Bedtime For Toddlers: Tips for Smooth & Peaceful Bedtime
How to put an end to “the asks” at bedtime: When your toddler just wants “one more book, one more stuffy” and one more of everything!
Let’s face it. Toddlers are a TON of fun but they can be exhausting! They are constantly on the move, exploring, learning, processing new information and testing limits! Don’t feel bad if your little munchkin seems to be pushing the boundaries harder and harder everyday. This is what they are designed to do! It’s how they learn the rules and expectations – what’s appropriate and what’s not acceptable. Many families see this behaviour impact bedtime. Their 2.5 year old wants MORE and one last book is just never enough. One more sip of water, one more snack, one more song, one more hug, one more trip to the bathroom, etc. Has your bedtime routine escalated into a non-stop routine of “the asks” where “just one more” never actually really one more? Don’t worry. This is normal toddler behaviour.
There are ways to get back to a simple but loving bedtime routine for these demanding and persuasive little monkeys. Here are my tips to help keep bedtime under control so that it doesnt feel like a never-ending battle.
1) Make a Bedtime Routine Chart: This can be as simple or fancy as you like. On cardboard/poster board write out 5 basic bedtime activities that take place. You may decide to include visuals. This can be cut out images/pictures or just basic stick drawings. This might help your non-reader understand the sequence. Go over the chart with your toddler each night before bedtime so they are clear on the expectations around bedtime. As you are going through the routine, refer back to the chart to show your child what they have accomplished! Go through the chart together so that your child feels as though he has some responsibility in completing the routine.
Snack/water + Brush Teeth
Cuddles + Bed Lights Out
2) Offer “Last Call”: If you know what your child typically asks for around bedtime, give them a chance to do these things one last time before bed. Make it clear that this is their last chance. “Ok, this is the last chance before sleep time to have a drink of water” or ” Let’s try going to the bathroom one last time before bed” or “Here is one last huge bear hug before sleep time.” Give your child the opportunity to have these things, but make it clear that these activities will not just go on and on.
3) Give your child some choice: We want our little children to feel independent and empowered, but if their choices are too open-ended they may end up feeling out of control. Offer your child some choices but keep the options limited so that they can happily and easily make a decision without getting overwhelmed. ” Here are 2 pairs of pajamas. Which ones are you going to choose tonight? The tiger ones or the car ones?” or ” We only have time to read 3 books tonight but you can choose any 3 books you like from this pile!” Young children love to feel as though they were a part of the decision making and this is a nice way to provide choices but still keeps things within managable boundaries.
4) Communicate: Whenever you are making changes to sleep or are trying to implement some new bedtime rules, make sure you talk to your child about the changes or what it is you expect from him/her at bedtime. Even if they are not very verbal, they can understand quite a lot, and communicating with them is much more effective then just changing something and having them feel alarmed and therefore frustrated. Often, if the rules or expectations have been explained using simple language before hand, the child is much more willing to cooperate because they do not feel surprised but rather they have had time to process the new rule/change. “Tonight, bedtime is going to be a little bit different. We are only going to have 1 snack before bed and when we are finished we will brush our teeth and then get into bed for a cozy story”
5) Consistency: A lot of sleep work comes back to being consistent and this is so very true when it comes to dealing with toddlers who can be extremely determined. Decide on your limits, what the bedtime routine will clearly look like, and stick to your guns! Toddlerhood is a time to explore and test boundaries and when we are inconsistent (we say no, but then after tantrum our no turns into a yes) our little smarty pant picks up on this inconsistency rather quickly and remembers this for next time. However, if we can be firm and teach our child that when Mommy or Daddy says no that that is what they mean, our children feel more secure and less frustrated because they begin to learn exactly what to expect and thrive off this sense of predictibilty and stability.