Establishing Bedtime Routines for Toddlers

Getting children to bed sometimes feels like a marathon. Just one more story, one more glass of water, one more trip to the bathroom—it’s almost as if kids don’t want to, you know, go to bed!


It doesn’t need to be this way. Establishing bedtime routines for toddlers helps prepare them for bed, and makes the whole process a relaxing, loving time of day.


Calculating Bedtime

Toddlers need ten to twelve hours of sleep every night, making it easy to calculate when they need to go to bed. Simply count backwards twelve hours from when they need to get up. If your little one gets up at 7.00 am, she should be in bed by 7.00pm.


You’ll need to fine-tune this calculation based on your child’s sleep pattern—some sleep a complete twelve hours, while others can get by on an hour or two less.


Bear in mind, this is the time at which they should be in bed, not when they start preparing for bedtime. Make a list of all the pre-bed tasks they must do, and determine how much time each task take. Your list might look like this:


  • Brush Teeth
  • Have a glass of water
  • Use bathroom
  • Choose and put on pajamas
  • Choose and read a bed-time story.


If these tasks take, say thirty minutes and your child needs to be in bed by 7.00pm, bedtime preparation needs to start at 6.30pm.


Encouraging Bedtime Routines for Toddlers

Toddlers aren’t very good judges of time, so telling them “ten minutes until it’s time to get ready for bed” doesn’t anything to them. It’s better to associate bedtime preparation with a specific occurrence, such as a pre-bedtime snack. Some parents set the kitchen timer to go off about five minutes before the bedtime routine starts, so children learn to associate the timer alarm with bedtime. You can also use timers during bedtime preparations to help keep children on track.


Bath time is an ideal start to bedtime routines. The warm bath raises the child’s temperature and encourages sleepiness. If you offer a bedtime snack, choose one that’s a mixture of carbohydrates and protein: the carbs make the child sleepy while the protein helps keep blood sugar levels stable until morning. Warm milk or half a banana are other possible snack choices.


It’s important the last moments before bedtime are relaxing and calm. A cuddle and a favorite bed-time story are ideal for the end of a toddler’s day, followed up by being tucked into bed with a favorite snuggle buddy.

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