By Aubrey Everett
In our household we have found 18 months to be a great age. Our son is fun, funny and reacts with excitement to new activities. He is extremely active and likes to run all over the place, but will also spend chunks of time focused on a puzzle or a game of hide and seek. Our days are lively and silly. We have always been a family that works well with a schedule and this stage is no exception. Each day differs slightly depending on what we have scheduled, but here is a typical day in the life of our 18-month-old toddler.
7:30am Wake up!
Our son wakes up happy and ready to take on the day. He is also very cuddly, so I usually take a few minutes to savor some snuggles with him before getting our day started. Once he has had enough of that, I change his diaper and let him run around a little while preparing his breakfast.
Breakfast is consistently his biggest meal of the day. He eats a whole banana, 4 ounces of yogurt and a packet of instant oatmeal. If he is still hungry we cut up some grapes or other fruit. He also drinks about 4-5 ounces of water. While not yet out of the messy phase, his meals are getting increasingly tidier and his proficiency with a spoon and fork is impressive. When he’s done with his meal, we get him cleaned up and let him play in the adjoining room while cleaning his highchair and loading the dishwasher.
9:00am Play time!
Satisfied with his big breakfast and a long night of sleep, our son is ready to play. First we get him dressed for the day and then I try to direct him to one of several “stations” we have around the house where he can play with his toys and interact with me and my husband. Right now his go-to toys are blocks, trucks, puzzles and random household objects (remote, cardboard box). If it’s a nice day we will play outside, and if my husband or I need to run an errand, we load him into the car and head out.
After his big breakfast, our toddler often isn’t that hungry for lunch. We still sit him in his high chair and give him a selection of items, plus a straw cup with milk. He may eat some cut-up fruit, a cereal bar, cottage cheese and maybe a small PB&J or peanut butter toast. At 18 months old, this meal is hit or miss. Sometimes I will split it up into two smaller meals, pre- and post-nap
This is his one nap of the day and once the time comes, he is more than ready. He gives off all the classic sleepy cues and may get a little fussy approaching naptime. We do the same routine as bedtime (sleep sack, dark room, sound machine) and he falls asleep in his crib in no time.
3:30pm Wake up!
Once again, our toddler wakes up happy and ready to take on the afternoon. We give him a choice between water or milk and offer a snack. He plays or chases around the cat and I help him explore a new set of toys. With walking and running mastered, he is now practicing jumping, so sometimes we’ll have a dance party to work on that skill. We are also trying to teach him “start” and “stop”, which the dancing helps with.
Unless the weather is poor, this is usually the time of day when we take a walk in the stroller. It allows my son to get some fresh air and me to get a little exercise. We typically walk for about 45 minutes and then stop at a local park to let him run around and explore the jungle gym. In total, we are usually out for close to an hour and half.
Depending on how much he ate at lunch and for snacks, dinner can also be hit or miss. I try to offer a protein, carb and vegetable, but the vegetables are not going over too well these days. I always have fruit on hand as a backup. He also gets his final ounces of milk with dinner. These days he is drinking anywhere from 5-10 ounces of milk a day, and we don’t keep track of water, but continually make it available. Sometimes he will get a treat after dinner -- my husband is quick to offer a bite of ice cream!
6:30pm Wind down time!
Our son is very active and can get a bout of the “zoomies” right before bed. We try to wind him down gently to prepare for bedtime. He gets a bath every other day or so, and if it’s not a bath night we wipe his hands and face with a cloth. We change him into his nighttime diaper (one size up from daytime diapers) and let him pick out a pair of PJs. He has some spots of recurring eczema so we examine his skin and add lotion where necessary. Then we dim the light in his room and read a few books and sing songs.
We stick to a pretty strict bedtime. After some trial and error we found this to be the ideal time. Our son is tired and falls asleep quickly, and we get ahead of any over-tired meltdowns. My husband usually takes care of bedtime, placing our son in his sleep sack, turning on the sound machine and further dimming the light. He rocks our son while reciting a nursery rhyme and places him in his crib. He is usually asleep within minutes and sleeps peacefully through to the next morning.
About the author: Aubrey works in higher education and is the mother to an active and inquisitive son. She lives in the Boston area where she enjoys taking family walks along the beach, reading books, and introducing new foods to her son. Writing about motherhood allows her to connect to other parents and give voice to a challenging yet exciting time.