Toddler bedtime ought to be the relaxing end to a busy day with your toddler, but sometimes it is the stressful cusp that you spend the whole day stressing about. When toddler bedtime approaches, you want your toddler to happily submit to being fed, washed, and dressed in cosy pajamas, then tucked up in his cosy crib or toddler bed. After a kiss or two and perhaps a bedtime story, you want to be able to get up, turn off the light, and walk out; and leave a little one lying drowsily on the pillow and falling asleep.
Reality may be rather different. Your toddler may hate bedtime with every fiber of his being, and fight off sleep with superhuman power. For some little people, bedtime seems the one enemy that must be conquered, and they will completely wear themselves out before they give in to sleep.
If you want your toddler to want to go to bed, you need to make your bedtime routine special. That doesn’t mean stocking up on icecream for every evening before bedtime. But it means putting your stress to the side, and making—with your attitude, more than anything—bedtime a fun, happy ending to whatever may have been going on during the day.
Choose a few special books that your toddler loves to listen to, and designate them bed time stories—only for that special time just before bed. If your toddler likes warm milk, a cup of milk nooked in the microwave can make a special before bed treat—or if warm milk is no treat to him, try some other relaxing drink, like chamomile tea or ovaltine. Have a special snuggle time for the two of you just before he’s expected to drift off to sleep, and don’t rush through it.
I’ve said it more than once—toddlers thrive on consistency, and your toddler will go to bed much happier and much more peaceful if you keep him to the same schedule from day to day, especially around bedtime. Let toddler bedtime be a non-negotiable, consistent time—late enough that your toddler can sleep, but early enough that your toddler isn’t overtired. Overtired toddlers tend to fight bedtime more than toddlers who have been well-rested.
The things you do just before bed should also always be the same. It might be washing up or a bath, toothbrushing, then a cup of warm milk and a snuggle while mommy or daddy reads two or three special bedtime stories. If your toddler his own special rituals that he tries to do every night: closing the curtains, perhaps, or arranging all the stuffed animals, encourage him in them and give him the time he needs to finish thoroughly. Then give him a kiss in bed and turn the lights out. Some toddlers appreciate having a lullaby or two sung to them after lights have been turned of and they’ve been tucked in bed. If you aren’t a singer, you can always recite one or two special goodnight poems instead.