers don’t NEED to have daily schedules. But sometimes? Their moms need them. And that’s okay too.
It is helpful to have some predictability within a toddler’s daily routine, according to experts. Whether that’s strictly adhering to the clock, or just building in some daily rhythms, is up to you.
Start by scheduling mealtimes and naptimes for your child, and then add in some routine activities before and after. For example, reading before naptime, or coloring after breakfast. These help kids make sense of their day (and work in valuable skills, too).
Deciding On Activities for Your Toddler’s Daily Schedule
Okay, so we know our basics- set meal times and bedtimes. But what do we do with the other, I don’t know, ELEVENTY HOURS in the day??
It helps to have a steady rotation of activities for your toddler. Think of your week as a whole- are you getting in activities in each of the core areas?
If not, make an effort to create opportunities for your child to grow in different areas. For example, plan for a “Make It Monday,” where you do arts and crafts. Or schedule a “Thinking Thursday,” where kids learn something new, or a “Field Trip Friday” so kids can get out into the community.
Don’t forget- “Grocery and Housework Tuesday” can totally be a thing. A toddler daily schedule only works if it works for you too!
Activities to Include in Your Daily Schedule for Toddlers
There are TONS of ways for your littles to play each day. As a teacher, these are the activities I wish parents would focus on in the first few years of life.
You’d be amazed at what a difference these simple activities can make!
It will come to our readers as no surprise that this is by far our favorite thing to do with our little ones. There are so many simple ways to get outside, and so much to do out there!
Here are some ways for toddlers to play outside:
- Try to take a walk every day. Look for bugs, birds, and planes. Explore gross motor skills while walking. Narrate what you see.
- Use a Walk As a Break- Take a mug of coffee, pop your kiddos in the stroller, put in earbuds, and decompress. Your kids are safe and learning, and you can breathe for a minute.
- Grab some fun outdoor toys. The ones featured in this post have been serving us well for eight years and going strong!
- Visit a local park. Swing, slide, run, climb- these activities are all FANTASTIC for gross motor skill development.
- Use sidewalk chalk. It’s the perfect combination of art and the outdoors!
- Blow bubbles. It’s a calming activity (and popping bubbles is great for fine motor development!)
- Read books or eat outside. Take an indoors activity outside to change up your routine!
Read to Your Toddler Every Day
It’s never too early to start reading with your kids. Let your child guide their interest in academics at this stage, and instead focus on the joy and pleasure of reading.
Experts recommend that you spend as much time as possible reading to your young child, and to integrate at least one structured reading time each day.
Choose a time, maybe right before nap or during an afternoon snack, and make reading a structured priority.
Related Post: How to Teach Your Toddler (or Preschooler!) to Read
Dance with Your Toddlers
Crank up the tunes on Alexa or Pandora and shake your stuff with your kiddos.
Dancing is an amazing way to learn rhythm while getting in some exercise and having fun. In fact, music and dance are integral not only in a child’s physical development, but in their cognitive development as well.
So shake your sillies out with maracas and tamborines if that’s your thing, or play more structured songs like Freeze Dance. Our kids may or may not prefer “Shut Up and Dance” and “Whatz Up, Whatz Up,” but you do you.
Do Toddler Art Activities
You don’t have to go full Pinterest to get this mission accomplished (although I’ve gotta say, we’ve got some SUPER fun ideas on our Pinterest board if you’re into that kind of thing). Let your little ones color with crayons, decorate paper with stickers, and paint with watercolors (you can find our favorite products here).
Process based art (aka the lazy-mom kind, where you give your kiddo free reign over the materials) is actually far more beneficial for kids than those construction paper ladybugs you see floating around the internet.
Check out our Monster Truck Painting for a great example of no-prep, process based art. It’s fun, messy and then clean again, and full of color and sensory play. A little goes a long way when you’re two, and simple is often best.
Related Post: Process Art Ideas for Toddlers (with full supplies list!)
Practice Gross Motor Skills for Toddlers
Most people know that toddlers typically progress from crawling or scooting to walking, and then onto running and jumping.
In addition to the basics- think running, galloping, and skipping- children need to learn balance and learn gentle risk taking.
Having a strong sense of balance upon entering school reduces the risk of injury in children, as well as providing academic benefits.
Here are some easy peasy ways to practice gross motor skills with toddlers:
- Throwing and catching a ball. Use a large ball when you’re starting, or these velcro options.
- Use Stepping Stones to practice balance.
- Toss bean bags into a laundry basket or cardboard box (or use stuffed animals)
- Buy a fold away balance beam (or make your own!)
- Grab a Magic Moves Wand to keep your kids active inside the house. It works on skills like skipping, sliding, etc.
- Set Up Your Own Obstacle Course (indoors or out!) using climbers, cones, things to crawl under, over and around, etc.
Related Post: 10 Gross Motor Skills Your Preschooler Needs to Master
Practice Fine Motor Skills
While your kids are exploring the big movements their bodies can make, they are also gaining more control over their fingers, hands, and coordination.
Your toddler will increasingly be able to perform small tasks with their hands. This can include things like holding a crayon, but it can even extend to games as simple as picking things up and putting them down.
Here are some easy activities to practice fine motor skills:
- Eat a snack with small parts, like cheerios, to work on pincer grip (aka picking things up with their thumb and forefinger)
- Move pom poms between two snackcatchers (or just practice taking them in and out)
- Have them put q-tips through the holes in the lid of an empty spice jar.
- Lace beads onto pipe cleaner (or use cheerios or Froot Loops with younger kids)
- Drop cards into a hole cut into the lid of an empty oatmeal canister.
- Use stickers.
- Color with crayons, chalk, and markers.
We’ve also developed toddler activity packs specifically designed to help your child develop fine motor and early academic skills. Click here to read more about our printable activity packs .
Sensory Activities for Toddlers
I like a lot about the toddler phase, but sensory development is one of my favorites. Nearly everything can count as a sensory activity.
You can make sensory bins with so many simple, low cost sensory bin fillers. Add a few toys or scoops, and you’re done!
Here are some more fun sensory ideas for toddlers:
- Create a fun sensory bin, like this construction themed bin, or a lemonade squeezing sensory bin.
- Play with playdough (get some fun playdough prompts to change things up)
- Make our fluffy slime recipe, or two-ingredient cloud dough if slime is scary.
- Play with a touch and feel book
- Smell the different spices in your cabinet
- Swing, slide, balance, and bounce- these work on sensory integration, too!
- Play with water. Throw some recycled materials into the bathtub to change things up, or make bathtime into an activity.
Related Post: No Prep Sensory Bin Fillers for Kids
Encourage Toddlers to Help Around the House
This one is slightly controversial- although for the life of me I have NO IDEA WHY. Teaching my toddler to use the dustbuster was the best idea I’ve ever had. He thinks the noise is hilarious, and loves the “power” it wields.
There are tons of other daily activities for toddlers that can help take care of your to-do list:
- They can chop veggies using these kid-safe knives
- “Wash dishes” alongside of their parents using this AMAZING learning tower.
- Putting things away (as long as the “pick up, put down” phases lasts, anyways)
- Helping to feed their pets
- Throwing things away.
- Putting napkins on the table at dinnertime
- Sorting silverware back into the drawer when it’s clean.
- Cleaning baseboards and tables with a spray water bottle and cloth
We’re not talking about making a list of chores for toddlers here, we’re talking about practical, fun activities that help to make them a working part of the household. (And, according to research, it’s actually really good for them!)
Toddlers Should Play with Friends
I’m probably not supposed to say this….but I do not like playing with my kids. I love doing activities with them- pretty much all the things mentioned above!- but I am NOT a fan of playing pretend.
But my kids? They LOVE it. In fact, kids NEED to engage in imaginative play. And I just can’t fill that need for them.
So I make a point of having kids over for playdates, or meeting up at the park. You don’t have to fill every need of your child’s personally, but it is important that the needs are met.
Toddlers Need to Play Alone, Too!
Oof. This can be a task. Not all kids are naturally inclined to entertain themselves, which means their moms and dads end up doing a reluctant song-and-dance routine that involves engaging the child non-stop all day.
I’m here to tell you that this approach? It’s not doing anyone any favors.
Kids NEED to get bored, and it is from that boredom that their creativity comes. They’ll never learn to use their imagination, create their own fun, or to simply be content with quiet if they are constantly being entertained.
The best way to teach a toddler to entertain themselves is by starting with small increments of time, maybe ten minutes or so, turn off all electronics, and leave them in a place. You can even sit in the area with them, but pursue interests of your own (maybe read a book, or get some work done).
Set a timer, and try not to direct their play in any way until the alarm goes off. Stick with your routine and give your child independent playtime on their own at the same time every day, gradually increasing the length of time until you reach a comfortable level.
Get our printable toddler activity packs to help you hit each of these areas- every day- for under $3 each.
These ten activities create the baseline for a solid toddler daily schedule that will help them to not only learn and grow, but to thrive. We’ve put together a printable toddler daily schedule that presents each of these daily activities for toddlers in reasonable increments, and provides a balance between structured and non-structured activities.
Our schedule is perfect for kids from 1-5, and is even easily adaptable for multiple ages and numbers of kids. And for a limited time, our subscribers can get this schedule FREE.
26 thoughts on “How to Create a Toddler Schedule That Will Help Them THRIVE”
Lazy mom art for the win. I just added a bunch of art materials to my shopping list for the week because it actually hit me today that my babies are big enough to start using these kinds of things. Wahhhh. It’s a little sad, but it’s also kind of cool at the same time. Now the fun stuff begins! Finger paints, anyone?
I taught a toddler art class for a while and most parents were just like you- they had no idea they were in the “art” phase already! It’s so fun to see what the kids can do, and they love it!
Cute! These are all wonderful ideas! I have two little toddlers that need some good structure, especially with summertime coming around.
Thanks for joining #WanderingWednesday!
Perfect for summer! I usually bust this schedule out on days where we are just counting down the minutes until bedtime. It definitely helps!
OMG the “ I don’t like to pretend with my kids” part is so me it’s not even funny. My son doesn’t even try to pretend with me anymore because he knows I just don’t know how and it makes me feel weird. I thought there was something wrong with me, but you made me feel so much better!!
Oh, I think a lot of moms feel that way. Some are just afraid to admit it ?
This was very helpful! It is nice to have some structure and a handful of activities to rotate through during the day!
Thanks, Suzanne! Some days you just need more structure. This schedule is perfect for those days!
Thanks for sharing! I liked the part of about sensory activities not needing to be messy! It can be so intimidating if you feel like its going to be a disaster!
Right?!? We see “sensory” and we think “giant mess.” It doesn’t need to be!
Great ideas! I have a toddler and almost a year old. Some of these can work for both. Thanks for sharing the ideas.
You’re right! Most of this can be adapted for different ages. Hope you found some fun ideas!
I love this! I’m always looking for new ideas to do with my toddler! (get them tired out so they are ready for nap or bed time 😉 ) I will be sure using some of these ideas! Thank you
Right there with you. Cause for real-WHERE do they get that energy?
Thanks for sharing will put it into practice
This is a great! I love your stuff and you are real about the things that just are not fun sometimes like playing pretend with your toddlers, i am horrible at it and this helps me feel that void so i do not feel guilty about not doing that part.
Thank you for sharing this! I’m right there with you on the “I hate playing pretend” subject. My three year old is CONSTANTLY shoving his toys in my face and insisting I pretend. The one thing I’m really really struggling with is the alone play-time. My husband and I alternate schedules so one of us is always home with him (he’s also in preschool 2 days a week). Unless he’s on his iPad, there’s absolutely no chance he will be content doing anything alone. I’m really curious to try your method, but i have a feeling he’s just going to hand me his toys and make me play with him, and if I refuse I just know he’ll throw a temper tantrum. I don’t mind doing activities with him, but he HAS to learn to play alone sometimes! My husband and I are incredibly exhausted and now that our son has given up naps, we get zero quiet time during the day when we’re home with him.
I’m so glad I’m not the only one who hates playing pretend! 🤪 My son loves it but I just can’t lol. Lots of great points in this post, thanks for sharing!
I love that you mention cleaning in your list because my two year old has thought that cleaning is the same thing as playing since he was about one! He does not think mom can possibly sweep, load/unload the dishwasher, or do the laundry without him. The times I dare try, he lets me know right away that it is not cool that I left him out. 🙂 The other day, I found him swishing the toilet with the brush, splashing water everywhere. When asked what he was doing, he replies, “I helping, Momma”. I love all your other ideas as well!
Thanks so much for the feedback! We think cleaning is an essential part of any toddler daily schedule (especially since it helps mom, out too!) You’re doing a great job with your little guy. Keep it up!
How about a toddler checklist instead of schedule? I was excited to take a closer look at your lovely graphic printable until I saw times on it. Too much pressure. I already feel like a failure and I didn’t even look closely at it! Even better, a weekly checklist, and if we do some things more than once, awesome! Only get to the art activity once or twice? No guilt, only encouragement and satisfaction at checking it off the reasonable life list!
First of all, you are CLEARLY not a failure. So don’t let any schedule or article or post trick you into thinking that 💕
Secondly, our printable toddler daily schedule is meant primarily for THOSE days…you know the ones, that feel a million hours long and you dont know what you’re supposed to do all day. This schedule is meant only as a guideline, not a hallmark of good parenting!
And lastly, girl YES. I looooove the printable toddler activities checklist idea. SO much more manageable!! I’m gonna a get on it ASAP, and I’ll send you a copy as soon as it’s done.
Thanks so much for the feedback. I’m excited about your idea!
Hi! Thank you so much for these wonderful ideas! With the “shelter in place” orders in my state, these are coming in very handy 🙂 **One question though! I subscribed but didn’t get the printable. Any chance there’s another way to grab it? Thanks! 🙂
Yikes! Please send us an email at [email protected]. We’ll send you a copy of the toddler daily schedule right away while we sort out the email issue!
Hello, I am new here and subscribed to your site in order to get the free printable associated with this article (10 things toddlers should be doing every day). However, after I confirmed my email, I never received the printable. Can someone please correct this for me? Thanks!
Hi there! Please send us an email at [email protected]. We’ll get your daily schedule for toddlers to you right away!
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