Something happens at bedtime to toddlers…
Instead of feeling tired, they become wide awake.
Instead of being ready for story time they want to run naked around the house screaming.
Then, instead of singing soft lullabies with you they flail and fight and just don’t want any part of it.
Bedtime… it’s a dadgum battle to get these kids into bed.
You envisioned bedtime being something fairytale like and magical, but really it consists of these things:
- running (them away from you and you to catch them)
- tears (yours and theirs)
- yelling (you and them)
- anger (them at having to go to bed, you at them fighting bedtime)
You get the idea. It is a bit dicey sometimes with these amazingly cuddly and cute toddlers. But, you know, it doesn’t have to be this way.
You can craft a toddler bedtime routine your kids will love that will help get the most cooperation from them as possible.
They may not love every minute of bedtime, but hopefully they won’t fight it as much.
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The Smart Bedtime Routine Your Toddler Will Love
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Step 1: Pre-Bed Similarities
As is the key to many things with toddlers, routine is very important. Your children will get into habits and routines that serve them well if you are consistent.
This does not mean doing the same exact thing each evening, but having groups of things that you regularly rotate.
You may play board games as a family or have devotions (we love this book for preschoolers). There may be some time of gentle play – or who are we kidding, roughhousing – before the bedtime goes into full swing.
You’ll probably want to avoid running errands, visiting rowdy friends, or always having commitments at this time of evening. It will prevent your child from being able to properly do Step 2.
Step 2: The Wind Down
Wind down routines are intensely important.
Just because you know 7:30 p.m. is bedtime doesn’t mean your toddler’s eyes are drooping and they’re ready to sleep.
Likely, they are not.
The way you gain cooperation from your child in the bedtime arena is to help them wind down naturally so they are actually allowing their minds to recognize their bodies’ fatigue.
Here are some things commonly done at bedtime to help your toddler wind down:
- warm bath
- drying off
- putting on lotion
- brushing teeth
- turning the lights down low
- closing curtains, windows, or blinds
- turning on white noise (that’s my favorite and it’s a free app)
- singing nurser rhymes or other calm songs
- rocking in a chair together
- reading books
They will look different at your house, but remember, you want to do things at bedtime that help lower children’s heart rates.. not bring them up.
These lovely cards and checklists will help you create and keep healthy wind down and sleep routines for your little ones.Learn More
Remember, you need to choose a time for your toddler bedtime routine that isn’t too late because a later bedtime will contribute to night terrors, sleepwalking, and evening wake ups.
Step 3: Logistics
It can be tricky doing the bedtime jig.
I have 5 kids (ages 5, 4, 3, 2, and 5 months) so I get it.
The hardest part? Keeping some of them “wound down” and accounted for while you’re putting the others in bed. The way forward?
- First, learn to corral.
- Teach your toddlers and preschoolers to follow their own routine using something like these printable routine cards.
- Close doors. If you are putting to bed a 2 year old but need your 4 year old quiet, let him have some Quiet Room to Play until you come.
- Conversely, if you are putting to bed a 4 year old put your 1 year old in his crib with a few toys until you get there.
- Divide and conquer. My husband and I usually like to give each child their own bedtime routine. So he takes 2, I take the other 2, and I take the baby. If kids share in the future it may pan out differently, but for now we feel good having those few minutes alone with each child.
Step 4: Bonding and Alone Time
If you have a few kids and struggle with guilt knowing they don’t get tons of individual time from you, be encouraged. There are ways to squeeze it in throughout the day and bedtime is one of them.
Even if your two kids share a room, do one routine with a child and put that one to bed while the other reads a book quietly or does another one of these calm down hacks.
Bedtime, like no other, is a good time for interesting conversation. You’ll hear all kinds of things about school or their Deep Thoughts or worries and fears.
Moms or dads feel tempted to hurry this phase and have their own down time, but the quickest way for your child to drift into sleep is to help them feel safe and secure.
And if they don’t feel this way, you’ll have a lot more bedtime battles on your hands.
Step 5: Praying and Leaving
One of the best gifts you can give your child is the ability to go to sleep without a crutch. Of course, kids need our cuddles (it’s good for their brains), but they also need to feel safe and secure knowing they can go to sleep and we’re still watching over them.
Our particular bedtime routine is to pray, sing a certain song I’ve created for each child that is silly, kiss on the forehead, and leave the room.
You may need to do this a few evenings until your child gets the hang of it, but after he does, you’ll be surprised how easy bedtime becomes!
Create a routine that works for you.
Be encouraged, mama…
Bedtime doesn’t have to be a struggle.
Take our 3 day challenge to create life-giving family, child, and self-care routines.Learn More