Sleep Tips: Updating Toddler Bedtime Routines and Sleep Rules

May 27, 2014

Congratulations, you have made it through the first two years with your little one and now they have graduated from diapers and baby food and have leaped into (with gusto) the world of the Toddler/Preschooler.  If your son or daughter have settled into great sleep habits, congratulations to you on stressing the importance of sleep to your family. Updating Toddler Bedtime Routines

But as your rock star sleepers continue to grow mentally, physically and emotionally, you’ll most likely need to modify your bedtime routine to accommodate their growing skills and needs.  And a fantastic addition to the bedtime routine is introducing sleep rules sometime after the age of two (when the toddler and preschool years are in full swing).

Sleep Tip: Updating Toddler Bedtime Routines.

As I wrote about in a previous blog post, toddlers and preschoolers are born boundary pushers.  If they see an opportunity to rebel against the rules and possibly get away with it, they will try it.

It’s just part of what makes a toddler a toddler and can continue to be part of a preschooler’s bag of tricks if they have been able to push boundaries and succeed in the past. That is why consistency when it comes to bedtime and sleep is so important.

When your son or daughter was a baby, you (hopefully) established an effective and enjoyable bedtime routine to set the tone and expectation that bedtime was near.  It was a great opportunity to wind down from the days events and spend some quiet special time together.

Some of the key elements of an infant bedtime routine usually includes a bath, possibly some infant massage, a feeding, maybe a story or song and then kisses and one last quick cuddle before being placed into the crib to drift off to dreamland.

When updating your toddler bedtime routines you do not need to totally reinvent the wheel, rather just rotate out the components that are not applicable such as the infant massage (because let’s face it, toddlers rarely have the ability to stay still long enough to offer a soothing massage) and the pre bed feeding as it is no longer a necessity to offer a breastfeeding or bottle just before bed at this age and stage.

However, let me take a moment to address breastfeeding into toddlerhood.    If you are a family that is still enjoying an active breastfeeding relationship past 12 months I wish to applaud you on your decision and commitment.  There is no reason to cease this bonding relationship until you are ready to.  But I will share that if you would still like offer an evening breastfeeding, a great time to do it is after dinner but before the bedtime routine.

So swap out the massage…check and swap out the feeding…check, check.  But I bet you are asking what to add in place of the massage and swaddle?  Great question, and I have the answer!  My suggestions are using the potty and brushing of the teeth.  With the addition of these two components, a toddler or bedtime routine can look similar to this:

  1. Bath
  2. Lotion and pajamas
  3. Brush teeth
  4. Use the potty one last time
  5. Story
  6. Song
  7. Sleep Rules (we will get to that in a minute)
  8. Kisses & hug and into the crib or bed (is it time to transition to a bed?)

Oh, and before I forget, a gentle reminder that a bedtime routine for any age should take no longer than 30 minutes start to finish (including bath).

Toddler Sleep Tips: Setting nighttime expectations via Sleep Rules

Now you may have noticed component #7 in the bedtime routine is SLEEP RULES.  This is something that I use with both of my daughters and suggest all of my families use with their toddlers and preschoolers.  It can be introduced once your little one is two years of age and at first you will be reciting them with the hopes and expectation that soon (usually after 6 months of nightly repetition) your son or daughter will start and continue to recite them back to you!  Sleep rules are great because they clearly define your expectations for your children from the time they are tucked in bed until it is time to wake up in the morning.

The rules should be simple to comprehend and easy to follow.  I should also add that they should be realistic in scope.  Sure, we would love for our children to stay in bed until 8:00 or 9:00am Saturday morning (and if yours do I am jealous), but reality is that toddlers and preschoolers are born early risers (anywhere between 6:00 – 7:00am).  That being said, asking your little one to stay in bed and remain quiet for an additional hour or two just isn’t going to happen.  Don’t give out hope though…one day they will be teens.  🙂

So, without further delay, I would love to share with you my 4 Easy Sleep Rules:

  1. Stay in bed
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Stay quiet
  4. Stay asleep or in bed until the clock says it’s morning.

And there you have it.  Easy ways to update your child bedtime routine to fit the needs of a toddler or preschooler while also incorporating simple to follow sleep rules that will help ensure that you all get a good night’s sleep.

As always, I welcome you to reach out to me to discuss this and all sleep related topics further.  Help getting your little one’s sleep back on track could only be a phone call away.

To Healthy Sleep!

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