Now that your baby is older, they play a much more active part in their bedtime routine. Your toddler is becoming more independent and beginning to make their own choices. Your toddler may have a favourite “cuddly” to sleep with and may have their own set way of getting into bed.
It's important that in this stage of your child's development that they have a regular sleeping pattern. If not this could cause your toddler to be tired, moody, bad tempered and demanding the next day. You will need to help your toddler establish a good bedtime routine to enable your child to learn good bedtime habits.
How Much Sleep Does a Toddler Need?
It is recommended that a toddler needs between 12 to 14 hours sleep (mostly at night), with a nap during the day. However some toddlers only prefer to sleep at night and may cut out their daytime nap. You will begin to notice that when your toddler is ready to cut down to only one sleep (at night), in the morning they will show no signs of tiredness but during the afternoon your toddler may fall asleep. This can cause a problem as your child may push their nap back later and later until it begins to interfere with bedtime. During this time you have to create playing time to keep your toddler stimulated (so they will not fall asleep in the afternoon) or by starting your toddler's bedtime routine earlier.
How To Establish a Regular Bedtime Routine?
Sometimes it can be difficult to establish a bedtime routine with your toddler. But even if your toddler is a poor sleeper you can teach them how to go to bed and stay there. It is just like training a baby to sleep well.
Below are some strategies you can use to help your child establish a regular bedtime routine.
Nights are for sleeping – You need to help your child to understand that nights are for sleeping. If you let your toddler run around after they have gone to bed, they are never going to understand that you really want them to stay there until morning.
Structured bedtime – You need to establish a structured bedtime routine. Calm your toddler down and each night go through a regular bedtime routine (such as have a bath, put pj's on, brush teeth, read a story) so your child knows that bedtime is next.
Settling down – It's important to teach your child to settle on their own. If your toddler relies on you in order to get to sleep, when they wake up during the night and realize you are not there, your toddler will begin to suffer the same anxiety as a younger baby.
You can help settle your toddler before they are due to go to sleep by involving them in calm and quiet activities at least 20 minutes before the bedtime routine begins. A structured, predictable pre-bedtime routine is recommended. For example, your toddler has a bath, puts on their pajamas, brushes their teeth and then is read a story by you. Once this routine is firmly set in your child's mind, they will begin to understand that during the pre-bedtime routine, bedtime is fast approaching. Try and stick to the same bedtime each and every night as this will get your child used to a consistent sleeping pattern. However some evening’s bedtimes will vary and that's fine. During this time tuck your toddler into bed, read a short story in a quiet voice or a boring voice (helps your toddler to relax), give your child a kiss and a cuddle and leave the room.
When all else seems to be failing and you are about to give up hope in ever getting a good night’s rest, try these bedtime tricks to get your toddler to sleep.
- Start the bedtime routine early. An energized toddler will not be able to stop at the click of a button, at bed time. By starting the routine earlier (especially on an exciting day) ensures your child is calmed and relaxes before going to bed.
- An hour before bed time, dim the lights. Put on a night light or purchase glow in dark stars and planets to stick onto your toddler’s bedroom ceiling. It will also give them something to look forward to when going to bed.
- Have a clock near your toddler’s bed and use it to your advantage. For e.g. “Look it’s 7:15, If you can get you in your pj’s and brush your teeth, we’ll have just enough time for an extra story before going to bed at 7:30”. You will also be teaching your child responsibility and time management.
- As well as a night light, you could also consider “white noise” to make your toddler more comfortable. These include: a fan or an air conditioner and sleeping music can also be played which may help your child to sleep.
- Make sure your toddler’s bedroom is comfortable. Your toddler shouldn't be distracted while trying to get to sleep. The T.V shouldn't be heard, curtains should be closed (in order to keep outside lights out) and if possible the room should be near a bathroom (during toilet training).
- It’s common for toddlers to have a bedtime snack before sleeping. A warm glass of milk or a piece of toast will be sufficient enough for your child. Just make sure that it’s not too interesting and it shouldn't have any sugar. Implement it as part of the bedtime routine. Your toddler can have their bedtime snack during story time, before brushing their teeth. This allows you to move efficiently through the bedtime routine.
- Read a story or sing a lullaby. Toddlers love being read too and it’s also a great part of a bedtime routine to implement. Involve your toddler in choosing which story they would like to be read. Normally a story that isn't too long can be read again before switching off the lights for bed. If your child constantly insists on being read the story over and over again, simply say “story, last time and then sleep”. Your toddler will understand that it’s time for bed.
- It's important to remember that you need to be consistent with your toddler's bedtime routine even during the times when you feel as if you are losing a battle. Stay strong and try and manage the situation as best as you can by using the above techniques.
Once you have established a consistent bedtime routine, although it may take a couple of weeks to implement, stick with it and in no time you will begin to see results...even with the most stubborn child!