16 - 18 Months

First, next, then—giving your toddler comfort and structure

Young child putting away two books by Lovevery back on a shelf

We all have certain well-established ways of doing things—taking a shower, getting ready in the morning, preparing a snack, or getting ready for bed. This patterning of behavior allows us adults to complete tasks more efficiently while leaving our conscious minds free to think about other more interesting and important things.

For toddlers, routines provide comfort, structure, and a way to predict (and prepare for) what’s going to happen next. Routines also promote understanding of order and sequence, the building blocks of more advanced thought processes like reasoning, judgment, and anticipation. Later on, when your child is in school, routines will be even more critical, as kids learn to coexist together in a community.

Young child holding a towel walking to a bathtub

Think about bath time, for example, as a sequence made up of a lot of little steps that you usually do in order. Have your toddler help get their pajamas from their room, get their towel ready, help turn the knobs to start the water (with your help to make sure it’s not too hot or too cold), and pump the bath soap. You can narrate as you go: “now you can get a fresh towel out of the drawer. I see you pulling open the drawer. Next you take the towel out. Now it’s time to close the drawer.” 

In addition to their usual bedtime and morning routines, your toddler’s day includes all sorts of predictable sequences: “we are going (somewhere) in the car. First, you put on your shoes, then you get into the car seat, you try the buckle, then I will make sure it is snug.” You can name where you are in the sequence as you go along: “Look, your shoes are on. Now let’s get into the car seat…” 

Toddler taking clothes out a dresser drawer

Introducing some light household tasks to your toddler, like taking folded clothes to their drawer or putting books back on their shelf, also helps them understand the order and sequence for how things get done. 


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Posted in: 16 - 18 Months, Communication, Routine, Executive Function, Math, House Tours, Child Development

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