Tips For a Smoother Toddler Bedtime

Its 5’Oclock and you look longingly at the clock. ‘Is it bedtime yet!?’

Then when it comes around it’s either like WW3 or you feel like you’re toddler would give ‘Deal or No Deal’s’ banker a run for their money. Would you believe me if I told you that it could be simpler?

I have some top tips for you to help your bedtimes run more smoothly!

Firstly my definition of a toddler is anything from around 13 months of age. It’s true that some of these tips may go slightly over the heads of younger toddler but they certainly won’t do any harm and there’s still plenty here that is relevant! These suggestions will also helpful for preschool and school aged children, I work with children to 6 years old! I also use all of these things with my own children who are nearly 5 years and 2 years old.

Here’s my top 4 tips to help:

Having some structure to your bedtime routine will not only make you feel more in control but it will also make your child feel more secure and even help them settle down for sleep more easily. Completing the same bedtime tasks in the same order, at about the same time each evening cues to your toddler that sleep is coming and will start to help them produce more of the sleep hormone melatonin to get them ready for this!

You could introduce bedtime routine cards or a bedtime chart to keep the routine on track. Many toddlers love this process as they can interact with it by laying cards out or ticking tasks off on a chart. There are so many options available to you from purchasing a chart, free downloads or a DIY version with your own photos or drawings, perhaps even getting your little one involved in its creation. Don’t over think it, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy!  

 Some of the battles we experience at bedtime with our toddlers come down to control. If you think about it toddlers have very little control over much of their lives, a lot is decided for them! As our children go from baby to toddler they begin to crave more autonomy, become more wilful and independent! Whilst this can be challenging, it’s not such a bad thing, we want to encourage their independence so consider how you can do this within set parameters. There are lots of ways you can offer choices during the bedtime routine, try giving just two options so as not to cause overwhelm and indecisiveness.

          Which pair of PJs are you going to wear?

          Would you like Mummy or Daddy to sing your bedtime song?

          Are you going to sleep with Teddy or Bunny tonight?


You may find that older children can handle a few more options such as choosing a bedtime story from the whole shelf. You know your child best and it may be worth asking them to make some choices ahead of time.

The flip side of offering out toddlers more choice and independence is that we must also set boundaries. Make your expectations really clear from the outset and follow through with whatever you have set out. Setting ‘loving limits’ will help deal with those bedtime stalling tactics. You know the ones I mean? ‘Just one more story’, ‘I’m thirsty’ and so on … AND SO ON!

So instead make a confident decision about each aspect of the bedtime routine and do not deviate from your set boundaries. So for example decide; how long in bath time will be and how many stories you will read. Using a timer is another very helpful tool here, set a timer for each task and then it’s not Mummy or Daddy saying bath time is done now … it’s the timer! 

Some children experience separation anxiety around bedtime so we can help alleviate this by making the routine a really connected experience. Include lots of physical and eye contact in your routine and have fun! Laughing and giggling together is such a good way to build that connection and fill up your little one’s love tank. The bedtime routine does not all have to be a super calming serene affair. I also love to include set 1:1 playtime as part of the routine where you put aside all distractions (*hint – your phone – I am also guilty of this!) and focus solely on playing with your child, however they want to for around 15 minutes. 

So, what should your routine look like?

Here is a sample
routine to get you started;

  • 5:45pm – Bathtime
  • 6:00pm – PJs andteeth
  • 6:15 – 1:1 playtime
  • 6:30pm – Story
  • 6:45pm – Bedtime

Every family is different so we can expect routines to look different in every household. It all depends on so many factors like how many children you have and their ages, your work schedules and how many parents are involved in the routine plus so many other considerations! So it’s totally up to you to work out a routine that works for your family.

If you would like some help figuring out your bedtime routine or any other aspect of your child’s sleep you can book a free call to chat about how I can support you with

Written By Laura Thompson from Sleepy Sweet Pea. Laura is a Sleep Coach and is on a mission to let exhausted parents everywhere know that you and your child deserve to sleep well!

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