Bedtime with your toddler doesn’t have to be a struggle – no, really. If you’ve ever wondered how to get your toddler to sleep, a bedtime routine that’s consistent and customized for you and your littles can make a world of difference. Here are our tips to help your toddler fall asleep and enjoy every step along the way… well, almost every step.
Choose activities you both enjoy
You always hear that bedtime should be calming for your little one. But it’s just as important that you enjoy the bedtime routine too. If you find it taxing and stressful, your toddler is sure to pick up on your energy. If you genuinely enjoy it, they’ll feel your calm and happiness instead.
Are you so tired of reading Goodnight, Moon every night? Swap it out for something fresh. Is it always a fight to get your little one into PJs? Try meditating before bedtime so you can stay calm even if they’re on the verge of a tantrum. Still can’t get into it? Try keeping a gratitude journal for a couple of weeks to help you focus on all there is to love about this time. Whatever you have to do, do it. You deserve to love this time too!
Time it right to cut down on toddler bedtime struggles
Consistent bedtimes are game-changers for toddler sleep. Your child will be less resistant to bedtime when they know what to expect each evening and when to expect it. Plus, you’ll help regulate their circadian rhythms, so they’ll naturally begin to feel tired around bedtime each evening. Consistency helps them enjoy their bedtime routine more and get better sleep –– which is a win for everyone.
Most experts recommend a bedtime between 7-8:30 pm for toddlers. This lines up with their natural wake time to give them the recommended 11-12 hours of nighttime sleep.
You can find the bedtime sweet spot for your kiddo by observing their behavior before bedtime and upon waking up in the morning. Overtired kids often get extra hyper, cranky, clumsy, and sleepy before bed and may wake up too early; these guys could benefit from an earlier bedtime. Signs that bedtime is too early include not being sleepy at all during bedtime, fighting sleep for more than thirty minutes after being tucked in, and rising too early. Try moving bedtime in 15 minute increments until you find the right fit.
Do the not-so-fun parts first
Even with perfect timing and a perfectly zen parent, there are bound to be a few aspects of bedtime your kiddo isn’t so crazy about. Brushing teeth, changing diapers, washing hair, and drying off (BRRRR!) are all common culprits. As much as you can, try to do the activities your child doesn’t love first and then cozy up for the fun parts!
Common toddler bedtime routine activities
Pick, choose, and change the order until you find the perfect routine for your toddler!
Pre-bedtime milk or snack
Asking for a snack before bed isn’t always a stalling tactic. Toddlers have tiny tummies, and many nutritionists recommend offering a cup of milk, a healthy snack, or a nursing session before bed to keep them full through the night.
It’s a must, but most toddlers don’t love it. To make it a little more fun, try new toothpaste flavors, give them a second toothbrush to hold, let them have a turn to brush, or even let them brush your teeth. If you can, enlist a second person for distractions like patty cake or silly faces.
Fun fact: warm baths cause our core body temperature to drop, which is a circadian signal for sleep. Baths are a calming activity for many kids, but that doesn’t mean they work for everyone. If your toddler dislikes baths or seems to get too energetic, don’t feel pressure to include them in your bedtime routine.
Lotion and/ or massage
The transition from bath to PJs can be tough. A calming massage with a favorite scent can be a great way to recenter.
A few minutes of quiet play with blocks, puzzles, or similar toys are especially helpful for kids who tend to get hyper after baths!
Toddler bedtime stories
We think every toddler can benefit from a few bedtime stories each night. It’s relaxing, fun, predictable, and great for bonding – all the elements of a good bedtime routine activity. Plus, it’s one way to make sure you always work reading into your day.
Songs, prayers, snuggles, etc.
Before you lay them down in their crib or toddler bed, wind down with one last sweet song, kiss, snuggle, prayer… you get the idea. Younger toddlers will benefit from the signal that it’s almost time to say goodnight!
Goodnight and sleep tight! We hope these tips help you create a blissful bedtime routine for your toddler and enjoy peaceful nights together!