Written by: Cally Worden
Most little children thrive on routine, so it makes sense to establish a bedtime rhythm as early as possible. If your toddler knows what to expect in the run-up to bedtime he will be more relaxed. And the more relaxed he is, the easier he will settle and go to sleep. What you include in your toddler’s routine is up to you. The important thing is to keep it broadly similar every night. Here are a few ideas.
It’s pointless trying to settle a toddler who has a surfeit of energy. Many parents find that a playful romp downstairs works wonders as a precursor to bedtime. It allows your child to expel any pent-up energy through play, leaving him satisfied, tired, and ready to relax.
Have a Long Soak
A bedtime bath is a popular part of many bedtime routines. The warm water can be gently softened with a relaxing aroma that helps to soothe your child into a state of pre-sleep calm. It’s also a lovely time to bond through play. If your child is not a fan of water you may choose to skip the soak, but it works wonders for many, and your toddler can then be transported upstairs in a fluffy bundle of towels to get ready for bed.
Getting Ready for Bed
Getting dressed can seem like a game to small children and brushing teeth and using the toilet or potty can feel like a chore. Avoid battles by being consistent in calmly insisting these jobs are taken care of before any story or bedtime game. Your child will soon view these steps as part of the overall routine, although he may continue to test your willingness to bend the rules from time to time. Consistency is key!
Play a Quiet Game
Toddlers love having parents to themselves, so few will pass up the chance for some one-on-one time. Playing a short but peaceful game will help your child to feel secure and close to you at bedtime. Just be careful not to get him overexcited.
Read a Story
I’m a huge fan of stories. From board books to picture stories and ones made up from your head, stories fire your child’s imagination like nothing else. They are fun, educational, and encourage creative thought. Not to mention the benefit of special snuggle time. What could be better?
Have a Natter
As you are moving through your bedtime routine you have the ideal opportunity to talk with your toddler about anything that may be on his mind. Try doing a recap of his day, asking about things he remembers, enjoyed, or found upsetting. Even the tiniest snippet will give you an insight into your toddler’s world and offer him the chance to express how he may be feeling in a safe and secure way.
Many toddlers gain great peace from actively saying goodnight to things and places in the house. While it’s important that this does not become an unhealthy obsession, it’s a nice ritual that gives you child a sense of control over the fact he is choosing to leave these things to go to his room and sleep. There is a lovely book called ‘Goodnight Digger’ that follows this theme. My 3 year old son loves reading this and then saying goodnight to each of his favourite toys. He’s usually yawning his head off by the time he finally lies down.
Sing a Song or Play Music
When my children were babies I often soothed them with a lullaby or some quiet music. This is not something we still do very often now, but occasionally they do ask for their favourite song, and some quiet music works wonders at settling my youngest when he is fretful.
Invest in a Night Light
Most toddlers will experience a fear of the dark at some time or another. Turning off the main lights and switching on a soft night light is a good way to end a bedtime routine, just before you say ‘Night Night’ and leave the room. It acts a signal to your toddler that the time has come for sleep. Done calmly, every night, this can work like a charm.
One of the best things about a routine is that you can take it with you wherever you go. So when travelling or visiting friends you can help your toddler to feel peaceful about going to be through an established and familiar pattern that brings him peace and comfort.