Bedtime can become a battle of wills between a toddler and his parents. Around the age of two, toddlers start to show a desire for independence and can become defiant especially at bedtime. It is important to establish a routine at bedtime for toddlers to help them prepare for bed and save mom and dad a headache.

Set a Time for Bedtime

Pick a time for the child to go to bed and stick to that time every night. According to the article “All About Sleep” on, toddlers should have 10 to 13 hours of sleep a day including naps. If a toddler takes a two hour nap, she will need 8 to 10 hours of sleep that night. If she needs to be awake by 6:30 in the morning, she needs to go to bed by no later than 8:30 at night.

Start the bedtime routine at least 15 to 20 minutes before bedtime to help her mind and body wind down and prepare for bed.

Set a Time for Bedtime

Starting the Bedtime Routine

Many parents start their toddler’s bedtime routine with a bath. The warm bath can help the child to relax after a fun-filled day of play and discovery. After the bath is over, rub the child down in lotion and then let him help pick out his pajamas.

Giving the child a choice as to what he wears to bed allows him to have some independence and say in the routine. If he chooses to be difficult, pick out two pairs of pajamas and offer him a choice. If he refuses to choose, do not argue. Simply tell him that if he dose not choose, the choice will be made for him. If he is ready, allow him to help put on his pajamas.

Brushing Teeth Before Going to Bed

Brushing Teeth Before Going to Bed

It is important to start good dental habits early. Even if she has not been to the dentist yet, a toddler should have her teeth brushed every night with a toddler friendly toothpaste and soft bristled tooth brush. To ensure that she brushes her teeth long enough, sing a song like the ABC song or any song about brushing teeth. She may need assistance at first, but in no time she will be able to brush them herself.

Bedtime Stories for Toddlers

Reading is one of the most important things that a parent can do to ensure success in literacy later on in life for their child. The Read Aloud Handbook (Penguin Putnam Inc, 2001) by Jim Trelease talks about a young man who made a perfect score on the ACT. Many people assumed that his parents spent a lot of time and money on preparation courses for there son. When asked what the secret to his success was, they said that when he was a young child they read to him for thirty minutes every night and continued to read to him as he grew up.

Have the child pick out several of his favorite books and put them beside the bed. Every night ask the child which one he wants read to him (again giving him choices to make him feel more involved in decisions). Rotate the books every week so that there is a variety in the stories. If the child’s collection of books is small, go to the library and check out books for free.

The state of Tennessee has a program called Books From Birth where parents can sign up at their local library and their child will receive a free book in the mail every month until his fifth birthday. Check with a local library to see if they offer a similar program. Be willing to be creative and make up stories or have the child help create books by printing off free coloring sheets from the Internet and making up stories to go along with the pictures that they have colored.

Saying Goodnight as a Bedtime Ritual

The last step in the toddler’s bedtime routine should be a signal that their day is done and it is time to sleep. Some parents choose to sing a song and others end the night with a prayer or a time for the child to say what she is thankful for that day. Make sure that the child is tucked in with her favorite blanket or stuffed animal and let her know how much she is loved and cared for. Children need that reassurance that they have people who love them and that they are safe.

Saying Goodnight as a Bedtime Ritual

Some children like to have soft music while they are sleeping and others like quiet. Many require a night light, but others prefer the dark. Pay attention to the child’s preferences and never take away a night light as a form of punishment. If the toddler is afraid of the dark, she won’t go to sleep without that security.

If the child gets out of bed, put her back to bed without a single word. She may test a parent or caregiver several times, but eventually she will realize that it is not playtime and eventually she will give up. It can take time and patience to fully establish the bedtime routine, but if it is consistently used, her mind and body will start to prepare itself for sleep and bedtime will become a peaceful process for all involved.