To help your toddler into a good bedtime routine, firstly, help them to understand what’s going to happen every night before bed and make a chart.

  • Decide what you want your bedtime routine to be.
  • Work back from the time you want them to sleep.

So your child can have a bath.
Clean their teeth.
Put their pyjamas on.
Go to the toilet or have a clean nappy, read a bedtime story, and have time to settle.

  • Then, tell your child what the new routine’s going to be. Explain what’s going to happen.
  • A great idea is to make a chart with pictures of everything your child needs to do – or even better, take some photos of your child doing each step. Print them off and make them into a chart which your child can decorate.

Secondly, ask your toddler lots of questions about what will happen at bedtime.
This helps them form a mental picture of what’s going to happen. Ask them

  • So what time is bedtime?
  • What do you need to do before you go to sleep?
  • How long do you clean your teeth for?
  • Who gets to finish off cleaning your teeth?

That’s right I do!

  • What do you need by your bed?

Yes, a drink of water.

  • How many stories will I read?
  • What if you want more stories?

That’s right you can have some more the next night.

  • What time is lights out?
  • What do you need to do then?

That’s the right answer. You need to lie down and try to sleep.

  • What if you can’t fall asleep?

That’s right. You need to stay lying down and close your eyes.

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.

Children love routines. They love to know what will happen, and when.
So finally, make sure you consistently follow the routine every night.
Give your toddler a 10 minute and a 5-minute warning.
Then at the right time, go to your toddler, and when they’re looking you at in a nice firm voice say.
‘It’s time to get ready for bed now – have a look at your chart –what’s the first thing we need to do?’
Timers are great for taking away the need to nag about how long to stay in the bath, or how long to clean teeth for.
The more your child gets used to the bedtime routine, the more they’ll just do it without a fuss.

So the 3 tips to get your toddler into a good bedtime routine are:

  1. Help them to understand what’s going to happen every night before bed and make a chart,
  2. Ask your toddler lots of questions about what will happen at bedtime
  3. And make sure you consistently follow the routine every night.

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.

More Parenting Tips

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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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