Sleep and toddlers: How to create soothing bedtime routines

Having trouble getting your little wiggle monsters to sleep each night? Try some of our soothing bedtime tips and turn nighttime into sleepy time!


Are bedtime battles getting you down? Getting your toddler to sleep through the night can sometimes feel like a three-ring circus. But with these soothing sleepy time solutions, you can put your nighttime battles to bed for good.

Consistent Bedtime Routine

Toddlers thrive on habits and routine. Bedtime is no different. Create a consistent bedtime routine that your toddler can count on every night and do your very best not to deviate. By making the routine a special and enjoyable time, your toddler might even look forward to it, rather than trying to undermine your nightly efforts.

An enjoyable and soothing bedtime routine might include a warm bath, followed by picking out pajamas, a couple of bedtime stories, a song, a drink of water, mommy snuggles, a soothing backrub and lights out. Whatever your bedtime routine is, make sure to stay consistent. If your toddler senses that he can change the routine by being silly, having tantrums or sneaking out of bed, all your efforts are wasted.

Read more on sleepy time solutions for toddlers >>

Create a Sleep Friendly Environment

As Dr. William Sears, Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California School of Medicine, father of eight children and the author of over 30 books on childcare, wrote, “Sleep is not a state you can force a child into; it must overtake the child. The parent’s role is to create a sleep-inducing environment.”

While it may seem obvious that a calm environment is necessary at bedtime, sometimes in the chaos of trying to put multiple children to bed, a sleep friendly environment can get lost in the shuffle. For at least an hour before bedtime, make sure that your children engage in quiet, calming activities so they can wind down. Doing puzzles or playing board games, reading stories, singing quiet songs or snuggling with mom or dad in a rocking chair are all good options.

Take care that the room where your child sleeps is quiet and dark, but not so dark that your child is frightened. A good way to let your little one feel in control of his nighttime environment is to let him choose a small night light for his bedroom.

Learn more tips on creating a sleep friendly environment for kids of all ages >>

Consider Parenting Your Children to Sleep

It is common in our society to expect very young children to sleep through the night on their own. In other cultures, children sleep with their parents until near adolescence. If your children have consistent difficulty falling asleep on their own, consider parenting them to sleep. This can mean anything from lying down with them for a certain time period each night to allowing them to co-sleep with you until they feel comfortable sleeping in their own room.

Don’t think of this as a failure on your part, but rather a parenting investment. Dr. Sears explains, “Think of nighttime parenting as a long-term investment. The middle-of-the-nighttime you put in now will save you sleep in the years ahead. Your children will sleep well when they are older, and the good relationship you have built with them will keep you from lying awake at night worrying when they are teenagers and young adults.”

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