The American Academy of Pediatrics states that an estimated 20-30% of infants and toddlers have sleep problems. Toddler sleep problems can be as simple as having trouble falling asleep or not staying asleep all night. Having a good bedtime routine sets your toddler up for an excellent night sleep and can help your child avoid very common sleep issues! The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says that the best way to minimize sleep problems in children is to have consistent bedtime and sleep routines.
Quality sleep is essential for all kids. Toddlers are busy little creatures who really need that good, restorative sleep every night so that they can learn and grow. A solid night’s sleep starts with one key piece. A solid bedtime routine. Your toddler’s bedtime routine doesn’t need to be a long, drawn out process. As long as you have a consistent routine each time your child goes to bed, that is what counts.
Healthy Bedtime Routine For Toddlers
When To Start Bedtime Routine For Toddlers?
Turn Off The Screens
Research shows that the use of blue light (screens including TV, tablets, ipad, phones, etc.) will delay the onset of sleep, especially in children! If your child is using a screen in the evening, be sure to shut it down AT LEAST 30 minutes, ideally 60 minutes+, before you want them asleep. Blue light can delay the onset of melatonin, the sleepy hormone.
Going To Sleep On A Full Stomach
Your child’s bedtime routine can start about 30-60 minutes before their actual bedtime, depending on how many steps are involved in the actual bedtime routine. A great way to start is by giving your little one a healthy snack, bottle or breastfeeding them. It’s best to do this early in their routine, before they’re too sleepy and so that they can brush their teeth afterwards. A full tummy is key to avoiding the dreaded “but I’m hungry” at bedtime! If your child does continue to say their hungry during the nighttime routine, incorporate a pre-bedtime snack into their bedtime routine. This will allow them to feel in control of picking a snack but will also ensure it’s part of the routine which can help ease bedtime battles.
Taking a Bath
A bath before bed can be a great part of your child’s bedtime routine. It doesn’t have to be a full blown, twenty minute long bath every night. A bath before bed can be SO relaxing for your child. Use a yummy smelling lavender bubble bath or a sleepytime bath bomb to help your child relax and prepare to fall asleep.
Lotion Up and Put on Pajamas
If bathtime gets your toddler too riled up before bed (we’ve all had those moments where bathtime turns into a wild splashing party!) you can substitute bath time with a simple lotion and massage and pajama time during bedtime routine. There are so many great lotions out there that have essential oil blends perfect for helping your child relax and fall asleep. Lotioning them up and getting them dressed in cozy, comfy pajamas is a great step in helping young children get ready for bed.
Brush Those Teeth
After they’ve got a full tummy and are nice and cozy in their jammies, head on into the bathroom and brush those teeth! Brushing teeth is a vital part of a bedtime routine, it’s something that needs to be done every single night and is a great way to teach your child good hygiene habits.
If your child is potty training or already potty trained, be sure to have them try and go one more time before bed. Middle of the night accidents are no fun for anyone and can cause a huge disruption to your child’s sleep as they often take quite a bit of time to clean up and change clothes and bedding.
I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t love a bedtime story. Reading a book is a great way to bond with your child and help them wind down for bed. Try and choose a book about bedtime or a book that has an overall calm theme. Sometimes intense and exciting bedtime stories can get your child a little wound up and the goal here is to really get them nice and relaxed before they hop into bed.
Dim the Lights/Turn on Night Light
After you’ve read a book or two, or four (toddler’s can be so convincing with that plea for just one more story!) it’s time for dimming the lights and turning on their night light, if they use one. Letting your child turn on their own night light seems like such a small task, but it’s a great opportunity to let your little one practice their independence in getting ready for bed. Night lights don’t need to be super bright, they’re typically in a toddlers room for comforting purposes only and that is totally fine. Some kids don’t feel the need for a night light, and that’s fine too! Whatever works for your child is what’s best.
Goodnight Song And Snuggle
Singing a song before bed, and especially singing the same song each night cues your child’s brain that it’s time for sleep. Feel free to snuggle in close with your little one and sing a song or two to help them relax and prepare to drift off to sleep.
Time for Bed!
The end of the bedtime routine usually culminates with an “I love you,” one more kiss, and tucking your child in for bed. Say goodnight and feel confident that your bedtime routine has set your child up with great sleep habits that will help them fall asleep in no time! Some times the most difficult part for a toddler is when it’s time for the parent to actually leave the room, try to hold strong! Once you have completed their bedtime routine, it’s time for them to go to sleep. If your child likes the physical comfort of a parent or loved one, think about introducing a stuffed animal or lovey, this physical comfort can be very soothing to toddlers.
I have an entire blog post dedicated to different sleep products that can be helpful for toddlers. Feel free to check it out, some items may come in handy for your toddler’s bedtime routine!