What I say: “Time for bed.”
What my toddler hears: “This is a great time for multiple glasses of water, repeated bathroom trips, hugging the cat goodnight, requesting ten more kisses and seven more stories, some more water and a full-out performance of ‘Uptown Funk’ while jumping on the bed.”
Having a toddler is, simply put, an exhausting exercise in frustration and patience. They are at an age when they are truly discovering the extent of their control over their environment and how powerful their demands are. So, needless to say, bedtime is one of the many struggles parents everywhere face with their darling toddlers.
While there is no one quick fix to getting your little ones to adhere to bedtime and settle down for the night, there are a few things you can try in order to ease them into a regular sleep schedule. These tips are very general and, if practiced over time, should help establish healthy sleep patterns. However, all children are different and not techniques work for every child.
Consistency and Routine
First and foremost, children thrive on consistency and perform better when they know what is expected of them. Establishing a bedtime routine is key in teaching your child how to prepare for sleep.
Include tasks such as cleaning up toys, putting on pajamas and brushing teeth. Be sure to add in quiet and peaceful activities such as the ones mentioned below.
Quiet and Peaceful Environment
Teaching your child how to prepare for sleep is important – they are tiny little bodies filled with an enormous amount of energy. If their systems are not given a chance to wind down then having them fall asleep at a decent time will be impossible.
Create a quiet and peaceful environment to promote a relaxed state and better prepare your little one for sleep. Activities such as reading books or telling stories, light snacks, relaxing music or a soothing bath will help your child’s body wind down and can also be easily incorporated into a bedtime routine.
Daytime for Play, Nighttime for Sleep
While you are implementing calming activities as part of a bedtime routine, you are eliminating exciting and stimulating activities that may keep your child awake. Your little one is learning that nighttime is the time for sleep, not play. This is important with winding down their systems, as mentioned above, because their brains are not being as activated as they are during the day. Try to put away loud toys or games that require a lot of movement or action before bedtime. If your toddler is insistent on playing (and they can be very insistent), promote quieter activities such as reading, puzzles or even coloring.
Flexibility and Being Realistic
At this point in your parenting adventure, it is crucial that you remain realistic. When it comes to little ones, sleep goals are long-term goals. There are no quick fixes and it’s likely your toddler isn’t going to decide to put themselves to bed at their own volition any time soon.
You have to be flexible as well. Not every method will work for every child and while it is important to remain consistent in routine and schedule, if something is not working over time, you must be willing to drop it and try something else.