No two families are the same, so we get that bedtime routines for your kids will be different for most. While we've covered the basics in our book, My Ready for Bed Routine, if those steps don't work for you, there are a few others we suggest as well to help you teach your toddlers "it's time to wind down this day."
Follow these easy steps to transition from day to night with more ease and less temper tantrums (parents included)!
Clean up, clean, up everybody, everywhere! We all know the song and it works. Setting the expectation that we need to clean up from our day before we get ready for bed not only helps with the housework, but teaches our kids to clean up after ourselves. A great way to signal this day is done and it's time to get ready for bed.
Draw a bath. Literally! Not only is a bath a wonderful way to cleanse the day away and calm the body with warmth and potentially bubbles, but it also can be a creative outlet to get that last bout of energy out and onto…. the walls? Yes! These days, there are so many creative bath time activities, from foam letters, number and toys to colorful bath bombs and crayons that allow your little one to literally write on the walls! Better still, they are very easy to clean up. Don’t worry if your toddler is singing and giggling in the bath. In fact, it should be encouraged! The key to the bedtime ritual is starting energetically and gently winding down as bedtime grows closer and closer.
Snuggle and PJ’s. Wrap a big fresh towel (a warm one right out of the dryer is best) around your clean little guy or gal and whisk them into their room to pick out pajamas for the night. Choices provide a feeling of accomplishment and power during this time, and PJ’s are usually a pretty easy selection item for toddlers. Make sure they have choices based on their preferences. Superheroes or dinosaurs anyone?
Offer a Bedtime Snack. Last call for snacks and drinks before brushing teeth is both a healthful step and one that will stop any calls for more milk every 5-10 minutes after you finally tip toe outside the room. Many times, toddlers have trouble falling asleep because they simply haven’t gotten enough calories throughout the day, and this is a great way to soothe them and ensure that they have a comfortable belly before being tucked in.
Brush Teeth. Depending on the dexterity and determination of your toddler, this step is likely a family affair. Many children want to be able to brush their own teeth, but plaque can hide in places that a quick brush doesn’t always reach. Give your toddler the feeling of accomplishment in brushing their own teeth, with a final swipe from mom or dad, to ensure that all the spots have been accounted for.
Set the Mood. Every toddler has a lingering worry of an all too dark room, but there are many ways to achieve the dim (not too bright) environment. Selecting soft music or white noise can also help create a quiet sleeping environment far from the din of a home still very much in an active space.
Read Books. Follow the rule of three. One book that is fun and interactive, one that is selected by your toddler and one that is the end all be all get ready for sleep book in that order, tend to work a bit of magic into the bedtime routine.
Snuggle and Settle. Finally, once the book is put away and your little one is tucked in, it is a lovely time for quiet settling. Whether you are lying down next to them or gently rubbing their back, having some last moments of quiet connection can really help them drift off with support.
Say Goodnight. Setting special time to connect with loved ones near and far whether spiritually or in prayer is a calming way to make your toddler feel connected to the greater whole. Saying goodnight to mommy, daddy, siblings, pets, grandparents, loved ones and friends is a wonderful way to connect with the love that surrounds us.
As you establish your exacting routine, remember, that you may have some bumps along the way in setting it all up and that no night is the same. In those moments, give yourself and your toddler grace, allowing them to be independent in the process so they feel a sense of "I'm doing it", and allowing yourself to be reminded that your overall goal is providing space for them to explore the transition from activity to rest, both very important elements of growth for this stage. Good luck and good night!
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