Children enjoy having a routine, as it helps them feel secure and confident when they know what is going to happen. For toddlers it is one of the most important factors in developing good sleeping habits, as it helps them relax and fall asleep more easily

The bedtime routine may include:

  • Having a small snack
  • A bath
  • Cleaning teeth
  • A clean nappy or using the potty
  • Putting on pyjamas, a bedtime chat
  • Reading a story (and maybe prayers)
  • A goodnight kiss and then
  • Leaving the child to fall asleep.

The routine for bed should start at the same time each night, and once the child has left the living area they should not return to it until the following morning.

Make a chart

A great way to help your toddler understand the routine is to make a chart and put pictures of all the steps in the order you normally follow them. You could even photograph your child doing each step to make it even more relevant (and a lovely memento to keep!). Your child can then decorate the chart and it can serve as a reminder of what the child needs to do next rather than being told.

Time to calm down before bedtime

Once the bedtime routine has started it is good to avoid energetic or exciting play as it can stimulate the child and make it difficult for them to fall asleep. Similarly watching TV or a computer screen within 30 minutes of getting into bed can stimulate their brains and make it difficult to drop off.

Learning to settle themselves

To get a good night’s sleep your toddler needs to learn to settle themselves. During a normal night’s sleep, there are times when your child is close to consciousness and briefly wakens. When your toddler wakes it is useful if he/she can settle themselves again. To get them into the habit of self-settling your toddler needs to learn to drop off to sleep in the evening without a milk drink, a dummy, being in your bed, rocking or being held –or just having you in their room -otherwise, they will need the same in the middle of the night, and they need you to wake up to help them get back to sleep.

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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