What is a good bedtime routine for toddlers?
Creating an enjoyable and easy toddler bedtime routine with your little one will save you major headaches and hours of your time!
The sample toddler bedtime routine I’ll be sharing below is exactly what I’ve been doing with my four-year-old since she was just one.
I’m also doing it with a baby now and it still works – hallelujah!
From the moment we decide it’s time to go to sleep, our routine has my little girl sleeping in less than 20 minutes!
This guide to simplifying bedtime includes:
- ideas for how to make your little one enjoy his or her nighttime routine
- how to establish a bedtime routine with a toddler
- how to do bedtime routine with toddler and baby
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Easy Toddler Bedtime Routine You’ll Both Love
Creating a bedtime routine for your toddler doesn’t have to be a challenge – you just have to make it fun!
Why is bedtime so hard for toddlers?
Toddlers have a fear of missing out – life is incredibly exciting for them and there is so much to do and see.
So, learning how to draw that same excitement for bedtime will do you wonders!
If your toddler is refusing their bedtime routine, it means you need to make a change.
This could be as simple as waiting for them to show signs of sleepiness.
You can’t force your child to go to sleep if they’re not ready but you CAN look for signs that it’s time – once you taken note of that time for a few days, you’ll know exactly when it’s time to start and bedtime will be a breeze!
What is the best toddler bedtime routine?
It’s simple – one they enjoy!
The bedtime routine I came up with for my little girl has evolved since she was around a year and a half but the principle has remained the same – use this time to do something they enjoy while winding them down.
For my little girl (and most other toddlers) that’s conversations, stories, and songs.
Toddler Dinner and Bedtime Routine
Knowing when to feed your toddler plays an important role in the success of your bedtime routine.
For us, M is happiest when she eats about an hour and a half before bed.
Try different times for your little one and see when he or she is most content – you generally want them to eat at least an hour before they go to sleep!
Even adults are more comfortable when we’ve had a bit of time to digest before going to sleep.
I also recommend avoiding any screentime within an hour before bed – it’ll just get your little one riled up and that’ll do more harm than help you establish a new routine.
Instead use that time for a quiet activity like:
- reading a book
- doing a puzzle
- playing with quiet toys
- taking a bath
All of these things will help your toddler unwind before the main event!
More ideas for new moms:
Bedtime Routine for a One-Year-Old
After our one-hour post-dinner time, I would either let M know that it’s time for bed or (once we established a solid routine), she would tell me “sleepy” or “bedtime”.
At one year old, I would change her diaper, dress her for bed, brush her teeth, and wash her hands.
Then, we’d go to her bedroom together and lie down.
When she was about a year to a year and a half old, we’d practice farm animal sounds before we sang a couple of songs.
I’d ask her “what sound does a cow make?” in Croatian or English (I wanted her to know both languages) and she would answer.
Then, we’d sing Old McDonald, the ABC’s, or another nursery rhyme.
Establishing this routine took about a week and a half but once she was used to it, M was asleep in 20 minutes – EVERY night!
2-Year-Old Toddler Bedtime Routine
When she was between a year and a half and two, M went through another phase of fighting bedtime!
She REALLY struggled with a fear of missing out at this age.
So, we made some adjustments to our bedtime routine.
After the usual one-hour post-dinner time, we’d get her dressed for bed, brush her teeth, and wash her hands.
At around two years old, I found that talking about what we did that day and all of the fun things we’re going to do tomorrow was the most effective in getting her to go to bed!
I’d often tell M that, “we can’t do (all of the fun things) if we don’t go to bed”.
That being said, you MUST keep your commitment to your little ones so, please don’t make any promises you can’t keep – it’ll break their little hearts and make bedtime more of a struggle than it is.
I have friends who tried the bribing approach with and without fulfilling their promises, and each time we visit this child, she’s always kicking and screaming when her parents tell her it’s time for bed.
This is really hard for everyone!
Bedtime Routine for a Three-Year-Old
Once Marina turned three, she started asking for stories before her songs.
I think the fact that she watches some educational TV shows here and there has a lot to do with this!
At three, children are more capable of understanding stories, problems, and resolutions, so they’re more excited for them.
It started out with a couple of her favorite books but now, she gets excited about hearing stories she’s never heard where she’s the main character.
We’ll lie down together (after the usual four-step sequence of overnight underwear, changing clothes, handwashing, and brushing teeth) and I’ll ask her what kind of stories she wants to hear tonight – I let her decide because I feel like that encourages creative thinking.
Usually, it’s about something we did that day – I.e. how we went to the grocery store and what we bought – or something she’s excited about – I.e. her birthdays next month and she wants a story about what her birthday party will be like!
Then, once the story (or stories) are done, I’ll sing the same two songs I sing to her every night – you are my sunshine and twinkle twinkle little star.
Sticking to the same tunes conditions your child to get sleepy when they hear those songs.
I’m actually doing the same for my 9 week old right now with her naps (I put on a specific playlist on Spotify that I enjoy listening to and relaxes her to the point she passes out while we dance around the house).
Since I feel like it encourages creative thinking, I ask M to tell me what kind of story she’d like to hear before bed instead of reading books (which we do during the daytime).
When we first started on the spot storytelling, M used to ask me for an Octonauts story.
So, I’d either recap an episode of that TV show as best as I could (in a condensed 5-minute version, of course) or make up my own story.
For example, she is fascinated by doctors and nurses right now.
So, a story I would tell her went along the lines of:
One day when the Octonauts were exploring the deep blue sea, they noticed a big blue shadow in the distance. So, Barnacles, Peso, and Shellington went to investigate it.
When they were swimming, Barnacles scraped his knee on a rock!
Peso said, “Oh no! Let me have a look at that boo-boo, Captain Barnacles” and he opened up his medical kit.
You get the gist!
Peso then puts ointment and a bandaid on the injury and tells Barnacles to rest for 20 minutes.
And you know what, my toddler loved it – its a simple story with a beginning and an end because that’s all it takes.
The most important part of your bedtime routine with your toddler is you actually spending quality time with them.
Feeling your love and warmth is the best part of it all for your little one!
Bedtime Routine for Toddler and Baby
Wondering how to put a toddler to bed with a newborn?
Now that I have a 9 week old (and my husband works 15 hours a day), I’m on my own with two kids in the evenings five days a week.
My baby has also decided that she needs to be awake for my toddler’s bedtime routine – yikes!
It was definitely an adjustment when we first started doing bedtime as the three of us but everyone has gotten used to it after a few weeks.
How to Do Bedtime Routine with Toddler and Baby
Even when the baby is having her fussiest moments, my toddler is still so accomodating since she looks forward to her bedtime routine!
Like every night, M will tell me she’s sleepy or I’ll tell her that it’s time to get ready for bed and we’re off to the potty and toothbrushing by 7pm.
I put the baby in her Babybjorn bouncer and help M wipe and put on her nighttime underwear (what we call started calling nighttime pull-ups to avoid confusion when we ditched diapers during potty training).
Then, we’ll wash our hands and brush her teeth.
Once she’s done, I’ll pick up the baby and walk to my toddler’s bedroom.
M will choose a stuffed animal to cuddle with and snuggle under her covers while I stand beside the bed holding baby.
Then, as usual, I ask her what kind of story she wants to hear and wait for her to give me an idea.
I’ll tell her a story about 5 minutes long while I rock baby (she’s nursed before M’s bedtime to avoid unnecessary fussing).
Once I finish a story, I declare “the end” that way M knows the story is done.
Then, I tell her that I had a great day with her, I love her so much, and laku noč (how we say good night in Croatian) before I sing her two verses of each of her two favorite songs – You Are My Sunshine and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
She’s normally out before I even get to the second verse of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star!
And that’s it!
After that, I close the door and it’s time to get the baby to sleep.
Toddler Bedtime Routine Ideas
Here are a few children’s bedtime routine ideas to get your little one to stop fighting and start looking forward to sleep:
- read a book or two
- listen to some soothing music
- listen to an audio book
- sing a song
- talk about their day
- talk about everything they have to look forward to tomorrow
I hope this easy toddler bedtime routine and tips for ages 1 to 4 simplify your life as much as they simplified ours!
To get your toddler to cooperate during bedtime, be sure to do the following:
- feed them dinner at least one hour before you’ll start your bedtime routine
- turn off all screens within one hour of bedtime
- stick to quiet activities within an hour of bedtime
- dim the lights
- wait until your toddler shows signs of sleepiness
- be consistent in completing a four-step sequence: nighttime underwear, pajamas, toothbrushing, and handwashing
- spend time with them in bed
- choose an activity that they enjoy and helps you bond in the evenings
- be sure to do your routine at the same time every day in the exact same way for at least a week and a half before you start expecting results!
Since M loves bedtime so much, she actually asks to go to sleep and my husband and I get to spend some quality time together in the evenings.
It’s a wonderful feeling that leaves everyone in our family happy after a long day!
Had success with a different bedtime routine? I’d love to hear what you do in the comments below.
Thanks for reading, mama!
Blessed mama of two beautiful little girls. I’m a full-time blogger and social media content creator who teaches moms and boss babes how to start an online business. Follow me on social for clever ideas to make money using the platforms you already love!