Having a structured toddler bedtime routine will help your child to sleep better. Today, Alana from Parenting From the Heart, gives us her top toddler bedtime routine tips.
With the days getting longer and summer fast approaching, I've been lax about bedtime.
When I pick up my kids from school, I pack a picnic and we head to the park spend the rest of the afternoon outside.
They ride their bikes, meet up with kids from school, and race through the sprays of the splash pad.
Because being outside is so good for them, we stay as long as they want.
By the time we get home, I putter around getting dinner on.
We eat and the kids play until I look over at the clock shocked to see it's already past bedtime.
I scramble to get them upstairs and through their bedtime routine.
That's when Bedtime Starts to go South.
Feeling like I'm running behind, so I rush through getting the kids undressed and into their pyjamas.
I tell them it's too late for stories because it's getting late.
With a quick brush of each kids teeth, I usher them into their beds and wait.
In no time, at least one kid becomes thirsty beyond all reason.
Then usually both of my bigger kids are out of bed.
It turns into an exasperating version of whack-a-mole. And in this process of trying to get all three kids to lie down, they start laughing uncontrollably and get revved up.
Two Nights Ago, Our Bedtime Routine Took Over An Hour.
And I yelled. I actually yelled the words, "GO TO SLEEP NOW!"
It wasn't exactly my finest or most pragmatic parenting moment.
It was the moment I realized I needed to get back to our old bedtime routine and fast.
Toddler Bedtime Routine: How to End Bedtime Battles
Now, I'm calling this a toddler bedtime routine because that is when it becomes age appropriate. (Baby sleep is a different ball game.)
However, these strategies are effective for toddlers and older kids as well.
My kids are fifteen months, four-years-old, and six-years-old respectively and I am using variations of these strategies for each of them.
Good Sleep Starts with Physical Activity During the Day.
When my brother attended a sleep clinic years ago, the doctor overseeing his care said:
"A farmer falls asleep when his head hits the pillow."
Of course, there are no absolutes, but a child who has had a day where he can run and play is more likely to sleep well than a child who has been sedentary.
During Daytime, Explain Bedtime Expectations.
The most effective approach to toddler bedtime and bedtime as a whole is introducing expectations ahead of time.
With older children, simply outline how you're getting back to your old routine or what you're new routine will look like.
Explain outside of the heat of the moment what they are and aren't allowed to do.
For instance, "I will remind you to go to the bathroom before bed and will bring up a glass of water if you need it. You need to grab your stuffed animal and then stay in bed."
Social stories are also a wonderful way to make toddler bedtime easier.
All you do is create a story presenting the struggle the child is having (i.e. staying in her bed and not getting out), then describe the child struggling to cooperate with the bedtime routine but ultimately choosing to cooperate.
Learn more about this technique here.
Establish the Time Your Child Should be Asleep and Work Backwards.
Sleep experts suggest bedtime routines should take around 30 minutes.
It helps to determine when your child naturally falls asleep and work backwards from there.
Effective bedtime routines can include a bath, getting pyjamas on, brushing teeth, reading stories and snuggling.
Set a Bedtime and Keep To It.
Weeknights will be made easier if bedtime on the weekends stays the same. A set bedtime means a child's circadian rhythm can predict when he should fall asleep.
What to do if Bedtime Doesn't Go Well.
Sometimes, despite doing everything "right," there are still power struggles.
In those instances, it's important to empathize with your child.
This allows her to let go of her anger and frustration. Then, she will be more open to your expectations.
I got my kids back onto a proper bedtime routine. And in two short days, the bedtime battles are fewer and they are falling asleep faster.
I am happy that even though the days are getting longer, the length it takes my kids to fall asleep is getting shorter!