I catch my 15-month-old and wedge his shoes on. Only to find that my 2-year-old has disappeared back into the bounce house, again.
“Liam!” I yell. Every kid but mine looking at me like I’m crazy.
Eventually, I drag him out of the bounce house, half climbing in myself.
I look around. “Where are your shoes?”
“I don’t know.”
“And where’s your brother now?” I wonder, frantically glancing over the balloons and adults calmly chatting.
I never understood the phrase “it’s like herding cats” until I had two toddlers. When they aren’t strapped into a car seat or stroller, they’re both wandering off in two different directions, getting into trouble.
10 Life-Saving Tips for Toddlers to Make Life More Productive
So how do you get life done with a toddler (or two)? It’s not easy, but I’ve found a few hacks that make things so much easier.
Hack 1: Take a Break
Naps are my favorite toddler hack of all time. Make sure your toddlers nap well. All that time you spent working on infant sleep pays off here.
My boys nap (or have quiet time) from 1 PM – 3/4 PM every day. That’s 2-3 hours of time that I get to myself every day in the middle of the day when I’m exhausted from chasing them all over the place.
If your child doesn’t nap well, spend some time creating a nap routine and guarding nap time.
I always try to make sure we’re home for naptime. Establishing that daily habit at a set time, with a set routine, has made my kids great nappers. And has helped me survive the double toddler years.
Use nap time to do things you CAN’T do with your kids around.
For example, I don’t wash laundry, shower, or pick up all the Legos during this time. I can do those things while my kids are awake.
Try to focus on doing at least one thing for yourself — read a book, work out, or lay in bed and watch TV. This is your time to recharge too.
Hack 2: Keep Everybody Clean
When you become a mom for the first time, showering falls somewhere on a scale of a hassle to impossible. But once your baby can walk, there’s an easy hack.
Put your toddler in the shower with you.
Twice a week, I schedule shower time. I put a few bath toys in the shower and throw everyone in. We all get clean, no one wrecks the house, and I don’t have to waste nap time showering.
- Find some fun toys for the shower (mine love toys they can fill with water and dump — like these).
- Buy some robes for both of you to throw on when you get out.
- Always put a diaper on your toddler as soon as you get out.
- Get some hair towels to keep your hair out of the way while you’re diapering.
Hack 3: Mealtime Play
How many times have you cooked dinner while your toddler held onto your legs crying? Or made dinner one-handed while you held a 25-pound toddler? I’ve done both more times than I can count.
But there’s one hack that I’ve found helps get dinner made without the tantrums.
Set up a kitchen help station.
What you Need:
Simple as that. Set these items up in a corner near you (away from the stove) and let your toddler pretend cook while you cook.
You can also have them help you cook if you have the patience for that.
Hack 4: Hands On Activities
Toys that take some time to explore are great for occupying kids for more than a few minutes.
Try something simple that you know will take your child a while to figure out.
Keep these toys away so your toddler doesn’t get bored with them. Only bring them out when you need your toddler occupied for 30 minutes or longer.
These are some of our favorite “special” toys:
- Stacking Cups (my 1-year-old can completely focus on these for 10+ minutes)
- Dinosaur Sorting Eggs (these are great to occupy any toddler/preschooler)
- Poke-a-Dot Books (These say 3+ but my 1-year-old loves them too)
Hack 5: The Quiet Moment Trick
One of the simplest things that has made toddler-life easier for me is reading. Since I set up reading as a bonding and enjoyable time early on (get my free email series on raising readers to learn more), my toddlers LOVE to sit and read with me. Sometimes when they can’t seem to settle down, I’ll ask them to choose a book. They’ll both sit quietly on my lap while we read book after book.
It settles everyone down and gives me the quiet I need for the moment.
Hack 6: A Good Night’s Sleep
If you don’t have a good bedtime routine, now is the time to start one. Bedtime is a life-saver when you’re chasing after a toddler all day. Set a specific bedtime, create a routine, and stick to it.
Toddlers need between 10 and 12 hours of night sleep and at this age (11-14 hours of total sleep) (1). That means you get a full night of sleep and 2-5 hours of peace and quiet to do with as you please.
Having some time to yourself and getting a full night’s sleep, will help you have patience when your 2-year-old starts screaming because he didn’t want milk in his cereal today.
So make sure your toddler is sleeping in their own space and goes to bed easily.
Hack 7: Keeping it Routine
Routines make life with toddlers so much easier. Have you ever noticed your toddler is the most difficult when something unexpected happens?
Say at the last minute you remember you have to buy groceries today. And the only time you have is right now. In a mad rush, you get ready and attempt to get your toddler ready only to find them completely uncooperative.
Thirty minutes later, you zoom out of the driveway with a screaming toddler in the backseat wondering why you try to do anything.
What happened? Why did your child turn into a nightmare as soon as you had something you needed to do?
“Children benefit from relationships and environments that are predictable to them: this includes important caregivers who behave in predictable ways, and events that occur at predictable times” (2). Toddlers especially benefit from a predictable routine.
Of course, sometimes you have to run an errand at the last minute, but making life as routine as possible will keep your child from feeling overwhelmed. Making day-to-day life with your toddler much easier.
Here are a few sample schedules:
|TIME||SAHM SAMPLE SCHEDULE||WORKING MOM SAMPLE SCHEDULE|
|7:00 AM||Wake up, Breakfast, Get dressed||Drop off at Daycare|
|8:00 – 10:00 AM||Outing/Errands/Outside Time||…|
|10:00 AM – 11:00 AM||Shower/Bath||…|
|12:00 PM – 1:00 PM||Lunch||…|
|1:00 PM – 3/4 PM||Nap||…|
|6:00 – 7:00 PM||Dinner||Dinner|
|7:00 – 8:00 PM||Bedtime routine||Bedtime Routine|
|8:00 PM||Down for the Night||Down for the Night|
For working moms, kids often come home drained from daycare. It’s important to make the evenings as predictable for them as possible.
Hack 8: Get the Craziness Out
Sometimes craziness just needs to go outside. Toddlers love playing outside. A big part of what can be overwhelming for us is managing their need to explore in our house. If you have a space to get your toddler outside, he can develop gross motor skills and explore.
Preferably this is a closed-in space so you don’t have to worry about him running off. But you can also put your toddler in a stroller and get walking. I always loved having my toddler contained to a stroller. And he was happy because he was outside.
Another option, if you can’t get outside, is an indoor climbing toy or a play couch. My kids can play for what seems like hours on our play couch, just climbing up and sliding down.
Hack 9: Involving Your Toddler
Do any chore that you can with your toddler. My toddlers LOVE to participate in chores. Their favorite is putting laundry in and out of the washer and dryer.
Chores like vacuuming, laundry, and even dishes (if you’re patient enough) can all be completed with your toddler’s participation.
Research suggests: “Children who do chores may exhibit higher self-esteem, be more responsible, and be better equipped to deal with frustration, adversity, and delayed gratification” (3). This also helps teach them that we all contribute to keeping the household running.
- Buy cleaning toys so your toddler can clean alongside you.
- Encourage your toddler to help, and back off. Use phrases like, “Can you put the clothes in this basket?” or “See the cereal right there? Can you help Mommy vacuum the cereal?” Then let them do it even if they do it imperfectly. You can always do the rest once they get bored and walk away.
- Only do this with chores you can be patient with. When you have 5 minutes to load the dishwasher, it isn’t the time to involve your toddler.
Hack 10: Get Some Time to Yourself
Toddler years are hard. I’ve found that my attitude and patience are so much better when I regularly get some time to myself.
If you can wake up before your toddler, take some time to yourself at the beginning of the day. If you can’t (I’m with you right now), take a few minutes for yourself before you get your toddler and find time during their nap or at the end of the day to do something to care for yourself — pray, work out, or stare at the wall for 30 minutes.
If you’re a stay-at-home mom, schedule time once a week (if possible) to go do something without your kids. If you work, schedule something at least once a month. Hangout with a friend, get your nails done, or just shop for groceries without your kids trying to throw random things into the cart the whole time.
Moving Away From Chaos When it Comes With You
I got my 2-year-olds’ shoes on, found my 1-year-old, and bolted from the birthday party, leaving my husband behind. I’d text him from the car, I thought.
Once you have your toddlers going in the right direction, there’s no stopping you.
So if you find yourself feeling frustrated because you can’t get anything done with your toddler, I hope you’ll try some of tips of toddlers to make life more productive. They’ve been life-saving for me with my two toddlers.
If you’re new here, I write articles to help mom’s navigate mom life, from becoming a mom to raising kids. I’d love to have you subscribe and join the Librarian Mom Community. Because no one should have to face motherhood alone.
- Suni, E., & Suni, E. (2023, March 17). How Much Sleep Do Babies and Kids Need? Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/children-and-sleep/how-much-sleep-do-kids-need
- Lantz, T. (2023, March 20). The Importance of Routines for Kids. Zero to Thrive. https://zerotothrive.org/routines-for-kids/
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. (2023). Chores and Children. https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Chores_and_Children-125.aspx#:~:text=Research%20suggests%20there%20are%20benefits,%2C%20adversity%2C%20and%20delayed%20gratification.