Bedtime – adults look forward to it, and toddlers like to avoid it! Is it possible to make bedtime a pleasant experience for your toddler? Well, there are things you can do that may make it easier. Here are some tips and ideas.
Routine Is Key
If you’re looking for a doable bedtime routine, you’re already on the right track. Toddlers tend to respond really well to routines. While it’s impossible to arrange every day the exact same way, aiming for the same bedtime and routine can go a long way in making things calmer. Here are some suggestions for a bedtime routine with a 7:30pm bedtime goal:
* After dinner, around 6:00, let your toddler take a bath with some fun toys.
* Around 6:20, help your toddler dry off and get into his pajamas. Then start preparing a snack.
* At 6:45 or so, have a healthy bedtime snack. Some toddlers have trouble sleeping because they are hungry. Try to choose low-sugar, high-protein foods like turkey, cheese, plain yogurt, and whole grain crackers or bread. If your toddler wasn’t too hungry at dinner, now is a good time to offer leftovers.
* Brush teeth a bit after 7pm.
* Choose a favorite story and read only after your toddler is tucked into bed to listen.
This is just one example of a routine that might work. Adjust the times and activities accordingly.
The Right Motivation
Some experts and authors advise offering rewards and incentives for staying in bed. You can give your toddler play money or “tickets” at bedtime, and let her know that getting up will cost her a certain amount of play money or number of tickets. Keep it simple, though.
If she has all her play money in the morning, she can “cash it in” for a small prize. Again, keep it simple. The prize might be a sticker or a colored pencil. Or, depending on your toddler’s comprehension level, she could cash in her play money or tickets for extra play time or DVD viewing.
While it’s probably not a good idea to be rigid, having clear boundaries helps keep things peaceful. Be clear about the limits – “We only read one story,” or “No trips to the bathroom once lights are out.” This helps prevent your toddler from asking for that “one more” story or drink of water. Of course, make sure your toddler has a drink before bed (or put a toddler-safe cup of water by his bed) and make sure he uses the bathroom before bed.