The exact routine I use to help toddlers thrive

Children function best with structured schedules. Toddlers and preschoolers, especially, feel small in the world. Most things happen TO them. They crave predictability, knowing what will happen, because it gives them some sense of control. A predictable routine allows children to feel safe and to develop a sense of mastery in handling their lives.

Kids who understand the routine, rather than feeling pushed around by what seems like arbitrary circumstance, are more likely to cooperate. Creating a regular routine is an essential way to give toddlers the security of knowing "what happens next" in their day. It also develops the prefrontal cortex, which is the planning and executive function part of the brain.


Having a plan for the day can also be important for adults caring for kids. True, many of us love the freedom of deciding on the spur of the moment what comes next, and sometimes that is the basis of creativity. But that works best when WE decide what rules to break.

Without a routine, life with children can overwhelm and derail us, leaving us feeling run over by life, rather than in charge.

To help your toddler feel secure, talk about what comes next in his day. So in the morning, after some "good morning" cuddles, you might say, "Let's get dressed so we can have breakfast... Then we can go on an adventure!" Maybe your adventure that day will be to the grocery store or the drugstore. If you treat it as an adventure and a learning experience, that's how your child will perceive it.

On the way home, you can review your morning: "What a great morning we had! We had cuddles when we woke up, then we had oatmeal for breakfast, then we brushed teeth and got shoes on like we do every morning. Then we went on an adventure to the grocery store! What was your favorite thing?"

Then, you can talk again about what comes next: "When we get home, I will put these groceries away. Do you want to help me? Then we will make lunch, read a story and it will be nap time. This afternoon, do you want to go to the playground or to the park?"

Does that mean we "force" kids into a routine that isn't working, or keep them on a rigid schedule so they can't stop to examine that bug on the sidewalk? Of course not. A child's routine needs plenty of ease in it to allow them to accomplish one of their most important life tasks: exploration and experimentation.

If you want a child who is able to feel joy, you need to let her seize those opportunities to smell the roses and enjoy watching the worm inch through the garden.

And children also need plenty of opportunity to make their own decisions and choices about how to use their own time within certain windows of their schedule. But knowing what to expect allows toddlers to relax in the moment, rather than frantically casting about for the next entertainment.

How to create a toddler-friendly routine chart

To help your child develop a sense of his "routine," I strongly recommend creating a "Routine Chart." There are many ways to do this, but basically this is just a poster with photos of your child doing his usual activities. You can buy these commercially, but you can also easily make your own, modeled after the ones used by preschools, but personalized with photos of your child.

Just take photos (or find pictures) depicting your child's daily routine: wake up, potty, dress, breakfast, errands, snack, play, lunch, nap, etc. You can write the words next to the photo. Some people like to arrange the photos in a circle like a clock, but toddlers think of time as more linear, so the clock may not help your toddler as much as a simple timeline. Just arrange photos on a poster board in the order they usually happen. It's good to use tape or velcro instead of glue, to allow for schedule changes, and in case you need to exchange "errands" for "Visit Grandma." You can even buy a magnetized bulletin board and glue photos of your child doing these activities to magnets, so you can move them around.

As your child gets older, you might want two separate charts of the morning and evening routines, so that your child can begin to take charge of her own schedule. Keep the "tasks" of the morning in an envelope under the chart, so your child can arrange the tasks in the order that she wants to tackle them. This kind of chart empowers your child to take charge of her own routine, reducing power struggles and the need for you to be involved in every move your 3-year-old makes in the morning.

You will still want to connect at the beginning of the routine, and throughout the routine as necessary to keep your child on track, but your intervention can take the form of hugs and checking in, rather than barking orders.

You might say, "I see you're dressed already! Wow! What's next on your chart?" Strong-willed kids especially love routine charts, because they get to be in charge of themselves. But all children love the chance to feel less controlled and to master the demands of their lives.

These are the best bath time products you can get for under $20

These budget-friendly products really make a splash.

With babies and toddlers, bath time is about so much more than washing off: It's an opportunity for fun, sensory play and sweet bonding moments—with the added benefit of a cuddly, clean baby afterward.

Because bathing your baby is part business, part playtime, you're going to want products that can help with both of those activities. After countless bath times, here are the products that our editors think really make a splash. (Better yet, each item is less than $20!)

Comforts Bath Wash & Shampoo

Comforts Baby Wash & Shampoo

Made with oat extract, this bath wash and shampoo combo is designed to leave delicate skin cleansed and nourished. You and your baby will both appreciate the tear-free formula—so you can really focus on the bath time fun.

Munckin Soft Spot Bath Mat

Munchkin slip mat

When your little one is splish-splashing in the bath, help keep them from also sliding around with a soft, anti-slip bath mat. With strong suction cups to keep it in place and extra cushion to make bath time even more comfortable for your little one, this is an essential in our books.

Comforts Baby Lotion

Comforts baby lotion

For most of us, the bath time ritual continues when your baby is out of the tub when you want to moisturize their freshly cleaned skin. We look for lotions that are hypoallergenic, nourishing and designed to protect their skin.

The First Years Stack Up Cups

First year stack cups

When it comes to bath toys, nothing beats the classic set of stackable cups: Sort them by size, practice pouring water, pile them high—your little one will have fun with these every single bath time.

Comforts Baby Oil

Comforts baby oil

For dry skin that needs a little extra TLC, our team loves Comforts' fast-absorbing baby oil aloe vera and vitamin E. Pro tip: When applied right after drying off your baby, the absorption is even more effective.

KidCo Bath Toy Organizer

KidCo Bath Organizer

Between bathing supplies, wash rags, toys and more, the tub sure can get crowded in a hurry. We like that this organizer gives your little one space to play and bathe while still keeping everything you need within reach.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners
Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.


"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

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