Setting Bedtime Routines for Toddlers
The first bit of advice is slightly unconventional, but necessary to give! Use your own judgment and your toddler’s behavior as a guide to your bedtime routine. Just because your pediatrician said that your toddler needs 12 hours of sleep, does not mean that they have to be in bed by 7pm on the dot. If you are trying to put a toddler to sleep who still has extra energy, then you are only looking for trouble. And while other mothers might gasp that your 3 year old stays up to…dare I say, 9pm – if it works for you and your family, IT WORKS! As long as they are getting plenty of sleep throughout a 24-hour period, their development will not be hindered. Often, the number one reason that parents have problems with toddlers going to sleep is because they have outgrown their bedtime. Parents get too accustomed to bedtime being at 7 or 8pm, not realizing that your toddler’s needs are changing.
The next piece of advice for setting up your bedtime routine is to calm yourself first. Many parents become so prepared for the struggle of bedtime that they become stressed, agitated, and frustrated to say the least. Your children pick up on this even if the clues are non-verbal, and that makes things ten times harder. Try to adopt a new mindset at bedtime. Instead of “Oh no, it’s the witching hour,” think, “I can’t wait to read with my child in their bed tonight and have some snuggle time.”
Your bedtime routine doesn’t have to be elaborate. It also doesn’t have to follow some rules from some book you picked up in a desperate attempt to end the battle. The key is finding things that work for you and your toddler.
Your routine should work for you. Bath is always a good way to set the mood. From there you should take your clues from your kids. Some seem to naturally calm down watching a favorite show, while others do better with a candlelit room and storytelling. If your toddler is going through a phase of not wanting to sleep alone in their bed, then carry a flashlight in for them and lie down with them and read a few books to set the mood. Also, if your child is frightened for no apparent reason at bedtime, trust your instincts. Is it easier to lie down with your child, holding them peacefully in your arms for the 15 minutes it takes them to fall asleep or constantly fight with them and send them back to their room when they come out every few minutes? Food for thought….few teenagers still want their parents to lie down next to them as they go to sleep. It could be just a phase brought on by their own fears of growing up too fast.
The other important factor of a bedtime routine for toddlers is consistency. You should do the same thing every night. 30 minutes before bed, give them the bedtime bell warning so they know what to expect. You do not necessarily have to do it at the exact same minute every night, but the routine should be the same. Allow your child to be clear on what you expect from them; for instance, getting their pajamas or picking out 2 books. And always try to keep the mood light and airy. No matter how tired you are from you day – it is important to make bedtime relaxing.
Another thing that might help is to give your child a fan or white noise maker in their room. As your toddler gets older, it is easier for them to get distracted by their thoughts which will have them venturing back to wherever you are hiding. The white noise is naturally lulling. You can also tell your child that they have to go to bed. They can take their books and toys and perhaps a light to use – but they don’t have to fall asleep. When you do this, you take away all the pressure, and they are more apt to fall asleep calmly.
Your bedtime routine doesn’t have to be elaborate. It also doesn’t have to follow some rules from some book you picked up in a desperate attempt to end the battle. The key is finding things that work for you and your toddler. Remember to be resilient and flexible with the realization that month to month your toddlers needs and habits may change. Often, the best bedtime routine involves some cuddle time with you.