My son just turned two. I have found that more and more over the last several months, routine is becoming extremely important to him. It's also quite related to our having our days run smoothly and happily. He is no longer a lover of surprises (unless it's a new truck!
), and because transitioning from one thing to the next can be stressful for him at times, I have found that a routine is truly a life saver. But it doesn't have to be long or detailed, simple and predicatable works just great for us: supper, family time, jammies, books, toothbrushing, nursing/rocking/singing, nite-nite.
I should add here, that until lately, my son was always "go with the flow" baby. He did well with a flexible lifestyle and changes to his routine have never bothered him in the "emotional" sense--always happy wherever, whenever. Anymore, evenings away from home or with guests at home where stimulation is high usually result in him having a hard time getting to sleep and then nightwaking (more than usual).... I think it just comes with the age. *sigh*
As to your crib vs. family bed? Who knows? My son has slept in a crib since he was quite young--just better for us that way for a number of reasons and he's still a nightwaker... I think our routine is the culprit of him transitioning from play to sleep more smoothly... he is sleeping better lately too however but I think that's because we're putting him down awake now at night... i.e., he's now learning to put himself back to sleep on his own (happily I might add! :sgrin).
Best of luck!