My DD THRIVES on routine. She does so much better when she knows what is coming next.
I'm much more go with the flow. I like the day to be free-flowing, but that just doesn't seem to be doing her as much good.
What are some regular activities that you do with your toddler to help build routine into your day?
Right now the only things that happen at set times are lunch and nap.
We don't even regularly get out of our pj's, so I've got a long way to go...
My boys (just turned two) also definitely thrive on routine (as do I, to be honest). It really helps them to know what's coming next (as evidenced by little freak-outs when things turn out differently-- the downside of this approach, I guess). Here's our typical routine on days when we're home together (they go to a home-based Waldorf playschool 3 days a week while I work at home, so things are obviously different on those days) Most all of the times are approximate-- the order is predictable but actual time frames vary. This was our routine for quite a while, though the morning is currently a bit in flux.
6:30 wake-up (whenever they wake up-- it used to be 5:30, so we're pretty pleased that it's finally after 6am ;-)
drink milk on mom and dad's bed while mom gets ready and dad makes breakfast
7ish everyone eat breakfast together
7:30 wrestle the boys into clothes before their dad leaves for work at 8 (this used to be a really easy part of our routine, but has become a HUGE struggle over the past month or two.
8:30: go to school if it's a school day, if not take a wagon ride or stroller ride and then play in backyard for a while.
10-15ish: come inside for morning snack, play inside for a while; potty
12: lunch; potty; head to bedroom to wind down for nap (sleep sacks, books, etc.)
1-3 nap time
3:00 snack, then play outside or run errands or go to park for playdate
5:30 come inside, make dinner
6:30 eat dinner when dad comes home
go to bedroom, get pajamas, milk, books, kisses
Not very exciting, but it works for us. On weekends, we tend to do more outings and things (when I have my husband around to help), so things get a bit out of wack, but even then there is some routine-- we try to preserve the nap (although we often do end up having one day with naps in the car on teh way back from the zoo, etc.)
Anyway, not sure if this helps, but good luck :-)
My DD is 21 months old, I think we basically do the following every day:
8:00 a.m. wake up, change dipey, brush teeth---she attempts (but moreso plays) to brush her own while I brush mine. I make breakfast while she plays, we eat, I get her ready and then she plays some more while I get ready.
9:00-11:00 one-on-one play time. outside if it's good weather, or read books, do puzzles, play make believe, chase her around and give her LOTS of quality mama/baby time. (makes her sooo much happier throughout the rest of the day).
11:00 snack time-second cup of coffee time :)
11:30-1:00 she kind of follows me around while i do things around the house, laundry, cleaning up, etc. sometimes she'll play by herself while I take care of things. I make lunch around 12:30.
1:00-2:30 or 3- nap time. ME TIME!
3-6:30 Run errands, playdate, different activities every day away from the house, she'll have a snack during this time also that i bring with. (Bad weather days---we do indoor activities and once in awhile watch a show together)
6:30-bedtime routine begins. I make dinner and then we eat, bath-time and let her play for quite awhile, get p.j.'s on and brush teeth (mama brushes her teeth this time), pick up toys---she's great at this, I have a bucket in the living room and she has fun gathering up all her toys to put in there, then I bring them into her room and we put them away on the shelves. After that we curl up on the couch together and read books for as long as she wants, then hugs, kisses, night night time. After which I do any deep cleaning that needs doing or dishes, or sometimes I just get on the computer/read/do my own thing to unwind.
I'm a single mom so I didn't think it'd be easy to get into a routine, but all of this just kind of happened on it's own. I was going to school part time two days a week but even then we still followed this same schedule. I think it's very helpful and comforting for toddlers to have routine in their life. For me too, though naturally I think I am more go with the flow like you :)
Examples of our 'touchstones':
-play a song on the laptop when he wakes up (or I sing if I don't have the laptop on)
-brush teeth & get dressed within an hour or two of waking
-as we're getting ready, explain what we are going to do, who/what will be there, when we might return home, etc.
-sing a short song and say a prayer before dinner
-DS spends some time with DH at the dinner table (when DH & I are finished eating) while I take 5-10 minutes to myself
-mini routine before bed (only takes a few minutes): read 1-2 books, say prayers, say goodnight to everyone, go outside for fresh air for a couple minutes, then go to sleep