Make a schedule for your child that works around your job.

How to Set a Schedule for Your Toddler When You Work Late

by Erica Loop

While working late has agreed with your night owl sensibilities when you were young (and single and childless), it can wreak havoc on your family's schedule. Even if you aren't working through the wee hours of the night, any job that requires you to work after late evening time can certainly throw off your time with your toddler. Setting a schedule that allows your toddler to get in his necessary 10 to 13 hours each night, but still allows you to see him isn't as insurmountable as it would seem.

Create mandatory nap times during the day. While a toddler in the throes of the terrible-two's may resist a stringently set nap time, this daytime sleep is essential if you want your little one to stay up until you get home from work. To maximize nap time make it manageable for your toddler. If your toddler is an easy napper (and doesn't every mom want this?) have him take a morning and afternoon nap for at least 30 minutes each time. On the other hand, if you have a more difficult napper try one longer mega-nap in the afternoon.

Move up your toddler's wake-up time. Unless your child has daycare or an early morning class, there's no reason he needs to wake up at the crack of dawn. It may take some time to get your child's schedule to match-up with yours, but after a few cycles of waking up later he will get used to sleeping in. This isn't to say that you should let your toddler sleep the day away. While sleeping until noon isn't the best of ideas, pushing back wake-up until 9 o'clock or so won't turn him into a night owl.

Adjust meals to his sleep and wake schedule. A toddler who wakes up at 6 a.m. will most likely want to eat lunch earlier than your child who is sleeping slightly later. Make a meal-time schedule that moves lunch until after noon to keep your toddler going all day long.

Create a rest and relaxation time before bed. When you come home from work your toddler will most likely get very excited. There's little chance of a wound up toddler heading straight to bed following your nightly return home. Avoid choosing over-stimulating activities to try out with your toddler when you get home from work. Pick a picture book out and read a bedtime story or spend some quiet time hanging out in his room listening to soothing music together.


  • Draw pictures of your schedule on a piece of paper to give your toddler some routine.
  • If you have a babysitter or send your child to daycare make sure that his sitter or teacher can accommodate your new schedule.


  • Don't push meals back so far that your child's eating becomes totally out of whack. If you notice that your child is eating lunch closer to dinner-time and dinner right before bed, move meals to a more traditional schedule.
  • If your work schedule requires you to stay out until the middle of the night consider letting your husband or babysitter put your toddler to bed. Keeping up a toddler super-late will just result in a bout of the crankies. While you might want to spend some quality time with him when you get home, sometimes you must sacrifice your own wants for your child's best interest.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

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