Toddler Tips:Planning Ahead

Something that has really helped me cultivate good behavior and prevent any tempter tantrums is taking the time to explain what the day holds.  It seems so obvious, but so often, in the busyness of getting everyone ready for the day, or into the car, we forget to let our children know where we are going, and what they can expect.  

If there are times that can be stressful or there is certain behavior expectations that we are trying to work on, this is even more important.

To say, "Today we are going to go to church.  We are going to walk in, and sit down and we have to be very very quiet, only little whispers.  We might hear babies cry, or the bells or the piano and we have to listen for those.  Remember we have to sit still and be quiet."

"After the soccer game, we are going to go to the birthday party, and after we eat the cake, we are going to get in the car and come home."

Or let's say that you know getting into the car, or mealtime, or a very specific situation can illicit tears, or attempts to control which can lead to frustration for both them and us:

Before we walk out the door-"When we get into the car, you can climb into the car seat yourself right away, and then mommy is going to do the buckles. Remember I am going to do the buckles, you are going to hop in."

It gives them some control, and correct expectations, so they don't feel yanked here and there, completely at our whim.  Of course it is no guarantee of behavior for sure, but hearing before hand what will happen and what they must do, paints the correct picture in their head.  Often, besides the adhering to the best advice ever (don't ever let them get hungry and tired), I think breakdowns can occur because what was planned or imagined in their heads, is not what is happening in real life. If we can paint that correct picture that matches up with ours, we give the best chance for peace and harmony.


  1. Definitely giving an idea of what is coming, what to expect and to provide some choices where possible eases transitions for all children, but one of the most important actions for success that I found was being prepared and allowing extra time vs rushing. When we don't allow time, we rush our kids, our tempers flare, and things go downhill fast, but if you leave room and time to get to church or school or an event for an older sibling, you can more smoothly find a good seat, talk to your toddler and really give them some focus, they will much more easily cooperate. When you rush in at the last minute or hurry small children who want to look at the interesting rocks at the entrance of your school or church, things start out on a bad note vs calmly entering or taking a few minutes for a little one to show you something that caught their eye. If you have little sticker books or play figures or whatever, it helps to pass time. Playing I spy quietly or other little games where possible - before church begins or in a waiting room, or before an award ceremony for an older child,, you can pass the time more easily and make endless waiting from a toddler perspective more palatable - they will tend to sit quietly for the "main event". I know in our house we would also try not to drag our toddlers everywhere - my husband or I would take turns watching games of our older kids to preserve a nap time for the younger ones, or only one of us would attend a choral concert or a parent teacher conference - the toddler stayed happily at home, and the older kid's event got the attention from the attending parent - win win!

  2. I have this method as well, and it definitely does work! Even for a ten year old! For example...least night we had our yearly trunk or treat at our church, and I told the kids to get one candy, and not be greedy to go around cars twice, unless there is extra candy. Some kids just take, and take, but not mine. So I let them know before hand what the rules are. Same with church too. Reverence is important while in sacrament meeting, and regardless of kids playing with toys or adult on their iPhones to just focus on the talks, and not let it be a distraction. We are here to learn of Christ, and chatting can come later after service! Who cares about phones!

    have a great day Sarah!

  3. We do a quick review of expected behavior on the way to make sure they know what it appropriate for a given situation. I ask questions and try to keep it fun: "We are going to eat at a restaurant! How do we act at a restaurant? Do we stick together? (Yes!) Do we sit quietly and eat our food? (Yes!) Do we fight with each other and make faces at the people next to us? (No!)" Etc... I do that with ALL my kids, not just my toddler, and while there are still disasters occasionally, it has really helped overall. Kids want to be good, but they don't always know what being good looks like, especially in a new or unfamiliar situation.

    I think you are right on about letting them know what is coming so they can feel prepared for it. And it applies to older kids too. I have a couple of kids who can be spontaneous, but one of my children has to have some warning, especially when he is going to be doing something outside his comfort zone. He is willing to do it, IF he has time to prepare himself. Otherwise, it is not going to happen.

  4. Yes! I love this so much! How easy but with big reward! I am a bit of a control freak...and I like to know what I have planned for the day! Why wouldn't kids want the same?! I am very much enjoying your toddler tips series! I take care of my 1 and 4 year old nephews and your insight is so helpful!

  5. This advice is very true, Sarah! I did this with all 4 of my children when they were small. Especially helped on trips to stores to review what to expect and what's expected. So enjoy reading your more frequent posts these days. Thank you!

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  7. thank you for sharing this. i do this often with my children and have found it to be very helpful. i have even started making up a song about the day's plans for my two year old. now she requests the "about the day" song at nap and at bedtime. that being said, i would like my children to be flexible {something i am not very good at}. i have noticed that in always telling them the plan, they are not as good when the plan changes. do you have any advice on this?

  8. "I think breakdowns can occur because what was planned or imagined in their heads, is not what is happening in real life. If we can paint that correct picture that matches up with ours, we give the best chance for peace and harmony." YES!!! From personal experience, I agree with this entirely! Thank you, great advice!