Stress-Free Bedtime Routine for Babies & Toddlers

Is bedtime with your baby or toddler a struggle for your family? Are there tears? Protests? Don’t dread bedtime anymore! Here is a simple routine that I follow with my girls to make bedtime predictably fun and easy every night.

Sleeping like a baby – zzzzzzzzz

Children thrive on structure and consistency. The key to a stress-free bedtime is to establish a simple and fun routine for your kids and stick to it. This will give your kids a predictable pattern to follow every night. Consistency will make them feel happy and safe. They will know that you, the adult, have the whole bedtime situation under control.

If you resort to ultimatums (Go to bed right now! Because I said so!) or bribery/coercion to get your children to cooperate at bedtime – or any other time for that matter – your children will begin to resist your schedule. Once children have a negative experience over any activity (like fighting over bedtime) they will resist you even more the next time you try the activity with them. Conversely, when children have a positive experience with an activity they become even more willing to engage in that activity with you in the future.

It’s important to be gentle with your child’s bedtime experience so they will be more likely to cooperate. However, gentle does not mean passive or permissive. You are the adult, not your toddler. So there is no negotiating or getting your child’s permission when you want to do an activity (“do you feel tired enough to go to bed?”).

Try to make the experience of bedtime fun for everyone! (“It’s time for bed! Let’s skip to the bedroom!”) If you’re upbeat, chances are your little one will be excited as well.

Many parents choose to incorporate lullabies or books into their bedtime routine. We have never felt the need to add either to our family’s nightly ritual. I read and sing to the girls throughout the day. Obviously you can modify this routine to suit the unique needs of your family.

  • 7:00 pm: Time to wind down before bed. We like to read books and watch Jeopardy together. This is also a great time to clean up the living room and help with the chores around the kitchen.
  • 7:40 pm: “Milk time”! Our oldest daughter is 3 and gets 8oz of milk before naptime and bedtime.
  • 8:00 pm: Grab your “blankies” and “binkis” and head to oldest child’s room for pj’s, cuddles and diaper changes.
  • 8:10 pm: Teeth brushing time (youngest to oldest)
  • 8:15 pm: Oldest child goes to sleep. Everyone gives a kiss, a snuggle, and a blankie tuck. We turn the nightlight on, say goodnight and leave the room.
  • 8:25 pm: Youngest child goes to sleep. She nurses, gets her final diaper check and her nightlight turned on. She snuggles with teddy and I leave the room.

That’s it! This simple routine is predictable, fun and consistent. Sometimes my oldest throws a fit about brushing her teeth (which is why she gets her teeth brushed last) and we let her know, kindly, that it’s not negotiable and she must brush her teeth to keep her mouth healthy. Our consistency and firmness on the matter makes her more comfortable with the whole experience. Children do not like to be in charge. As much as they try to act like they are the boss of the home children look to us to set boundaries and keep their little lives ordered for them, which gives them the freedom to be children.

What does your bedtime routine look like? Would any of these suggestions help it run more smoothly? Let me know in the comments section below!

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