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10 Hacks for your Toddler's Nighttime Routine | Words from a Mama
10 Simple Rules to Follow to End the Toddler Bedtime Battles for Good! Having trouble getting your child ready for bed and off to sleep? You’re not the only one! Almost every mama out there has struggled with this at one point for another. Not to worry, I’ve pulled together some easy steps that will have you flying through your nighttime routine with a happy sleeping child at the end. 1. First tip, have a routine and a set bedtime! And stick to it. Now you don’t have to freak out if life gets in the way or if you’re on a family vacation, but the majority of the time…you should do your routine and complete it at around the same time every night. By simply knowing what to expect, your child will fight less and listen more. It sounds too easy to be true, but it is. Children between the ages of 1-3 require 12-14 hours of sleep per day (including naps) and children between the ages of 3-5 require 11-13 hours of sleep per day. So select a bedtime accordingly based on when you want or need them to get up in the morning. Our toddler’s bedtime is 8 PM, but she sleeps until 7-7:30 AM so we can have it that late. If you get up earlier, then your toddler will need to go to sleep earlier. A typical routine includes bath time, getting into PJs, brushing teeth, reading a few stories, singing a song and ends in their room. We do story time and sing songs right in our toddler’s bed. You can customize however you would like, but do follow your routine almost every single day! Also, don’t feel guilty about being firm with a bedtime routine. You are doing this for your child’s well being, not to punish them. Children need sufficient sleep to grow and develop properly. In fact, the AAP “found that adequate sleep duration for age on a regular basis leads to improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health.” Those are huge benefits to getting the right amount of sleep. 2. Next tip, communicate, communicate, communicate. If you are giving your child 5 minutes before they need to take a bath…tell them that (even if they don’t know what 5 minutes means yet..they will catch on very quickly). If you are going to read 2 books before bed, tell them! If they need to brush their teeth before they can color for a little bit, tell them. Simply knowing a transition is coming can help a toddler cope with it. That’s not to say there will never be tantrums, but this helps A LOT! Another great option is having a chart or a song about what their bedtime entails. 3. Next step is to remember a child acts out the most when they are tired. Just like you are exhausted and frustrated at the end of your day…so is your child. Try to start their routine before they get to their breaking point. You will learn their signals that they’re getting tired, and respect those. When you see them, if at all possible, plan to get them in bed soon. 4. Provide your child with options whenever possible. Providing choices helps to end the power struggle and gives your toddler a sense of control. For example of a good toddler choice to give, pick two sets of PJs and ask which they want to wear. Let them pick out their bedtime stories. We even have 2 toothbrushes my daughter picks from. Whatever makes like easier, go for it. 5. Predict their “just one more thing” and build it into your routine. If your child always wants a glass of water before bed, just assume they will ask for it bring it with you. If they always want another song, use step 2 and communicate this is the last song. If they always need another potty trip, make that literally the last thing you do before bed. Whatever their “thing” is, predict it and adjust for it. 6. Consider adding in an energy burner during the day or in early evening before you start your bedtime routine. ESPECIALLY if you can tell your child is wound up on a given day. This can be a walk around the neighborhood, playing at the local park, a dance party in the living room…whatever works for you and gets some of that endless toddler energy out. Here’s a link to a full list of energy burners that you can do right in your own home from the blog What Moms Love. 7. Make a game out of it. When I am running behind, I like to tell my daughter we are on Cheetah time and ask her to do everything as fast as a cheetah would. This doesn’t always work, but it does light a fire under her some nights. 8. Avoid loud activities and bright lights before bedtime Do your energy burner well BEFORE your bedtime routine, not during it. Don’t do high energy activities during your bedtime routine. Otherwise your child will not have enough time to wind down before bed. Dim lights or simply turn some off as you get closer and closer to bedtime so that your child’s body begins to anticipate that it is time to go to bed. And yes, bright lights include screens. Watching screens with bright lights sends chemical signals to your brain to stay awake. Avoid making it harder on yourself and build a routine without any screens near bedtime. 9. Create a calm and relaxing environment ideal for sleep Your child’s room should be dark, cool and quiet (and without screens!). If you can’t control some of the ambient noise (perhaps you have a newborn in the room next door), consider investing in a sound machine to drown out those noises with soothing white noise or ocean waves. Sound machines are a great choice even in a quiet environment. 10. My last tip is counting down to a consqeuence. This is an oldie, but it works really well on my daughter. If your child really won’t listen and is running wild, clearly state what you need your child to do and the consequence if you get to 3 and they have not started at least working towards doing it. Then count slowly to 3. The key here is to follow through with the consequence if they do not listen (so be sure not to name consequences you aren’t going to actually do). We use consequences such as taking away a toy until tomorrow, getting fewer bedtime stories, or not getting to have a bubble bath. Once you do this a few times, kids tend to really get the picture. I try not to bust this out too much because I don’t want to be a dictator, but some nights it is completely necessary to get her in bed. That’s it! Those are my top 10 tips for an easy bedtime with a toddler. I hope that following these tips helps you have an easier bedtime very soon! I would love to hear from you in a comment what works for you and what doesn’t. Thanks for stopping by! Katie