As adults, we can get by on 7 hours of sleep and feel rested, alert, and healthy throughout the day. But children need far more sleep to achieve the same results, and toddlers need some of the most sleep of any age group.
In fact, the Sleep Foundation recommends that toddlers get between 11 and 14 hours of sleep per night for optimal health and happiness. However, toddlers are notoriously uncooperative in regards to anything their parents want them to do, especially when it comes to bedtime.
This is where a toddler bedtime routine comes in. Human beings are creatures of habit, and toddlers are no exception. By building a routine that prepares your child and their developing brain for bed, you’ll find it far easier to put your toddler to bed for the night. And a toddler who gets plenty of high-quality sleep is a happy toddler.
To learn exactly how to calm a toddler for bedtime, just keep reading.
Choosing a Bedtime
When you’re creating a bedtime routine, you need to build a toddler bedtime chart that outlines each part of the process, whether that be in your head, on a piece of paper, or on your phone. And the first step in doing so is to choose a bedtime for your toddler.
Now, the best way to do this is to work backward. Think about what time your toddler needs to get up in the morning and choose a bedtime based on their wake-up time. For example, if you have to get your toddler up at 7 am because of your work schedule, they need to be asleep by 8 pm.
The keyword here is “asleep”. When the clock hits 8 pm, your bedtime routine should be at its end, with your toddler asleep in their bed.
Remember, just like with your own sleep schedule, your toddler should be waking up and going to sleep at around the same time every single day.
Their circadian rhythm should help with them waking up at the right time naturally. But if they don’t, be sure not to allow them to sleep in past their normal wake-up time to avoid disaster when it comes to bedtime.
Let’s continue to work backward. In this scenario, you’ve decided that your toddler bedtime is 8 pm. A good routine should last no longer than an hour to 90 minutes at most. Any longer, and you risk overcommitting and being unable to follow through.
Let’s say you’re going to shoot for an hour-long bedtime routine. At 7 pm, you need to begin practicing pre-bedtime habits with your toddler. At this point, you’re not getting your toddler ready for bed quite yet, but you’re working on winding down.
An absolute must during this window is to turn off the TV and discontinue the use of tablets and other electronics. The blue light emitted by these devices will make it more difficult for your child to fall asleep.
If your child is used to playing with the tablet or watching TV at night, consider spending quality time with toys instead. You want to avoid roughhousing here, but sitting down for some one-on-one play for half an hour or so will not only strengthen the bond between you but will make your toddler forget all about their tablet.
Getting in Bed
So, you’ve spent half an hour playing quietly with your toddler and it’s now 7:30 pm. You’re ready to begin the process of getting them in bed, this should take about half an hour from start to finish.
Every family and toddler is different, but one of the best approaches to this portion of the evening is the 3-step bedtime routine. The 3 steps are bath, massage, and cuddles. And no wonder it’s effective – you’d be ready for bed too after completing these steps!
Instead of asking your toddler if they’re ready to get ready for bed, consider telling them in an enthusiastic tone that it’s bathtime or singing a bedtime song.
Either before you start this part of the routine or while your child is in the bath (depending on their age), get their room ready for sleep. Dim the lights, ensure that it’s around a cool 70 degrees, and turn on their nightlight if they have one.
Using a white noise machine and a drop of lavender essential oil in a diffuser can enhance the relaxing energy of the room even more.
It’s 8 pm, your child is in bed, and you’re ready to leave the room and shut the door for the night. If they call you back in the room over and over again, don’t worry, you’re not alone. However, this is a bad habit that will seriously diminish your child’s quality and length of sleep.
So, as difficult as it might be, it’s essential that you break it. Your 3-step process of bath, massage, and cuddles might be enough to do the trick. But if it’s not, here’s what to do.
Ensure that they have everything they need to feel safe, whether that be a nightlight or their favorite bamboo toddler blanket. Then, wean your child off of this behavior slowly. When they call for you, wait longer and longer to check on them. If this still doesn’t work, don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician for advice.
Be Patient With Your Toddler Bedtime Routine
Just as you can’t expect yourself to develop a new routine and set of habits right away, don’t expect your new toddler bedtime routine to work immediately. It’s going to take a few days at minimum for your child to adapt to the new schedule, and that’s okay.
Do your best to remain patient and remember that your hard work will pay off in the end. When your toddler sleeps better at night, you’ll see a vast improvement in your days with them.
Interested in learning more about establishing good habits with your children? Take a look at our blog!
Adobe Stock royalty-free image #205807925, ‘mother puts her daughter to bed and kisses her in evening’ uploaded by JenkoAtaman, standard license purchased from https://stock.adobe.com/images/download/205807925; file retrieved on February 13th, 2019. License details available at https://stock.adobe.com/license-terms – image is licensed under the Adobe Stock Standard License.