Useful Toddler Bedtime Tips

Recently I have had lots of parents contact me about their 2 and 3-year-olds settling to sleep and how to encourage them to go to bed happily and sleep well.
I have therefore written this blog post to help:
A good bedtime routine with a calm wind down is so important to achieve a successful settling each evening when it's time for your toddler to go to bed.
The consistency of keeping your bedtime routine the same each night will mean you stand a much better chance of her going to bed with little resistance.

Top tips for toddler bedtime:

  • Encourage a daily nap if your toddler is still showing signs of needing one. The best time for this is over the lunchtime period between 12-3pm but always make sure she is woken by 3pm if you want to avoid problems with her settling later on at bedtime.
  • After tea, a bath is a good way to wind her down if your afternoon has been particularly energetic. She can relax while having a play with some well chosen bath toys or puzzles.
  • After bath time encourage only calm activities to continue the wind down before its time to go to bed.
  • Offer a small drink of warm milk and a snack-bananas or fruit are a good way to ensure she doesn't go to bed hungry
  • *Encourage her to have a wee before bed (if already toilet trained) and then go and have a bedtime story together.
  • Work it into your routine that you have one or two books each night and then stick to that as a maximum. Allow her to choose the two books when you first go into her room and don't be drawn into allowing any more than what you originally agree to. If you constantly allow her to negotiate extra stories, drinks or snacks at bedtime she will learn that will be a good way to delay getting into bed and your settling period will increase each night.
  • *Have a kiss and cuddle and encourage your toddler to settle into bed without you needing to stay with her until she falls asleep. If she's reliant on your presence to help her to fall asleep then she's more likely to wake at frequent intervals overnight, as she passes through the sleep cycle for you to help her back to sleep again then too.
  • *Have a special 'wake up lamp' plugged into a timer (which can be bought from hardware or DIY stores). Set it for a reasonable time to wake up and explain that she can call you or come and wake you once her lamp comes on in the morning.
  • *Combine the lamp with a sticker /reward chart and give lots of positive praise each morning when she calls you to tell you the lamp is on (regardless of how many times she woke overnight). If she knows she gets praise for waiting for the light then she will be more determined each night to resettle and wait for it to make you happy.
  • *If she gets out of bed once you leave the room then direct her back to bed calmly. It's important you don't get cross no matter how many times you have to put her back, as she's less likely to settle if she's upset by being told off.
  • Stick to simple, clear Instructions 'its bedtime-night night.'
  • *Once she settles then if she wakes crying in the night then go to her straight away. Check all is ok and if she needs a drink, the toilet or is hot/cold etc. Once happy she's ok then snuggle her back into bed and remind her she needs to wait for her lamp and then it will be wake up time.
  • Repeat this each time she gets out of bed and as long as you are consistent and stay calm she will get the message.
  • *Give lots of praise in the morning when she wakes and calls you to tell you the lamp is on and it's awake time.
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