Hey everyone! So today I am writing about how to create a soothing bedtime routine for toddlers. This has been a big deal in my house. When I say big, I mean HUGE! My youngest has not been a good sleeper since day one! I’m talking waking up to nurse every 2-3 hours at 18 months!! Needless to say, this Momma was getting tired!
So I decided to do some research and found this wonderful book called The Happy Sleeper by Heather Turgeon, MFT, and Julie Wright, MFT. You can find it on Amazon here*. Y’all I wish I had found this book before I had kids!! I would have saved myself a lot of sleepless nights.
Halfway through the book, I had my son only waking up once or twice a night. That might seem like a lot to some parents, but compared to where we were when I started that is some serious progress. Thanks to the book, I also know what we need to work on to get him sleeping all the way through the night. I get giddy just thinking about it!
One of the most helpful pieces of information from the book was on how to create a soothing bedtime routine. I realized I had been doing it all wrong and both my son and I were suffering for it. So here are the things I learned about creating a soothing bedtime routine for toddlers.
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How to Create a Soothing Bedtime Routine for Toddlers
Create a bedtime routine of calming soothing activities.
This seems like practical advice, but I wasn’t doing it. I was pretty much letting my son do what he wanted so I could get those last few dishes washed before I needed to put him down. That meant if he was playing like a wild child so be it. Once I added in some calming activities to his bedtime routine, I saw an immediate change. It allowed his mind and his body to slowly relax and be more ready to fall asleep on his own.
Create a routine that lasts anywhere from 15-60 minutes.
The length of your bedtime routine is nowhere near as important as your ability to stick to the routine. Create a routine you know you will be able to replicate every night, even when you’re tired and worn out. We tend to be very busy in the evenings, so our bedtime routine is about 15-20 minutes.
Follow the bedtime routine every, single night!
Consistency is the KEY to a successful bedtime routine! Children love predictability. When they know what comes next, they are more relaxed and comfortable. These are things they need to be feeling if we ever want them to fall asleep.
Follow the routine in the same order every night.
This is another part of that consistency we just talked about. The repetitiveness and the predictability in a bedtime routine are comforting for children. It allows them to develop an association between the bedtime routine and falling asleep. If we change up the order or start adding things in or taking them away, we leave them wondering what’s going to happen next. Instead of relaxing they start focusing and trying to figure out what is happening.
Make sure the bedtime routine has a clear and consistent ending.
This is the final cue to your child that it’s time to go to sleep. Try to use a simple phrase or action that lets them know the bedtime routine is over and now is the time to lay down and go to sleep. This clear ending is also used if for some reason the child wakes up during the night and you have to put them back to bed.
Do the final steps of the routine in the room they will be sleeping in.
This helps everything transition much smoother. I was previously doing most of my son’s bedtime routine in his sister’s room as I put them down to bed. This ended up leaving him super stimulated and too worked up to settle down very easily by the time we made it to his room. With our bedtime routine being so short, it has been really helpful to do most of his routine in his own room without anyone else around.
Use a warm calm tone throughout the entire bedtime routine.
Children pick up on our emotions way better than we think they do. If we are feeling anxious or frustrated about putting them to sleep, they are going to start feeling those emotions too. Which will make it even more difficult to get them to bed. If we focus on feeling more relaxed ourselves, they will relax as well, and we will achieve our goal a lot more quickly.
Our Bedtime Routine
Here is a quick rundown of our bedtime routine:
- Bedtime snack
- Brush teeth
- Read books
- Get a drink
- Lay down to sleep
It can take time to get used to a new bedtime routine. It might be a big adjustment for you and your child. I know it was for me. I had to start making my son’s sleep habits a much bigger priority than I had in the past.
It was a big change, but SOOOO worth it. Even if you don’t see results right away, stick with it for a few weeks. Also, don’t be afraid to troubleshoot a few things. If something isn’t working, don’t give up altogether. Make a few small changes and see if they help.
I would love to hear about your experiences with bedtime routines for toddlers. Please leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Pinterest for more parenting tips and advice.
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Candice is a mom of 3 who has been homeschooling since 2013. She has an A.A.S. in Early Childhood Studies and cares deeply about helping other parents get the information and resources they need to help them homeschool their children with confidence.