Much as they might tell you otherwise, toddlers need on average 11 – 13 hours’ sleep each day. That’s a lot of sleep! And if they have to be up for kindergarten or playgroup in the morning, you need to find a groove with bedtime to ensure they get enough.
If you thought baby bedtime battles were bad, you’re in for a shock. Toddlers are masters of negotiation (‘five more minutes please’) and could write a series of bestselling books on how to delay bedtime. From requesting another drink to begging for another story, your toddler has got all the skills necessary to set bedtime back by at least an hour each night.
After a long day at work, whether that’s in a busy office or at home with your kids, you can be forgiven for shedding a few tears as you feel your evening slowly but surely disappear. It’s not a nice feeling to be clock-watching under a restless toddler when you should be collapsed on the sofa downstairs.
Tips To Prevent Toddler Bedtime Battles
To help avoid that end of day battle of wills, here are some tips for how to achieve a hassle-free toddler bedtime:
Toddler Bedtime Busting Tip #1: Be Present
Your toddler’s bedtime delaying tactics could simply be her way of getting to spend some present time with you. Think about your day: has she had much one-on-one time with you where you were able to fully focus on her? If not, add this into your daily routine. It could be a 15 minute cuddle and chat after work, or an hour of uninterrupted play during the day. Banish your phone to another room, turn off the television and enjoy spending time with your child. If you carve out special time together, bedtime will no longer be filling that gap and you may find that bedtimes become easier as a result.
Toddler Bedtime Busting Tip #2: Release Energy
You probably already know this, but toddlers are full of energy. When you’re out of breath and in need of a sit down, they’ve still got plenty of run left in them. Make sure your toddler has a daily outlet for all of this energy and that physical play is an important part of her day. By regularly and consistently doing this, you might well find that she falls asleep a little easier at night. There are plenty of groups and organised activities for toddlers that incorporate movement and exercise. From football classes to clambering across gymnasium equipment, you should be able to find a group your toddler will love. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, though – a trip to your local playground or a kick about in the garden will be enough to help your toddler disperse of some energy.
Toddler Bedtime Busting Tip #3: Head Outside
You may have noticed that a day spent outdoors usually guarantees you a better night’s sleep. Children are no different, so try to incorporate outdoor play as part of your daily routine. Head out for a walk in the countryside, meet up with friends in the park or spend an hour making mud cakes in the garden, and you may notice an improvement in your toddler’s sleep.
Toddler Bedtime Busting Tip #4: Eat To Sleep
What you eat throughout the day can affect how you sleep at night. Pay careful attention to your toddler’s diet to see if it is having an impact at bedtime. Consuming caffeine could be keeping your child awake, so try cutting out chocolate in the afternoon to see if that helps. If your toddler is breastfed, you may want to reduce the caffeine in your diet to see if that has an effect. Sugar can also interfere with your child’s sleep pattern, so try to avoid dessert and other sugary foods at dinnertime. It could even be something as innocent as strawberries, tomatoes or oranges affecting sleep, so it’s worth keeping a daily diary of food and sleep so you can determine if there’s any pattern.
Toddler Bedtime Busting Tip #5: Get The Timing Right
Timing is everything when it comes to bedtime. Attempt it too early and your child won’t yet be tired enough for bed, and attempt it too late and you’re likely to have an over-tired toddler on your hands. Over-tired children don’t fall asleep easily! In fact, they could win awards for fighting sleep. For this reason, it’s important to take your child to bed before she is too tired to sleep. Instead of waiting for tell-tale signs of tiredness, head upstairs before they appear and aim for a slow and relaxing bedtime routine together.
Toddler Bedtime Busting Tip #6: Develop and Stick To Routine
Toddlers are dealing with huge developmental, social and emotional leaps on a pretty regular basis, all while their little body is constantly growing and changing. This can make life pretty daunting! Routine helps toddlers to feel safe and secure because they know what’s coming next this, and this becomes a part of life they can depend on.
A bedtime routine can help your toddler to feel safe and relaxed. The routine doesn’t need to be a strict list of things that must be ticked off each and every day, but should be quite similar from one day to the next. The bedtime routine can be as simple as cleaning teeth, putting pyjamas on, choosing stories and snuggling in bed to listen to them. You should aim to start and end the routine at around the same time each day as this will help your child to know what is coming next.
Toddler Bedtime Busting Tip #7: Give Choices
Many of the battles you have with your toddler probably come down to control. Your toddler has a strong sense of self, but isn’t yet independent enough to take control of all areas of her life. This can be very frustrating for her, but you can make things easier by giving her a bit of control. She may feel frustrated that you are telling her to go to bed, but you can hand her back some control by allowing her to make some choices along the way. Which pyjamas would you like today? Where shall we clean your teeth? Which three stories would you like? Consistently providing your child agency like this in little yet meaningful ways (to her) can really make a big difference.
Toddler Bedtime Busting Tip #8: Narrate Bedtime
Prepare your toddler for bedtime by talking about what will happen. Doing this early will mean your toddler is mentally prepared for bedtime when you get there. Explain the order in which things will happen, and keep reminding her throughout the routine that it will soon be time for bed.
How do you manage toddler bedtime battles? Share your experiences in the comments section below.