The perfect schedule for a toddler is as elusive as a pot of chocolate and wine at the end of the rainbow. Each child’s needs are unique and ever changing. If teething is causing her some rough nights, a mid-day nap might be in order. While some kids will nap until they’re 4, some little imps decide that once they reach 2, naps are lame. And no amount of keeping her up and tiring her out is gonna change that. The perfect schedule is a combination of allowing her to take the lead in terms of sleep needs and fitting that into your family’s timetable.
Some 2-year-olds nap, some don’t. But children this age need between 10 and 13 hours of sleep per day. Whether that involves a nap or one big sleep at night is really up to the toddler in question. If your 2-year-old is still a napper, try to aim for a nap time that ends at least four hours before his bedtime. If you have other children to pick up from school at 3 p.m., put him down around 12:30. You don’t want his nap lasting too long or his night sleep might be affected. If he no longer naps, put him in his room for quiet time just after lunch. Tell him he doesn’t need to sleep, but he needs to have some quiet time for about an hour. He can look at books or quietly play with his toys. Once he gets used to this special time, he’ll look forward to it – and you’ll get that much-needed quiet time to maintain your sanity.
A good rule of thumb is three meals and two snacks per day. But if your little bundle of joy is a serial snacker -- meaning she likes grazing all day -- two snacks won't cut it. There’s nothing wrong with grazing, as long as the snacks are nutritionally satisfying. Kids eat more during growth spurts, and she’ll let you know when her dietary needs have increased. Try not to let her snack too close to lunch or dinner, or she won’t touch anything on her plate. Feed her when she’s hungry, not “starving,” and when she is calm and alert.
Schedule the busiest activities in the morning whenever possible. Toddlers are most energetic after their big sleep. Even if your 2-year-old is no longer napping, he’ll do best if he gets that quiet time in the early afternoon. He’s still going to be sluggish and tired after lunch, so scheduling a busy activity in place of quiet time just might be a recipe for a meltdown.
If your 2-year-old no longer naps, make bed time about 12 to 13 hours before you want her up in the morning. If you want her up by 8 a.m., bedtime should be around 7:30 p.m. She may not sleep in as long as you were hoping, but eventually it will catch up to her and she'll make up for it. A regular sleep schedule is important at this age, as is a regular sleep routine. Try to make her bedtime consistent, even on weekends. Your bedtime routine might include a bath, getting her in her jammies and reading a couple of stories. Whatever your routine, keep it consistent so she knows what to expect. Try to have a special custom that’s just between the two of you before your final nightly farewell -- for example, sing her a lullaby, or kiss her on the nose and tell her you love her. Make it part of your routine every single night and it will give her a sense of security and love, and make lights out that much easier.