Building a Bedtime Routine for Your Toddler
Health, Wellness, & Safety
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The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers sleep 11-14 hours per day. If your little one doesn’t get enough sleep, you may have to deal with an overtired toddler; which all parents know, isn’t pretty. Establishing sleep associations and a consistent bedtime routine will help your child to get the sleep that her little body so desperately needs.
Leading Up to Bedtime
The lead time to sleep is important. In our house we do wind-down time an hour before bedtime. My two-year-old has no concept of time, but hearing me say “One hour until bedtime” has conditioned her to understand that she still has time to play, but we are changing the mood. I then encourage calmer play activities. I try to keep my own energy and voice calmer. She follows my lead. At thirty minutes until bedtime I say “Almost bedtime. Let’s head upstairs.” These updates allow her to prepare. It is expected and consistent.
Developing Your Own Routines
Every family that I know has different steps to bedtime. There is no one-size fits all routine, but there are two key components that all children need—hygiene and comfort. Bathtime has always calmed my little ones and been a great segway to bedtime, but my sister says that evening baths make bedtime too long and crazy, thus she opts for morning baths. Do what works for you!
My toddler’s current bedtime routine looks like this:
Bath During her bath I let her play for a few minutes, then I begin talking to her about the day as I soap her up. She gets a pump of liquid baby soap as she begins to wash her own body. We always end the bath by rinsing her hair and saying “All done! Bedtime.” It isn’t the words that are important, it is the consistency.
Settling into Her Room Next I allow her a minute or two in her bedroom. She typically gathers stuffed animals or starts to look at books. During this time we continue to talk, modeling language and conversation, but in a calm way.
Brush Teeth I play the song Brush Your Teeth by Raffi as I brush her teeth.
Story Reading with your child is one of the best things that you can do to help to build his brain. Bedtime is the perfect time to share literature with your child. My little one chooses two books, then climbs onto my lap.
Song When the stories are finished I ask my daughter which song she wants. Choices are better than yes or no questions when you are trying to establish a consistent routine. (“Do you want Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or You Are My Sunshine?” versus “Do you want a song?”)
In Bed As soon as we finish our song, I lower her into her crib, and say goodnight. Most nights she lies right on her pillow and waits for a goodnight kiss, but some nights she stands up or wants to tell me one more thing. Every night I kiss her stuffed animal, then kiss her, and say “I love you, sweet girl. Goodnight.” Then, and I think that this is key, no matter her reaction, I turn on her nightlight, close her blinds, turn on her music, and leave her room. It is important that my response be consistent, even if her behavior isn’t.
Developing a bedtime routine will help your toddler to, not only, get the sleep that she needs now, but also set her up for sleeping success in the future.