The Bedtime Routine to Help
Your Toddler Sleep

Avoid bedtime blues and encourage a good night’s sleep by establishing a set bedtime routine for your toddler with some simple tips from Pottery Barn Kids. Creating a quiet environment helps calm him and set the stage for a restful slumber, which is essential for his growing body and brain. Once you discover how much sleep your little one needs, set a bedtime that lets him get enough hours while giving you plenty of snuggle time and bonding before you transition to adult time and your toddler hits the sheets.

The Bedtime Routine to Help Your Toddler Sleep

How much is enough?

Not getting enough sleep can keep your little one from functioning and growing at his absolute best. In addition to causing grumpiness, a lack of sleep can affect his brain development, cognitive abilities and his ability to concentrate. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some insight into how much sleep is generally enough for toddlers and other young children. Their recommendations include the following:

  • Toddlers need 11 to 14 hours, although fewer than nine hours are not recommended
  • Preschoolers between the ages of three and five need 10 to 13 hours
  • Children between the ages of six and 13 need 10 to 11 hours

Each age group has its own sleeping challenges, and the toddler years are no different. Toddlers often explore their newfound ability to get out of their beds, and they commonly experience problems such as fighting the bedtime routine, experiencing nighttime fears and suffering from nightmares.

Set a bedtime

Although holidays and special occasions may call for a late start, having an established, consistent bedtime in a space with soothing decor helps support your toddler’s developing brain, encourages her to get enough sleep and reduces the bedtime battle. Additionally, setting a regular bedtime helps keep her circadian clock running smoothly.

Your toddler may not always act like she appreciates the consistency of the routine, but most experts agree that creating a soothing, quiet bedtime routine and getting her snuggled into bed at the same time every day helps your toddler enjoy quality sleep. Without this, you risk letting your toddler become overstimulated, which causes your toddler’s body to release the stress hormone, cortisol. This makes it difficult for her to calm down and can limit the quality of her sleep.

Create a relaxing ritual

An effective bedtime routine starts by letting your toddler wind down during the hour before bed. This transition time helps settle him down while providing ample bonding time. Turn off the television, computer, games and bright lights. Turn your table lamps and overhead lighting to a dim setting to let his body recognize the visual cues that come with bedtime well before you put him in his crib. Some ideas include:

  • Giving him a relaxing, warm bath
  • Soothing him with a massage, complete with relaxation-inducing essential oils
  • Offering a warm glass of milk or a bottle before brushing his teeth
  • Reading books while snuggling in a rocking chair or bed

Find the quiet activities that work for you and your toddler and then make them routine. After some time, the routine itself will help make your toddler feel sleepy.

The importance of choices

Even at the toddler stage, your child needs to feel a measure of control over his routine. This helps ease the frustration that often leads to bedtime battles. To make this effective, offer simple either-or options. Examples include:

  • Would you like me to carry you or would you like to walk to the bath?
  • Do you want this bubble bath or that one?
  • Would you like your red pajamas or the gray ones?
  • Do you want your favorite blanket or the other one?
  • Do you want to hear this story or that one?

Although you want to offer some choices, you also need to stay firm when it comes to setting limits. By nature, toddlers push their boundaries. It’s your job to set limits and take charge. In the end, this provides immense comfort to children.

Dial up comfort

Toddlers go through difficult stages of separation anxiety that can truly turn bedtime into an adventure for both of you. Make your toddler more comfortable by picking out a transitional object, such as a stuffed animal, that you give him every night at bedtime. It’s also important to design a comfortable, slumber-inducing environment. Cover the window with dark drapes to prevent the sun from waking her too early. Remove any distractions, including electronics or televisions, from the room. Add a nightlight to help calm nightly fears and turn on a CD with a lullaby or white noise to help set the stage for restful sleep.