Let’s get real: Finding a routine for an 18-month-old is challenging, because they are so busy and have the shortest attention spans! This is my third time having a child this age, and I think it is one of the most tiring stages. But also one of my favorites.
I love the snuggles, how they copy everything, and the tiny bit of baby that’s still left. My 3 and 5-year-old kids make my job WAY easier because my toddler is constantly following them around. So mamas with just one baby, I’ve been where you are and I think you have it harder than me when it comes to entertaining your 18-month- old!
Here’s our basic routine for an 18-month-old from morning to night to give you some ideas of what’s normal for us at this age.
Routine for an 18-month-old
Since their attention span is so dang short but their curiosity huge, find things to do that:
- Get out energy.
- Get outside if possible, because nature entertains them for you.
- Are activities just their speed, (besides pulling all 100 tissues out of a box…that just happened here not long ago).
- Get them around other kids, unless you are lucky enough to have your own.
- Involve eating, snacking, eating, snacking
- Teach them things (like books that teach animal sounds, colors…)
Morning routine with an 18-month-old and siblings
- 7:00 AM: Wake up with all 3 kids and eat breakfast. Mine recently decided to throw huge fits in his high chair so we ditched it and allow him to eat on the bench with the others. He eats whatever they do, usually cereal and milk…yes, very messy because he demands to use a spoon now.
- 7:15: Wander around and play. He usually wants to bring me things or sit on me while I drink my coffee on the couch.
- 7:30-9:00: If I’m reading a story to the my oldest, my 18-month-old is either trying to smack the book out of my hand to get my attention, or he takes the bait and plays with some toy I’ve set on the floor. Sometimes it’s blocks, toys, or just lunch containers that he grabs from our non-baby-proofed cabinets! At some point, he gets hungry. He makes it known by going to the fridge, opening my backpack, or just whining.
- 9:00-12:00: If we are going to go somewhere, this is when we go! Park, groceries, friend’s houses, etc. He is an easy, on-the-go traveler but I have to be prepared by packing snacks, drinks, diapers, wipes, and something for him to play with in the car seat. With three kids, he’s always got someone to watch, so driving is fairly easy.
- If we stay home, then we bounce back and forth between toys, mama’s lap, snacks, him following me around while I try and clean something, him bringing me shoes (asking to go outside), climbing on the couch, throwing things behind the couch, nursing (yes, I’m the one attached), and making the rounds to each room and cabinet to see what might be in there. 😉
Afternoon routine with an 18-month-old and siblings
- 12:00-1:00: This is when we are hopefully home, starting our nap time routine. This involves getting lunch, changing his diaper, having older kids go to the potty, and I try not to put him down for naps before the others, as we just switched two months ago to one nap a day.
- 1:00-3:30: Naps. At this age, he is a dependable, solid napper and needs around 2.5-3 hours a day. He can now nap even if the older two are a little bit noisy in his room…(which is why I LOVE this age for naps). I do things during this time that are so hard to do with him awake. Like bringing laundry downstairs, unloading the dishwasher, computer stuff, or drinking something hot without having to play keep away.
- 3:30-4:00: Everyone is up, sometimes much earlier than this. Snack first thing, then I usually turn on a show. My older kids both watch while my 18-month-old sometimes does. Mostly, he stays in the room and plays or climbs on me if I’m sitting down too. It would be funny to count how many times he crawls on and off the couch during a show…
- 4:30-5:00: I’m trying to start dinner and he’s usually right at my knees, wanting to be carried when I can’t. He’s the neediest at this time, so it’s helpful to have a few things to distract him. Right now that’s usually lunch containers and lids, things that can stack, like containers I keep in a bottom drawer in the kitchen, or a bunch of blocks that he can stuff into an empty container. Just when I think I’ve nailed it, my 5 minutes of quiet has disappeared and he’s back at my knees asking to be held. That’s usually when my hubby gets home and can help hold him.
Evening routine with an 18-month-old and siblings
- 5:00-5:30: Somewhere around here we eat dinner. This is not a peaceful time of the day to me. I’ve usually just spent 30 minutes trying to cook while juggling a busy toddler. Then my husband and I are helping cut up dinner, making our kids eat bites of things, and trying to monitor when the food throwing begins, which signals that he is done eating, all while my food gets cold.
- 5:30-7:30: Often times we go on a family walk, which makes for the smoothest nights! Especially if we put on pajamas first, then bedtime is easy when we get home. This is the time when my toddler gets really energetic and wants to wrestle, throw things, play with dad, type on the keyboard if we dare open up YouTube, and chase his siblings around the circle in our house. This is also when we do bath time, if needed!
When my toddler gets cranky and frustrating…bath time works magic
Thank you Baby Dove for sponsoring this post and providing these products.
I do not bathe my toddlers daily. It’s just usually an extra step and they don’t get that dirty or stinky.
However…I love using bath time as a tool to calm down and distract a cranky, frustrated, or bored toddler! It’s like magic, and they are happy for sometimes as long as an hour just playing in the water! This is usually a mid day thing for us, when he’s bored or needing an indoor activity.
We usually just have a few cups and toys in the tub. But if you want to up your water game…check out these 20 fun bath toys for babies.
Sample bedtime routine for an 18-month-old
Our typical bedtime routine is very simple. It usually involves:
- Snack at the table with no shirt on.
- Putting on pajamas (after a snack, otherwise my 18-month-old would get his dirty).
- We read a book on the couch, and he wants to be on a lap.
- Brush everyone’s teeth, which for an 18 month is a quick 5-10 second brush with water.
- Last, I nurse him before bed while we sing a song to all three and kiss them goodnight!
Do you tend to stick to a similar routine with an 18-month-old? Or do you find it really hard to do that? I will admit that with my first baby, it was much easier to stick to one routine every day. My whole day revolved around just that kid.
But with three, I don’t feel I have the luxury of being as put together or on an exact schedule. Interruptions just happen more. Hope you have an idea of what to expect with an 18 month old, and to see it’s ok to have a loose schedule that changes.
I try to get in one solid nap at home a day, have a consistent bed time, and give my toddler the attention they need to feel secure and loved. You got this mama!
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