Bedtime routines are an essential part of healthy baby and toddler sleep habits – a very essential part! A great bedtime routine alerts your baby or toddler to the fact that bedtime is approaching; it can also serve to relax your child and help your baby or toddler fall asleep quickly and calmly.
But how can you craft the perfect baby or toddler bedtime routine? We share our top tips below!
10 Bedtime Routine Tips for Babies and Toddlers
- Start winding down before you start the bedtime routine. This is a big one for toddlers. About 20-30 minutes before bedtime, start shifting towards quieter, more relaxing activities; this will help the bedtime routine go smoothly.
- Your baby or toddler’s age and temperament should dictate the length of your bedtime routine. Newborns and young infants need relatively short bedtime routines (5 minutes can be enough), while toddler may need longer bedtime routines, since they’ll need more wind-down time. High-energy children may need longer bedtime routines as well.
- Your bedtime routine should start at about the same time each night. You don’t have to time this down to the minute, but ensure that you’re doing the bedtime routine at roughly the same time each night. After all, it’s only “routine” if it’s consistent from one night to the next! To select a great bedtime, check out our baby and toddler bedtime by age chart.
- A bath isn’t always a good element in a bedtime routine. This is a bit surprising, but it’s true. While some children may find a warm bath relaxing, others may actually get more wound up by a bath, which obviously defeats the purpose. If your child finds a bath too stimulating for bedtime, try offering bath time during a point in the day when you want your child to be awake and alert.
- Offering a snack before bed can work well for high-energy toddlers. If your toddler tends to wake hungry in the night, try offering more food during the day and a snack before bed. Just be sure it’s a healthy snack that’s low in sugar – and be sure your toddler brushes her teeth before getting in to bed!
- For toddlers, give a warning before you start the routine. Instituting a bedtime count down can be great for toddlers, and can combat bedtime resistance. Alert your toddler when it’s 10 minutes until bedtime, then 5 minutes, and then 1 minute, etc. You can even let a kitchen timer, or your phone’s timer, do the counting down for you!
- Dress your child appropriately for bed. Many of us tend to overdress our little ones, for fear they’ll get cold at night, but in reality, one light layer of PJs plus a blanket is usually enough. And here’s another PJ tip – if you have a bedtime-resisting toddler on your hands, let your toddler participate in the routine by choosing his own PJs each night.
- Read a few bedtime stories with your child. The bedtime routine provides an excellent opportunity for you to settle in and read to your child (something that every family should do together). Just be sure that you’re picking “bedtime-friendly” books that support any sleep training you may be doing – a book that has your toddler shouting and stomping around won’t work at all! You can see our list of great bedtime books here.
- If you haven’t already, introduce a lovey. Loveys, or attachment objects, are great tools to help your baby or toddler learn to self-soothe. When your child has an object other than you that can provide comfort and soothing, it goes a long way towards helping your child feel calm at bedtime, and helping your baby or toddler have an easier time falling back to sleep when they wake at night.
- Give your routine a definite end – otherwise, it may feel like it lasts all night! It’s crucial that you end your routine the same way each night. You could say a certain phrase, sing a special song, play a lull-a-bye, turn on a special nightlight, etc. Then, after this special ending, leave the room. Over time, your child will learn that your phrase/song/nightlight moment means it’s time to settle in and fall asleep.
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