Toddlers. They can be unpredictable and virtually untameable beasts, especially after sunset.
Much like your standard werewolf, that reacts to the moon, your average toddler also experiences a transition, come dusk.
That pliable, agreeable and altogether adorable child pre-sunset is likely to turn into a needy, indecisive, rage filled machine, driven by exhaustion, a day of stimulation and the desperate need for one more episode of ‘Ben And Holly’ with a side of fish fingers.
This is where the bedtime routine really comes into its own. It’s the primary toddler taming tool at your disposal. The difference between an evening where you hide in the pantry, giant sized Freddo Frog in mouth and fingers rammed into ears or one that passes by in relatively manageable, possibly even enjoyable, fashion.
Whether you’re a ‘routine’ person, who parents by the clock, or more of a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ kinda mama, an evening/before bed routine provides the repetition and structure that children thrive on.
The bedtime routine provides a full stop to the day, a process that very clearly signals that it’s time to start winding down. Switching into bedtime routine mode gives your toddler the opportunity to recognise the shift in their day and start to relax.
Wondering what the ultimate toddler evening ritual should look like? We’ve got 7 tips for a toddler bedtime routine that’ll see your little one off the couch and into snoozeville in no time at all.
7 Tips For A Toddler Taming Bedtime Routine
1. Start the wind down early
Half an hour to a toddler is akin to approximately 36 seconds to an adult. It passes in a snap. Starting the bedtime routine 30 minutes before you actually want your child asleep is similar to giving them a permanent marker and then going to the loo; foolhardy, messy and likely to end in a lot of shouting. Kick things off well before you anticipate actual ‘head on pillow’ action. Sixty to ninety minutes is ideal. This doesn’t mean you need to completely re-structure your early evening to facilitate bedtime, just be mindful of what activities you’re lining up before bed. Tickle fights and an energetic dance off to ‘Trolls’ at 6.30pm? Not ideal. Cosying up on the couch, essential oil diffuser bubbling, for some TV time, followed by dinner and a bath? Much better.
2. Screen the screen
Many parents reserve screen time for the evening when it allows for dinner and the post work/daycare/school madness to be navigated relatively peacefully. A couple of episodes on ABC4Kids can mean the difference between spaghetti served on the table and spaghetti still defrosting in the microwave. Switching off however IS an important part of helping the brain to prepare for sleep. An easy way of doing this is by separating screen time and bedtime with the trio of dinner/bath/book. Switch off the telly or iPad when dinner is served and say good bye for the night. Enjoy eating as a family or spend some time chatting to your toddler while they eat before launching into phase two. This will help shift the brain out of ‘stimulation’ mode and into rest and relaxation.
3. Wash away the day
Yes, most toddlers require a bath or shower at the end of the day. Cleanliness is not generally on their agenda and those muddy tootsies and grubby faces need a decent wash. A shower, or even better, a warm bath has a whole host of other bedtime benefits alongside washing away the dirt of the day. The slight elevation and then decrease of your body temperature automatically causes drowsiness. It’s one of the reasons a warm bath is recommended for those who have trouble sleeping. Spike the bath water with a calming scent like lavender and you’ll be well and truly ahead of the game.
4. Check yo’ temps
We all know how difficult it is to sleep soundly when it’s hot outside or we pull on PJs that are too warm. Toddlers are even more sensitive to temperature and won’t settle or sleep well if they are too hot or too cool. Choosing sleepwear made from breathable, natural fibres and a sleeping bag or suit of the right TOG (or warmth rating) can help ensure they stay comfy all night. ErgoPouch Swaddles, Sleeping Bags and Sleep Suit Bags come in a range of TOGS, ranging from 0.2 to 3.5 to perfectly suit all weather conditions.
5. Create the vibe
Just like adults, toddlers and children respond to their environment, especially their sleeping environment. Bright, fluorescent lighting and the TV blaring from downstairs is not conducive to a trip to snooze-ville. If you haven’t already, invest in a lamp so that the light is dim, switch off (or turn down) the telly and eliminate unnecessary stimulus. Quiet and boring is the name of the game. Some kids enjoy white noise or soft music, just make sure it’s not via a brightly lit screen or at a volume that is distracting rather than soothing.
6. Choose a story wisely
The end game of the successful toddler bedtime routine is a sleeping or very sleepy, child. A book full of action packed adventure and colourful stimulus isn’t going to help with those snoozy vibes. One way of integrating a relaxing reading sesh is to set a rule of two to three books and always finish with the same one. Something reassuringly familiar (we always loved ‘Goodnight Moon’) that is repeated night after night gives a very clear signal that sleep time is imminent. Slipping into a sleeping bag before story time also helps toddler recognise that it’s time for bed.
7. The grand finale
After the books are finished, make sure everything else is organised to your tiny dictators liking. Have they got their favourite toy? Do they need a dummy? A quick drink of water? How’s the temperature in their room? Sort it all out before you leave to minimise the ‘mummyyyyyy come back’ demands.
Visit ErgoPouch to find the sleep suit or sleep bag that’s just right for your toddler and, with these seven tips, start to enjoy easier bedtimes.