Toddlers have an impressive knack for dragging out bedtime. It’s one of the first skills they seem to master. But while their stalling tactics seem to be unmatched, there are ways to help make getting your tiny person to sleep a little smoother.
Here are a handful of tips to help create a healthy bedtime routine for your toddler.
1. Plan it out
Prepping for bedtime requires a bit of planning throughout the day. Nothing ruins a regular bedtime like an unplanned three-hour nap. It might be tempting to let sleeping toddlers lie, but it pays to keep a strict naptime schedule to avoid bedtime blunders.
Be sure to start winding things down well before you set the wheels in motion for bedtime.
Quiet time or low-key play is crucial. If they’re running around the house (and they probably are), try to engage them in a relaxing activity like coloring or a puzzle.
Giving them a heads up that playtime is soon going to transition to bedtime prep is important as well. When sounding the final bell, make sure to tell them it’s time to get ready for bed rather than asking them if they’re ready for sleepy time. Because let’s face it, they’ll probably say no.
2. Be consistent
Sticking to a consistent bedtime routine is the best way to prep your toddler for bedtime. It will also help your child fall asleep on their own, a skill they need to master for their development (and everyone’s sanity).
Once your toddler’s in a consistent bedtime groove, you’ll face less resistance to the steps that lead to shut-eye. Stick as close as possible to the time you begin this routine each evening as well. Choosing a tuck-in time that’s early enough is key. Dealing with an overtired toddler will make your job that much more difficult.
3. A warm bath
Start your toddler’s bedtime routine with a warm bath. They will learn that bathtime signifies bedtime is around the corner, mentally preparing them for the inevitable bedtime. Scrubbing off all the tidbits (like dinner) from your toddler’s busy day might be necessary, but it will also relax them. Add in some fresh pajamas, and your kid will soon be reaching cozy status.
4. Give them choices
Letting your kid make choices might seem like a terrible idea on the surface, but it can actually go a long way. The trick is to give them two options at various stages throughout their bedtime routine.
For instance, let them pick between pajamas they’ll wear that night, or decide if they’d like to read two vs. three books. This simple act will help them feel as though they’re in some control.
5. Set the mood
To keep the sleep train rolling, you’ll need to make their room the ideal sleep-inducing and calm atmosphere. Start with mood lighting, close their window blinds or curtains, and dim their bedroom lights. Make sure the room is a comfortable temperature as well.
Turning on a white noise machine can be helpful, and will drown out other noises in the house. Give them their favorite blanket or a stuffed animal that they can snuggle with as they start to feel their eyelids get heavier.
6. Cuddle up
Reading a book or two is another cornerstone of a successful bedtime routine. Throw in some cuddle time and they’ll be well on their way to slumber town. To really seal the deal, try one of the many soothing bedtime stories and lullabies available on the Moshi sleep app.
Singing a special song that’s reserved for bedtime is another tactic that works well with toddlers. Unlike your partner, toddlers could care less how horrible your singing voice is. It’s a judgement free zone so let those notes soar.
Be warned: toddlers are master bedtime negotiators and this stage of the bedtime routine is when they’ll pull out all the stops. They’ll claim thirst, persuade you to read 5 books instead of 2, and demand a million more hugs. Although it’ll be hard to resist, make sure to set limits and stand by them. Toddlers crave boundaries and limitations, they just don’t know it.
7. Plan an exit strategy
The final step to parental freedom for the evening. You’re almost there. Turn on a nightlight if needed, and give them a goodnight kiss before slipping out the door. But don’t linger too long. Letting your toddler fall asleep on their own is the best thing you can do for both of you. If they cry, try to let them self soothe rather than staying in their room until they fall asleep, or taking them out of bed. This will lead to poor bedtime habits.
Toddlers are skilled at prolonging bedtime, but these strategies can help create a bedtime routine that lets you both get the rest you need and deserve.