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Toddlers are creatures of habit. They thrive on routine. They pride themselves on being independent and doing everything for themselves, but they definitely function most effectively when on a consistent daily schedule, and most importantly, a consistent bedtime. When you get your toddler to bed at the same time every night, they are less tired and moody during the day, and it is easier to get them in bed if they know what to expect when they go to bed every night. A toddler nighttime routine may be just what they need.
A good bedtime routine is also essential to getting your toddler off to bed with as little fuss as possible. I can’t say your toddler will start to love going to bed, but he or she will make a smoother transition to bedtime. The key is to create a routine that is enjoyable for both you and your toddler.
Our bedtime routine has changed over the past year. You just have to adjust to your toddler’s and your family’s needs. Here is an example of our schedule. We have twin boys that are 2 1/2 years old, and this schedule has worked great for us.
- 7:30 p.m. bath (every other night)
- 8:00 p.m. pajamas, brush teeth
- 8:15-8:30 p.m. sing song, read stories
- 8:30 p.m. hugs and kisses, lights out
Keep your routine flexible. We used to put the boys in bed at 7:00 p.m. This worked great until daddy started coming home from work between 6-6:30 p.m. We found it worked much better for them to go to bed at 8:30 p.m. instead…they got to spend more quality time with dad and started sleeping in an hour later in the morning. My husband and I still get a couple quiet hours in the evening before we go to bed.
Our nighttime “song” is a new addition to our routine. I recently picked up a used Sesame Street CD called Bert and Ernie’s Greatest Hits that has a great song with hand motions that go with it (pat your tummy, shake your leg, wiggle your finger, etc.). My boys absolutely love doing the motions to it. Ever since we got it we have to listen to the song after they get into bed. They also have certain books (back hoe, fire truck) they read every night before they go to sleep.
As they have gotten older our boys have been taking more and more toys into their beds with them. I don’t think they even really play with them very much…they just like having them in bed with them. I’ve found in the morning they will play a little while in bed with their toys before they start to fuss (they are still sleeping in cribs).
And, of course, there are the hugs and kisses. My husband just gives them a kiss and walks out, but I have found one of our boys needs a certain number of kisses! One boy doesn’t really care, but one of them needs to kiss me three or four times and he decides when he is done. If I leave too soon he starts wailing, but after he gets that certain number of kisses he settles right down. Luckily it’s only three or four and not nineteen or twenty!
It’s easy to get into a bedtime routine. Start with picking a bedtime, preferably early enough that you have some time to yourself after they go to bed! Give yourself 30-45 minutes before their lights off time to implement your routine. It sounds like a lot of work, but it is a great time to spend quality time with your toddler and you will both begin to look forward to it.