This post will highlight an example 2 year old schedule and routine, give specific information on milestones and eating, wake time, and sleeping habits.
December of 2020 brought me a newly 6 year old and a 2 year old! I just can’t believe it. William has changed so much since his last update (see his 18 month schedule). It is also fascinating and wonderful to watch how different these two children of ours are! I read through Caroline’s 2 year old update before sitting down to write this- gosh they are vastly different in their interests and even in things like their sleep needs.
In this post I’ll be going through the basics of the 2 year old schedule and routine. You’ll get the added benefit of me referencing both of my living children’s habits and needs at this age, which is of a huge benefit because Caroline is a low sleep needs child, and William is a high sleep needs child.
One of my fellow bloggers coined this high/low sleep needs concept, and after having William, I always think back to it. The basic idea, is that a high sleep needs child is HIGHLY affected by and sensitive when it comes to sleep issues. Even something as simple as a slightly shorter nap (15-30 minutes) will negatively impact their nighttime sleep. While the low sleep needs child can roll with it and not have any noticeable affects, especially at this toddler age. I’ll get into our experience with this in the 2 year old sleep habits section below.
When children turn 2 it is one of the most fascinating moments. Their speech is exploding. Their schedules are usually very simple and flexible, since they are down to one nap, and they might even be ready for potty training. It’s a time of change and setting boundaries, but it’s also a time to just settle in and enjoy the 2 year old moments.
Sample 2 Year old Schedules and Routines
As I mentioned above, our daughter is a low sleep needs child. Her nap could get off, or she could skip it all together and she’d still sleep through the night and seem unaffected. She maybe would have a little harder time getting to sleep at night, but that was the extent of it.
By the way, if your 2 year old is rebelling against naps, do not drop the nap. Read more about how to keep the naps in place and when children’ should drop the last nap in this post.
Our son on the other hand seems to be a high sleep needs child. It appears that even being 15 minutes off of his nap time can cause him to wake at night. Luckily, it’s for all of a few seconds and we simply tuck him back in and are on our way, but it’s noticeable!
Unfortunately for me, is that I have much less focused time to hone in on 15 minutes of lost sleep and make adjustments since he’s the second child running around here! Had Caroline been the high sleep needs child, I’d have been all over fixing it immediately and able to monitor the clock down to the minute. Heck, I even recorded her pee times when potty training– literally down to the minute. I laughed out loud when I read old potty training posts. We are currently potty training William right now, and there is no way I’d be able to write down times down to the minute and still go about my day successfully. Ah the joys of being a first time mama! LOL
So back to the schedule. I mention all of the sleep needs issues because our children’s 2 year old schedules are slightly different as a result. Caroline needed less nap time and the timing of it could be much more flexible. William needs a longer nap and the timing of it has to be perfect for him to sleep through the night and I still haven’t figured out what perfect is for him.
Caroline’s 2 Year Old Schedule
7:15 am wake and drink milk
12:30/1-3:30/4 pm nap (I let her naturally wake)
7:15 pm bed
Notice her nap times are super flexible. The start time is a 30 minute window, and I let her naturally wake up! Now looking back, I should have always capped the nap at 3:30 to help her fall asleep easily, but in general she was not phased by the longer or shorter nap days. She even had days where she was refusing to nap all together and she’d still sleep good at night. Typically her naps were 1.5 hours long. For her nap, she’d look at books in bed, then sleep, then look at books again when she woke and wait for me to come in.
Let’s compare that to William’s schedule…
William’s 2 Year Old Schedule
7 am wake (he very rarely drinks milk as we eat breakfast pretty quickly)
12 pm – 3 pm nap
7:30 pm bed
Ok so with William’s schedule there seems to be no wiggle room with his schedule, and I still haven’t perfected the nap timing. It’s a work in progress.
A couple of weeks ago I’d been sticking with starting his nap at 12:45/1 pm. With that timing, we all got to eat lunch together during Caroline’s school break, and he’d then sleep until 3/3:30pm. Well, he wakes once a night, not all, but most nights at this point. It’s only for a little bit and he just needs tucked in and a quick kiss and we all go back to sleep. I decided to finally fix this issue, though. You can read about how to troubleshoot toddler night wakings here.
Since making the nap changes to his schedule, his night wakings have improved, but are not all together resolved. I’m just continuing on, though, because when we made the changes originally, it was the holidays, we were a little inconsistent and he’s also on day 9 of potty training. I don’t want to change too much. Now that we are heading into our first normal week in awhile, I’m hoping to see better night time results. If not I’ll go back to troubleshooting.
William sleeps a solid 3 hours for his nap (compared to Caroline’s 1.5 hours at this age). He really needs a lot of sleep. And, most days I have to wake him up!
Now that we’ve moved the nap start time to 12 pm (previously 12:45 pm), he’s just starting to wake naturally on his own. I think this is such a good sign that we’ve got him napping at the right time for the correct length.
You’ll notice the 2 year old schedule above doesn’t mention an “eating” schedule anymore. I don’t schedule toddler food times very precisely, but we do fall into a routine.
William occasionally gets a glass of milk when he wakes up, but usually we get ready and get right to breakfast, since Caroline needs to get started with school by 9 am.
Sometimes we get ready first, and then eat breakfast. Sometimes we do the opposite. It just depends on how hungry everyone is. The 2 year old schedule is super flexible though. So I just keep in mind the 1 nap and bedtime and work around that.
Typically that means we eat breakfast around 8 am, lunch at 11:30 am (right before nap at noon), and dinner around 5:30 pm to make sure he gets sufficient playtime before bed at 7:30 pm. But again, it’s flexible at this age… all but his lunch, since he’s in that high sleep needs category and we need him down for nap at 12 pm.
When it comes to food, 2 year olds can be super picky. William seems to be both picky and stubborn!
At this age, Caroline would try everything on her plate. That’s all we really expected. She’d even say “don’t like this” if she didn’t like something. And usually she liked things!
With William, our expectation is still to try everything on his plate, but this is quite the struggle! Usually our daughter, Caroline, has to get him to try things, because he listens to her ideas, and not ours LOL!
He is not yet to the point where he can say sentences like “don’t like this,” but he is to the point where we can get him to chew and swallow, and wash it down with water if he doesn’t like something. Even just a month ago he’d spit out the food. It took a bit to get him to keep the food in his mouth and just wash it down, but he’s finally doing it!
He won’t eat very many things. He’s basically been living on peanut butter and jelly, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, cereal, oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, cheese and apple sauce. Just this week, however, I’ve seen him eating a wider selection. He ate a tuna sandwich for lunch, and devoured broccoli and spaghetti for dinner.
My tactics are to feed him a breakfast I know he will eat. Then for lunch I typically do the same, but I occasionally offer him things that he’s not eaten well in the past. I do this so he keeps trying things. Sometimes that means he doesn’t eat well, and sometimes I get lucky and he eats. I always make sure there’s something on his plate that he will eat though.
Check out this post for 50 picky toddler breakfast ideas! I am definitely trying some of these!
Dinner is whatever we make. We always expect our kids to try our dinners and do their best. If it’s a huge flop, we get out some oatmeal for him or something easy to fill him up, but typically we just try to offer sides that he’ll eat.
And then if we have leftovers, we never make our children eat the leftovers if they didn’t like it the first night. Sometimes I feel like we are too lenient, but we just really care if they try things the first time around. I know their taste palates will expand eventually! We just keep offering and staying consistent with our “try all the food” rule.
Also, we are a no snacks household. You wouldn’t know it by the way William knows the word snack, though! LOL Rarely do we have snacks, however, because we really want our kids focused on eating good solid meals.
Sleep – Nap and Bedtime
I’ve had 2 year olds on both extremes of the nap and sleep needs spectrum.
As mentioned above, Caroline only needed 1.5 hours of daytime sleep. She slept through the night and could take longer or shorter naps and not be affected much. She sometimes had a hard time getting to sleep at night (in phases) but that was it.
She even had days where she wouldn’t nap at all. Our focus with her was maintaining the nap schedule and getting her through any daytime sleep regressions.
In contrast, William needs 3 hours of daytime sleep. Double the amount! If his daytime sleep is at all adjusted even by the slightest amount, he wakes up at night one time. I’m still working to perfect this and hoping he becomes a bit more flexible with this nap soon.
As 2 year olds they both needed 12 hours of sleep at night, which should always be the goal (from 3 months to kindergarten really)! We want the bulk of sleep at night, not during the day.
So all that to say, you need to really know your child to figure out how much sleep they need. Watch for sleepy cues, and any sleep issues at night, and adjust daytime sleep accordingly. Typically, if there is a night time sleep issue, the fix is with daytime sleep.
For both children, sleep training helped so much. Caroline required some cry it out as a baby, and William did not, but both were trained on how to sleep, hence the term “sleep training.” It’s been amazing that I can just say it’s nap time, and walk them to bed without any resistance. Schedules and routines for the win right there!
Independent play time is something I value so much as a parent.
- One, because as a stay at home mom there are rarely times when everyone gets time to themselves- kids and me included. I think it’s so valuable for kids to have this time where I’m not right by there side. When we are right there they tend to look to us to solve all the problems, but when on their own they figure out how to get that stubborn block to fit, etc. all on their own.
- Two, it really encourages creativity. They have to figure out how to play on their own and what to do.
- Three, Caroline has simply thrived with independent time or “room time.” She started room time as an infant, and still does it to this day (as a 6 year old).
- Find more information on the benefits, our progression from infant to toddler, etc.
Including independent time into your 2 year old’s schedule is so important.
So my confession... I’ve never really done independent play with William. I tried. He cried. It just never went well, and we just didn’t have the time to really work through it well. I totally could have prioritized the time, but we just didn’t.
I kept his independent play more “relaxed”… He plays by himself. I just don’t put him in his room and call it room time. I don’t set a clock. It’s not formal, because as soon as I do it more structured he resists. He can come to me if he needs to, but he plays by himself a lot actually. Probably more than Caroline did!
But, it’s time. I value independent play so much that I know we need to start incorporating it into his schedule as an every day thing. As soon as potty training is behind us, independent play is up! It’s never too late to start and add this to your toddler’s schedule!
When it comes to play, William has pretty much always resisted toys and any sort of learning activity. Again the complete opposite of Caroline, who knew her alphabet at 18 months because she was so darn interested in it.
For the first time, however, William is super interested in toys and learning. This change has really only happened over the last month or so. He’s suddenly taken an interest in learning his colors, letters, starting to learn numbers and counting, and did his first puzzles as well.
He knows all of the colors and can say the names. He knows his basic shapes, and he can count to three. He recognizes the numbers 8, 9 and 10.
He’s also doing pretend play! He loves trucks, tractors, tools and trains. He even brings me books to read, and can sit for quite some time doing playdoh! He is a lot more focused all of the sudden, and now that’s he’s really playing we have a lot more to do together and he’ll, I think, be much more successful with independent play than he was in the past. This is a really fun phase for him!
Milestones and Interests
Potty training- We started our second round of potty training about 2.5 weeks after William turned 2. It’s going well and I’ll update with another post soon on why the two rounds, and how he’s doing with it, etc. This is the potty training method we are using.
Speech- In the last month his speech has just exploded. He says more words than I can count, and is putting together two words at a time.
He knows his colors and basic shapes now.
He’s learning to count and taking an interest in letters as well.
Tractors, trucks, trains, tools. Tractors, trucks, trains, tools. Did I mention tractors, trucks trains and tools!?
He loves anything and everything outside. He got a new toddler scooter for Christmas, and he does so well on it! I was surprised how easy it was for him to use.
His independence is shining through. He either wants to do everything himself with no help at all, or wants me to do it all for him- no in between! He’s picking out his own outfits now and if he wants to do something he says “me me me!”
He wants Daddy for everything. He even asks about him first thing in the morning. He says “Daddy” and then shakes his head and says “home”…then says “work”, and “drive”… “Yes, Daddy drove to work, he’s not home.” Every morning. It’s so cute.
Now that William is 2, we’ve taken the time to make and prepare for some changes.
In addition to the changes to his 2 year old schedule by lengthening his nap, we made some changes to his room, and are moving away from diapers during awake times YAY!
His room changes are simply in preparation for the start of our independent play journey. I got the changing table out of his room, since we are potty training after all, and also to make more space. His new toys from birthday and Christmas now have a place in his room, and room time (or independent play) should be exciting for him due to the space and all of the fun things in it. As soon as he is to a point with potty training that I can be away from him for a bit, he’ll be starting independent play.
William has been out of his crib for a year now! We made that change super early with him for various reasons and just went with it! LOL But I do highly recommend switching to a big kid bed at this age if you haven’t already. We moved Caroline when she was 23 months. I think the timing is perfect. Read more on transitioning to big kid beds here.
William is truly changing before our eyes, and it’s fascinating to watch the newly 2 year old grow in so many ways. We can also sit down and have him do a focused learning activity for 10 minutes now as a part of his 2 year schedule, or a simple drawing or painting activity. It’s really fun to look at all the things we can now do with him and explore. This is the age where their personality and interests really shine through, and I just love it!