Did you know that toddlers actually need more sleep than adults? The NHS says that toddlers need between 11 to 15 hours of sleep (including naps). In fact, a lack of sleep will hinder their brain development and would potentially develop learning problems.
It’s common for some toddlers to have sleep problems. It could be a refusal to go to bed, night tantrums, not wanting to be separated from parents – the list can go on, you name it.
While some sleep problems require specific treatment – we also talked about each specifically in separate articles – establishing a positive toddler bedtime routine can be a great solution to creating a healthy sleep habit in your little one.
What is a sleep routine? When should you start and what to include in the sleep routine? We’ll talk about it in this article.
Why should you establish a sleep routine for your toddler?
You may ask yourself a question, “why not just relax and let it flow without a routine?”
While it may work on some toddlers, establishing a consistent sleep routine can provide plenty of benefits. A study concludes that it’s predictability that helps your child to feel secure, prevent bedtime battles, and make them be more cooperative. Not only will you have an easier time as parents, your child will also have an easier time falling asleep.
In addition, a positive routine before bed such as brushing teeth and reading also teaches your little one to create a good, healthy habit that can be useful when they’re growing up. And some of these activities can also be a great bonding time with your little one.
So, when to start introducing a bedtime routine?
According to the NHS, parents can start introducing sleep routines from as early as 3 months old. It’s recommended to start it as early as possible because your child will memorize that subconsciously and will make it a healthy, long-lasting habit. In the end, you will also enjoy the satisfaction of having an easy time getting your child to sleep.
Although it’s good to start as early as possible, there’s never too late to start either. Your child can be 1, 2, or 3 years old, and it’s still the best time to start a good sleep routine.
What makes a good sleep routine?
Can anything be a sleep routine? Or can it not? Here are some things to keep in mind when establishing a sleep routine for your toddler:
Consistency is key
When building a sleep routine, consistency is key. It has to be the same thing that you and your child do every night so that your toddler’s brain subconsciously connects it with bedtime. As mentioned, familiarity gives them a sense of security and helps them feel calmer before going to bed.
Give them some wind-down time
Sleep is a result of a relaxed mind. Therefore, it’s essential to give your child some time to wind down in their bedroom instead of directly doing some bed activities and asking them to sleep. This will help them to relax.
Or, you can also include activities such as a warm bath as it’s proven to provide a calming effect and help them fall asleep faster.
Avoiding stimulating activities before bed
The best toddler sleep routine is positive and calming. However, keep in mind to avoid over-stimulating activities before going to bed such as watching television, digital devices, playing video games, or physically intense activities such as running around.
Create a calming sleeping environment
A relaxed mind comes from a relaxed environment. While it’s fine for some toddlers, creating a sleep-friendly room environment can help avoid some bedtime problems and dramas.
Avoid placing any toys in your child’s bedroom because it can be a distraction. And make sure her room is dimmed, cool, and quiet, as comfortable as your toddler can be.
Activity ideas to add to your toddler bedtime routine
Every child is different. Some ideas may work for other toddlers, and it may not work with some others, and vice versa. You may find out what works for your child in the way, but here are some ideas that you can try to include in your toddler bedtime routine.
A warm bath before bed
A warm bed before bedtime is one of the best activities to add to your child’s bedtime. In addition to helping her to feel relaxed, it also ensures that she’s clean before going to sleep. In fact, poor hygiene can lead to bad sleep quality and may lead her to experience frequent sleep disturbances, according to the Sleep Foundation.
Another highly recommended activity is brushing your teeth. It also teaches your little one a healthy oral hygiene habit that can be useful when she gets older. You can do this after or before the bath.
Putting on nightclothes
Even if your child has bathed one or two hours before bedtime, it’s still a good idea to change and put on fresh night clothes such as pajamas or toddler sleeping bags. It makes them feel clean and encourages a positive mood, which will also ease them into bedtime.
Give your child some healthy snacks
Anyone should never go to bed hungry, both adults and toddlers, as it can lead to a tough time getting to sleep.
Some good, healthy snacks not only make your child sleepy, but it’s also great to provide energy before sleeping and keep their blood sugar level stable during the whole night.
Keep in mind to avoid unhealthy foods such as candy and ice cream. You can include healthy foods and snacks such as bananas, granola bars, dry cereal, and boiled eggs.
Reading bedtime stories or singing a lullaby
After your child is ready to go to bed, there are plenty of positive bedtime routine ideas that you can implement. It could be reading stories, singing lullabies, or some other calming activities. This will give your toddler some wind-down time between preparing to go to bed and actually starting sleeping.
Have a little chat
Another great idea is to just chat with your little one. You can ask them about what they were doing that day or about their favorite cartoon series that they watched – just chat with them about anything!
Talking with your child is a great bonding time and teaches them to be open and not shy to share their problems with their parents when they’re older.
Nothing is too early to start this, you can start those little chatting even before your child can talk!
Giving a goodnight kiss and cuddling
Before you leave your child’s room, give them a good night kiss and some cuddles. This makes your toddler understand that it’s a sign that it’s time to sleep and rest.
You can also tell them that you’re going to be back in 5 minutes, which is helpful to make them feel secure, although they’ll probably already fall asleep by the time you’re back.
You can repeat this and go back to check again until your little one is sleeping.
The toddler phase can be challenging for many parents, especially when it comes to sleeping. Building a healthy sleep habit can also be tricky sometimes, and there’ll just be some nights when your child refuses to go to bed and just throws tantrums. At the end of the day, you will find what really works for your child and what won’t. Keep in mind that this is just a phase and it will eventually pass.