In Hollywood films a young child’s bedtime is often portrayed a peaceful cosy affair, with mum tucking them in, kissing them goodnight, and turning off the light as she leaves the room. Unfortunately for many of us the reality is a little different, with hyperactive toddlers running around their bedrooms, refusing to stay under the duvet. Luckily there are a few ways you can make your toddler’s bedtime an easier and more pleasurable experience.
Firstly make sure you give your entire attention to bedtime. Ensure that your child is your sole focus during this time so switch off the TV and computer, let the phone ring, and leave the tidying up until later. Think of bedtime as the ideal opportunity to reconnect with your child at the end of a busy day.
Secondly try to establish a bedtime routine that works for your child and stick to it as closely as possible, starting and finishing at the same times each evening. This will make your child feel secure and relaxed and this can make a huge difference in getting them to sleep. Some parents start with a period of rowdy play, perhaps play fighting or chasing each other to allow their child to burn off some energy before bed. As long as this is followed with calming activities such as a warm bath and a bedtime story this can be a great idea.
Many toddlers find bedtime frustrating as they have no control over what is happening to them. One solution to this is to give you toddler some choices and decisions to make as part of their bedtime routine. Put out two sets of pyjamas and let them choose which one to wear, have a couple of different bubble bath bottles and let them add the one they want, or allow them to choose their story book from a limited selection.
Making time to talk with your toddler can be a wonderful part of the bedtime routine. You can discuss the things that have happened during the day and even if it has been a difficult day you can focus on the good parts, giving praise for the things they have done well. If your toddler is old enough to talk this is also a good time to find out if there is anything worrying them as discussing this can help to reduce any anxiety they may be feeling which might stop them getting to sleep.
Wherever your bedtime routine starts, make sure it finishes in their bedroom. Your child should see their bedroom as a nice place to be and not somewhere they are sent away to at the end of the day. Use the bedroom as the location for your bedtime story, a big cuddle, or even a quiet game before bed.
Once you’ve finished your bedtime routine, put your child into bed and say goodnight. You might want to put on a night light or a relaxing CD if that helps you child, before you leave the room. Be clear that your child must now stay in bed (unless they are toilet training and need the potty).
If your toddler gets out of bed, put them kindly but firmly back in and leave the room again. You may need to do this several times, and you may have to ignore crying or screaming, and but eventually they will give up and fall asleep. It’s easy to give in and let them get up and play or come downstairs but this will establish a precedent and will make it much harder to settle them in the future. By being firm and consistent your child will eventually learn that bedtime means just that, time to go to bed and go to sleep.