Bedtime bliss: Routines for toddlers

Most young children thrive on routine: here are a few bedtime routines your toddler will love.

The best way to avoid bedtime battles and get your toddler to sleep is to establish a calming bedtime routine, and stick to it. Toddlers love routine because the predictability makes them feel safe and secure. With a proper routine in place, it’s a lot easier to survive what some parents affectionately call “suicide hour”!

Keep it calm
As soon as supper is over, it’s a good idea to start calming the household down – this applies to children of all ages. No more tickle-monster games or running races. No loud music or games. No playing outside. The goal is to create as tranquil an environment as possible. If Dad comes home at this time, it’s important that he sticks to this rule too. Quiet cuddles on the couch can be just as much a bonding experience as pretending to be an aeroplane and flying through the air.

Bath time
This is the start of the bedtime routine. There’s nothing like warm water to calm an active toddler. Add some bubbles and encourage gentle play – pouring and playing with floating toys can be very soothing. You can talk about what happened that day, or sing some songs. Whatever you do, don’t get involved in a water fight!

Time to brush teeth
Toddlers often hate brushing their teeth, but it’s important because of the bacteria that can build up at night. As much as possible, don’t let teeth brushing escalate into a battle of wills. Have a few colourful toothbrushes at hand and let your toddler choose one, or buy them a special toothbrush with their favourite character on it. Let them brush first and then you can follow up. Sing a song or count down as you brush each tooth.

Bedtime massage
When your toddler comes out of the bath, it’s a good idea to have the bedroom lights already dimmed. Wrap them tightly in a warm, fluffy towel as deep pressure is a calming influence. If your toddler will lie still long enough, you can massage them with baby lotion for a few minutes – this can be very soothing. Otherwise, simply dress them in comfortable pyjamas so they stay warm.

Bedtime milk
Once your toddler is dressed and ready for bed, give them their bedtime bottle of milk. They can drink it on Dad’s lap or already in bed, and it’s nice to combine the milk with a bedtime story so they associate the story with feeling comforted, even after they no longer need the bedtime bottle.

Bedtime story
If you have a night light, put it on and tuck your little one in before the bedtime story. Choose stories with a bedtime theme if possible, and try to avoid scary stories or those that involve too much excitement. The point is to calm and relax your child.

Let your toddler say goodnight to the important things in their life – not only Mom and Dad and any siblings, but also toys and family pets. Saying goodnight to everyone and everything ensures your toddler knows what to expect and understands the parameters: it is time to go to sleep now.

Sleep tight
It is now time to kiss your toddler goodnight. It may help to give your child their favourite toy and put on some soothing white noise. Tell them you love them and that you will see them in the morning. Then quietly walk out of the room. If your toddler starts crying, say that you will come back in a few minutes. Keep your promise. If you’re lucky, they will be fast asleep when you return.

Finding the right bedtime routine for your toddler is one of the things that all parents struggle with at first. But once you have it in place, you can continue with a variation of this routine for many years to come. Do you have any foolproof bedtime routine tricks?

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