By the time your child is a toddler, you’ll no doubt have your own tried-and-tested ways of helping them get to sleep. This might include a bath, a story or some nursery rhymes. Sleep is important, especially for children, because it helps with mental, physical, social and emotional development. It can improve their ability to learn, and help regulate their mood.1
With all this in mind, building a bedtime routine that works for you and your toddler will be a priority. To help you establish healthy sleep and nap patterns during the toddler years, this article offers some straightforward advice to strengthen your bedtime routine with a toddler, including tips for toddlers who’ve transitioned to a bed, and how to settle your little one if they wake in the night.
Four tips for improving your toddler’s bedtime routine
Toddlers up to 3 years of age need around 11-14 hours’ sleep (including naps) every 24 hours.2 Sometimes you might be worried that your little one is lacking in sleep, because they are taking a long time to drift off at bedtime, or waking in the night. These tips can help to form effective routines and healthier sleep habits for your toddler!
1. Stay consistent
From the time you start ‘winding down’ after dinner, to the order in which you do things before bed (is it bath first, then teeth, then a book?) being consistent with your routine is key to helping your toddler know what to expect. This, in turn, can really help them to feel more settled and secure at bedtime.3
2. Create a relaxing atmosphere
Turn screens off, run a bath and turn the general volume down a notch or two – this is not the time to be playing energetic games! Storytime, using quieter voices, and engaging in more relaxing activities such as reading together can help set your child up for a relaxing sleep.3
3. Set up the bedroom comfortably (and safely)
If your child has a favorite cuddly toy, let them take it to bed each night. Ensure there are no safety issues, such as buttons that could be a choking hazard. Do everything necessary before you settle your child in bed, such as close the curtains (or drawn the blinds), dim any bright lights, and choose a bedtime story together. That way you won’t been going to and from the bed, which could be disruptive for your child.3
4. Stay patient
If your child resists going to bed at first, try to be understanding and keep your words as positive as possible. For example, if your toddler says: “I don’t want to go to sleep” resist saying “You must.” Instead, acknowledge that they don’t want to go to sleep, but that everyone needs rest at night, to have fun in the day. You could then try to engage them in an aspect of the routine that they enjoy, such as choosing their bedtime story.3
Advice for a bedtime routine with a 1-year-old
Creating a simple bedtime routine for a one-year-old might start with a bath, then brushing your toddler’s teeth, followed by a bedtime story.4 By the time your toddler is one-year old, you might find they can choose a book to share, point out the pictures they like on the pages, and pay attention for a few minutes at a time. This can make sharing a book at bedtime a really pleasurable activity.5
Advice for a bedtime routine with 2 and 3 year olds
Typically, toddlers make the transition from a cot to a bed anywhere between the ages of 18 months to around 3 years.6 If your child has already started to show signs of independence and made the move to a bed, they might find it easier to climb out of. Settle your child in their bed with a book and plenty of time to get cosy, to minimize them trying to get up after ‘lights out. Keeping the bedtime routine nice and consistent (and unrushed) will help set your toddler up for better sleep.
Settling your toddler if they wake
If your toddler’s sleep is interrupted at night, you want to ensure that they feel safe to go back to sleep.6 If you feel your child needs comforting, a hand on their back, or a couple of quiet words of reassurance can sometimes be all they need to help settle them to sleep again. Too much interaction can wake your child up fully, and might make middle of the night waking a more habitual thing, which you will want to avoid. Obviously, when your child is unwell, they might wake more in the night and need your care and attention to help them get back to sleep.
Should you encourage your toddler to nap?
As children of 1-2 years need 11–14 hours., a young toddler may still take a nap (or sometimes two) during the day. The second nap might be dropped altogether by the time your toddler reaches 18 months.2 By the time your toddler reaches 3 years old, they need 10—13 hours sleep, meaning that you might drop their daytime nap altogether.2
The key to encouraging routine naps can be as simple as setting up a consistent schedule and sticking to it. Soft music, dim lights, and a quiet story can help kids settle into their naps whatever the time of day.2
Don't let naptime become a battle — your toddler may grow out of wanting to take naps, and you don’t want to pressure them to take one if it is stressful for you both. Especially if your child is sleeping well during the night. Setting aside some quiet time with your child who no longer naps can give you both the opportunity to rest and recharge during the day.2
Support their development with key nutrient
Toddlers are developing and learning new skills every day. Sleep time is important for brain development, and helps your child reach new, exciting milestones. You can support this development by giving your toddler the right nutrition.
Enfagrow has 22 nutrients to support toddler’s growth and development, such as DHA, iron, and vitamin D. These nutrients can support brain development, which is critical for language skills. Learn more.