I was once asked “What baby has a schedule?” That question still sticks with me. I can assure you when you have multiples, not only is a daily schedule helpful, but it is necessary. The key is to balance consistency with flexibility, because, let’s face it, life happens!
Routines are important
Be prepared and know that toddlers love routines. Routines help toddlers feel secure, and keeping a daily schedule is the best way to do that. If you’re still not on board, keep in mind that starting schedules now prepares tots for school and beyond. Schedules also help if you work and send your tots’ to structured environments like daycare or preschool. Also, if others help you, it is easier to describe what you do throughout the day; simply have a hard-copy ready for when they come over. Having a schedule will allow you to plan some important “you-time” This is most necessary when feeling exhausted or under-the-weather.
Where do I begin?
As you may know, once babies pass the one year mark, nutrition and sleeping needs change. While they may still be hungry around the same times as their newborn months, with the pediatrician’s okay, you can help them adjust by slowly weaning them. You’ll need to nix some feedings, while increasing portions and lengthening the time between feedings by 15-30 minutes. You'll need to work on this until they’re up to three square meals a day and healthy snacks and drinks in between. Ask your pediatrician for guidance to ensure proper nutrition/hydration, and getting the sleep they need. Also, don't forget to ask when to switch to solids completely and to cow’s milk (or similar, if your twins are lactose intolerant).
With toddlerhood comes many transitions, such as sleep regressions, less napping and more teething. These are additional reasons why maintaining a daily schedule is important. With these changes comes crankiness and tantrums; let’s just say the term “terrible twos” is a misnomer. While others may have well-meaning advice, remember they may not have experience with preemies or multiples for that matter, and don’t understand the full dynamics of your situation.
Stick to the daily schedule
Stick with your daily schedule as best as you can and know when YOU need a break. Having someone come in during those moments will help a great deal. If that’s not possible, try to prepare in advance or even the night before (especially if you have appointments or need to be out of the house the next day).
Space things out
Space out meals, naps and play throughout the day. Mix in free-play, dancing, singing with structured play, and a story or two. Teach them good hygiene; for example, I brush my tots’ teeth twice a day and wash up before naps (if they take any). Unfortunately, naps after about 18 months old may taper off. You may want to still put them in their room to help wind down during their usual nap times. Make sure they’re dry before doing so, if anything; this keeps rashes at bay.
I’m sure your routine is never set in stone. There are times when you must go out and break your daily routine. It’s good to get your toddlers used to these changes too. Pack what you need for the time you’ll be out plus a little extra, ahead of time. For play-dates, try to keep visits under 2 hours. I like to pack everything in an insulated tote. I can fit two sippy cups, bowls, snacks, etc. into the tote. All I need for a day out is the tote and diaper bag.
As mentioned before, make adjustments in 15-30 minute increments and build from there; the reverse is true as well. Our twins are on the thin side, so their doctor recommended that we give them extra milk, so we kept morning feedings like when they were infants. When we get the okay to cut down, we’ll adjust by giving them their full breakfast earlier. In preparation, I feed them breakfast between 9:30/9:45 and will work backward so they’ll eventually eat at 8 am and adjust their lunch and dinner times.
Meals that are evenly spaced (about every four hours) with snacks and drinks in between are an important part of your daily schedule. It will help you to establish regular mealtimes, nap times and bedtime.
Here is a sample daily schedule for 18-24 month olds; adjust accordingly.
6:30/7am – Once they’re awake: change and dress for the day. Give pre-breakfast milk (with vitamins if prescribed) and a snack.
8am – Free play time. Give drinks if playing an hour or more ( i.e.: juice mixed with water)
8:15 – 9am – Parents (you-time): breakfast, shower, light chores, check e-mails, etc., to be ready to tackle anything that comes along during the day.
10am – Breakfast-time with some structured play while toddlers are seated; Sing and act out songs, color, puzzles, etc.
10:30 – 11:00am – Free-play in play area/living room
11:30am – Clean-up, wash up and nap
11:30 – 12pm – Parents: finish clean-up, wash dishes and bottles and have lunch
Afternoon to evening
1:00 – 2:00pm – Tots’ awake? It’s lunch time!
2:00 – 3:30pm – Free play (in play area/living room) mixed with structured play, i.e.: puzzles, blocks, coloring, etc. Snack time as well.
3:30/3:45 – Clean-up, wash-up, brush teeth, story-time and nap (if you children will take a 2nd nap)
4pm – 5:45pm – Parent: finish clean-up and rest
6:30 – 7:30pm – Free play
7:30pm – Wind-down, bath time: snack and drink. Let them watch their favorite (15 minute) video
8pm – Bedtime: clean up; wash up, brush teeth, story-time, sing a song and lights out!
Good time management, preparation and consistency, will help you, your toddlers and other caregivers. Hopefully you all can anticipate your day and keep crankiness and tantrums at bay.
Lorraine Conforti is a proud mom of twin boys and pet-parent of two cats and a dog. Being both conservative and artistic, she describes herself as “a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.” She enjoys the arts, music, writing, and had performed in a Blues/Rock band with her Husband for several years. She is also passionate about health and fitness and has held certifications for nutrition and Personal Training, and has earned a BS Degree in Healthcare Management. For articles by Lorraine on Twiniversity, click here.
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