How to Establish a Toddler Bedtime Routine

Don’t lose sleep about it if you haven’t quite set up a toddler bedtime routine to prepare for a good night’s rest.  Even if you’ve been struggling to get organized in this area, you can start tonight!  We’ve compiled a few of our best kept bedtime routine steps that you and your toddler can count on for many nights to come.  Remember, this is just a general guide that can be customized to meet the exacting needs of you and your family, so use it as such, as you figure out what works for you!

Expectations are Key
Toddlers take comfort in knowing what to expect, thus routines can really assist in helping them feel safe and secure, especially around bedtime.  Establishing a routine that your child can count on every night with an easy to follow schedule of repeatable events gives your toddler a sense of accomplishment and “knowing” that puts them in a space of calm.  If you can follow the steps every evening, they will feel empowered and may even begin to transition from one step to the next with minimal “help” from mom and dad.

how to create a toddler bedtime routine

Map out the Routine
Every bedtime routine has anywhere from 4-10 steps.  Bath, brush, book and bed are the four key elements to a successful routine, but you can incorporate additional areas such as a bedtime chart, selecting music and lighting, setting special time for prayer and reflection and more.  It is good to start with the basics and evolve from there, as most toddler parents know all too well, once the routine is fully established is when it is most subject to change.

Setting the routine expectation using a book helps.  You may like our bedtime routine book, My Ready for Bed Routine

Timing is Everything 
As parents, it is important that we understand what cues to look for a natural bedtime. The first yawn or eye rub can very quickly morph into a child who is bouncing off the walls and nowhere near “ready for bed” when they are actually very overtired to the point of being hyperactive. Consider the amount of time that the routine itself will take as you work backwards to figure out the best time to begin.  Routines can range from 45 minutes to two hours, depending on how much time each step is given.  For instance, a toddler who loves a long bath may linger in the bubbles for a bit more time than the voracious reader who requires three books each night. 

how to make a bedtime routine for toddlers

Repetition. 
Stay consistent with steps for both yourself and your toddler to get into the rhythm of the nightly bedtime routine.  You will quickly be able to move through it without having to give it much thought, which is the entire point of making this evening ritual easier for everyone.

Here are some other articles that will give you more resources on establishing a toddler bedtime routine....

While it seems like a lot at first, a bedtime routine quickly becomes a natural end of day ritual for you and your toddler to count on and even enjoy!  In fact, you can start tonight, and begin establishing the sense of normalcy and connection that a routine naturally offers. 

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how to create a toddler bedtime routine they'll remember

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