If you’re wondering how to get your toddler to sleep, I’m here to be your guide into an easier bedtime routine. 

You’ve survived the infant phase. Those sleepless nights are behind you (or so you thought). 

Now here you are with a toddler, the sleep struggles are different but equally as frustrating.

Thankfully, you’re about to be gifted with my best strategies that will streamline your toddler’s bedtime routine and help them fall asleep faster. 

Toddler Sleep Training

When it comes to toddler sleep training, it’s important to first understand a few things. Most importantly, toddlers crave routine. It gives them the security that they desperately need and when toddlers feel secure everything is just easier. 

What does this mean for parents, you ask? This simply means to come up with a plan that works for you and honors your toddlers sleep needs. Then stick to that plan as best you can! 

Whichever things you decide to include in your toddler’s bedtime routine, remember that the most important thing is to remain consistent.  Doing the same things in the same order in the same space will go a long way in getting your toddler to cooperate.

To start, you’ll want to establish the best bedtime for your toddler and work everything else backwards from there. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is starting dinner too late. And then before you know it, it’s 9:00 PM and you’re just getting your kiddo down for bed. You’re exhausted, they’re exhausted, and bedtime becomes much more difficult than it needs to be. Plus you get no downtime to yourself in the evening which is a recipe for resentment and frustration. No downtime for you means you’re pouring from an empty cup day after day. Unfortunately that doesn’t work long term and will lead to burnout.

Come up with a plan for your evenings that keeps everyone on track, and most importantly, keeps your toddler going to bed before they begin getting overtired. Take your plan, write it down, and post it on your refrigerator or somewhere that it can be easily seen. This will help keep you accountable to following the plan that you came up with and allow all caregivers to be consistent. This is so helpful when you have other caregivers also watching your toddler. This gives everyone a tangible timeline to follow. 

You can also make up bedtime routine cards that your toddler can help with. This gives them the feeling of being in control. They can decide the activities that they want to include in the bedtime routine, which helps them to have buy-in when it comes to actually doing the routine.

Simply being consistent with your child’s bedtime routine has so many benefits. Here are just a few: 

  • Gives them a sense of security
  • Promotes healthy sleep habits
  • Reduces tantrums and resistance around bedtime
  • Creates longer sleep stretches overnight
  • Improves their overall cooperation around bedtime

Setting a Bedtime

Do you currently have a “bedtime” that you stick to when putting your toddler to bed? If not, then you’ll definitely want to set one after reading this! 

Studies have shown that toddlers generally behave better overall when they stick to a bedtime between 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM. 

If you just said, “But my child is never tired that early,” then you’re likely missing their sleep window. Start paying attention to when your toddler is acting tired. This might be during dinner, or right after dinner, or maybe even before dinner. This will tell you when your kiddo should actually be going down for the night. Then adjust your nightly routine so you can get him in bed when he’s actually showing tired signs. This one tweak to your evening schedule goes a long way in making bedtime easier for everyone. A tired toddler is a difficult toddler so getting your evening routine timing right can make a world of difference.

Think about this…On the nights your toddler stays awake past 9:00 PM, they may not seem like they’re tired. However, this is likely because they’ve become “overtired” at that point. (They’re likely just operating on that “second wind”.) The second wind is caused by a spike in cortisol and adrenaline. This happens in both adults and kids, but can be prevented by simply getting kiddos down for bed before this spike happens. Which means while they’re still calm and beginning to show early tired signs.

You can start today setting your family up for sleep success just by moving bedtime earlier. Once your kiddo has missed their sleep window the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline will be released in their body. This is when kids become wired, hyper, and uncooperative. Let’s avoid that!

Remember, the more consistent you are in your toddler’s bedtime routine, the more likely they’ll be to fall asleep faster and with greater ease each night! 

How to Get a Toddler to Sleep: Bedtime Routine

Now you understand the importance of both setting an appropriate bedtime for your toddler and keeping their bedtime habits consistent. So your next step is to create a bedtime routine. 

Think about what things you’ll want to include in their bedtime routine. (NOTE: It doesn’t have to be complex.) 

The most important thing to remember here is to repeat the steps you choose to include in the same order each night. (This ties back to the importance of remaining consistent!) 

Here are some ideas for things you may want to include: 

  • Giving a bath
  • Putting on pajamas/pull-up
  • Brushing teeth
  • Reading a bedtime story/stories
  • Singing together
  • Cuddling with them 
  • Saying prayers
  • Turning on bedtime music/sound machines
  • Turning on the ceiling fan
  • Turning off the lights

Fall Asleep Faster: Overcoming Bedtime Stalling

If you start to notice that your toddler is stalling during bedtime (we’ve all been there, right?), there are tricks you can incorporate into their bedtime routine to combat this behavior! 

Give Your Toddler a Timer

All you’ll have to do is buy them their own timer! This timer will be theirs to keep. (We all know toddlers love to be in control, right?)

You’ll let them set a timer for the desired time you’ll allot for each step in their bedtime routine. 

For example, if it’s time to give your toddler their bath and you allot a time slot of 10 minutes for bathtime, you’ll have your toddler set the timer for 10 minutes. 

If the next step in your toddler’s bedtime routine is to put on pajamas and brush their teeth, let your toddler set their timer for those steps as well. 

After some time, your toddler will adjust to the idea of using their timer. They’ll learn that when that timer goes off, it’s time to quickly move on to the next step. Then as soon as all their bedtime routine steps are complete, it’s time to go to sleep! 

Remember you still have to reinforce what the timer says. If you don’t, the timer will become meaningless. You can also use a Hatch to indicate what part of the bedtime routine they are in. This way they can see a different colored light for the different parts of the routine. This gives a visual cue which is another helpful way to remind them what they’re supposed to be doing.

Can you see how this repetition (of using a bedtime timer) will help your toddler fall asleep faster? There are also some additional tips you can use for overcoming bedtime stalling with your toddler. 

Additional Tips

Here are some additional tips you’ll want to keep in mind when combatting bedtime stalling: 

  • Start the day at a consistent time (roughly 12-13 hours before you want the day to end)
  • Expose your toddler to bright light at the start of the day
  • Get outside during the day and burn off energy
  • Remind your toddler bedtime is coming soon
  • Limit sensory stimulation close to bedtime (lights, noises, screens)
  • Wear your toddler out and keep them active before bedtime
  • Think ahead as to what they’ll ask for 
  • Build “last asks” into the bedtime routine (last kiss, last hug, last drink, etc.)

Toddlers can be stubborn and LOVE to push their boundaries. But you can regain control when you take these tips into consideration at bedtime! And remember to stay calm. Your calm spirit helps your toddler to stay calm as well. 

Don’t Neglect a Naptime Routine

Toddler sleep training doesn’t only include their PM bedtime. It also includes their mid-day naptime. 

One way for your toddler to fall asleep faster at bedtime is to ensure they’re getting their naptime routine in each day. 

Here are some tips you can incorporate to make naptime a necessity for your toddler: 

  • Keep their naptime routine short (and consistent)
  • Work naptime in right after lunchtime (a full belly makes for better sleep)
  • Ensure they’re active enough before naptime
  • Don’t allow the nap to become too long or go too late in the day

Naptime timing and length has a big impact on bedtime. As your toddler nears 3-4 years old, you will likely need to cap the nap to keep bedtime on track. This obviously depends on your kiddo’s sleep needs, but a 3- or 4-year-old typically needs their nap capped around the 2-2 ½ hour mark. The only caveat to this is if your kids have to be up before 7:00 AM to be out the door for daycare. Then you might find that a longer nap of 3 hours is still necessary. To determine the best time for their nap, you can use what time they’re actually falling asleep as a gauge for how much daytime sleep they can handle. Falling asleep past 8:30/9:00 PM is a good indicator that they need less daytime sleep. 

If your toddler has started resisting naptime, you can learn more about this toddler nap strike here! Most toddlers need a nap until they are at least 4 years old. If your kiddo has gotten to the point where you know that their napping days are over, you’ll want to begin implementing quiet time into their afternoon. This will give them the rest time that they need along with giving mom some much needed downtime while her toddler plays/reads quietly in his bed. And remember, being on a screen doesn’t count as rest time. Screens are highly stimulating to our kids’ brains, so use sparingly and not during rest time.

Recap

Now you have a better understanding of how to help your toddler fall asleep faster at both naptime and bedtime! Just to refresh your memory, here’s a quick recap for you: 

  • Be consistent in your bedtime timing and routines
  • Set an appropriate bedtime and keep it (between 7:00-8:30 PM recommended)
  • Create your bedtime routine and follow it in the same order each night
  • Overcome bedtime stalling by giving your toddler their own timer to track their bedtime routine steps and implement a “last asks” into your routine
  • Offer bedtime reminders, wear them out before bedtime, limit light and sound stimulation, and anticipate their (stalling) needs
  • Make a naptime routine a consistent priority

And there you have it…Now go get some sleep! (Both you and your toddler deserve it.)

Want additional help with your baby or toddler’s sleep training? Reach out to me today!

10 Simple Ways to Get Your Baby to Sleep Better Tonight

These tips are simple, easy to implement, and created to help your baby slowly step into a healthy, secure relationship with sleep!

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