If you have a toddler, you know what I am talking about. Bedtime rolls around, and they know just what to do to stall, negotiate, and avoid bedtime. Even if they are great sleepers, even if you know they are tired, and EVEN if they enjoy their bedtime routine and bed.
I feel like toddlers have the biggest FOMO. They just don’t want to miss out on anything. But you mama? After a day of negotiating, keeping calm, feeding hungry bellies, and wiping dirty hands, you are ready for that stinkin’ cute 2 year old to head off to dreamland so that you can head off to Netflix.
So does this sound familiar?
“noooo I’m not tired”
’I’m thirsty, I need water…. And milk… and juice”
“I’m hungry, can I have a snack “ (30 minutes after dinner of course, and for the cherry on top, they didn’t eat well so you are doubting)
“I want MORE stories”
“Daddy stay with me”
And on… and on… and on…
So here is what you do, and believe it or not, what your little CEO WANTS you to do… Be CONSISTENT. Let them know what to expect. Every. Single. Night.
Here are my top 4 tips for getting your little one to bed without the drama
1. Give them a heads up about WHEN bedtime routine is going to happen.
Believe it or not, toddlers don’t like surprises. This makes them feel insecure in their environment. Thrown off. And unsure of how they should feel. Give them tangible clues they can see and hear, as to when bedtime will begin.
“When the sun goes down you can watch ONE Bum bum episode before bedtime”
“When the street light (or night light) turns on, it’s time for stories”
“When we get home from the park, we will have dinner, take a bath, put our pj’s on and read stories”
“I’m going to set an alarm, you can press start, when it rings, its time for stories”
2. Give clear bedtime routine boundaries with limited choice and NEVER deviate
Set your boundaries and then stay consistent with them. If you say 2 stories, and one night you allow 3, well guess what? Your little is going to test for 3 from now until forever. If you are allowing an exception, let them know way in advance why it is a special day.
“you may choose ONE bedtime snack, would you like an apple, or string cheese”
“We are going to read 2 stories”
3. Allow for independence
Our toddlers are gaining more and more independence everyday. For our older 2 year olds and 3 year olds, give room for choice and independence where you can. Maybe that means they can pick out their pajamas for the night, or they help you close curtains and turn on their sound machine. This will help them feel like they get a say in their bedtime.
4. Evaluate their sleep schedule
Between 2-3 years, most of our kids will need a schedule adjustment. Whether this means dropping the nap, or shifting to a later bedtime is up to you.
But how do you know it’s time for an adjustment?
If your toddler is strongly resisting bedtime, and once in their bed they are awake for over 20 minutes and up to an hour or beyond, it’s time to reevaluate a few things.
Are they still napping during the day? If so, first you want to start with capping the nap so that you are still allowing for 6 hours before bedtime. You may want to push bedtime back to 8/8:30pm. If you really enjoy your kid free evening time, then it may be time to ditch the nap and bring back that early bedtime.
5. Provide plenty of outdoor time
Have you ever struggled a little more going to bed on days you didn’t exercise or got out of the house very much? Our high energy toddlers are the same. If you have implemented the above suggestions and you are still struggling, I suggest things like a 1 hour outdoor playtime before dinner, or 10-20 minutes of wild, active play with you built into your bedtime routine. Your little may be needing to burn more energy.
Some sleep science thoughts…
At the end of the day, our toddlers are learning SO much. Have you noticed how their vocabulary increases weekly? How they start to learn how to negotiate, or begin imaginative play? All of this requires SO MUCH brain power. Sleep research shows that during REM sleep our brain goes about categorizing and compartmentalizing all the things we have learned.
Tests on students have shown that before a test, there is an increase in REM sleep meaning the brain has so much more to process. If we did the same sleep tests on our toddlers, I am sure we would find the similar things.
So lets get our littles to bed, and if you are still struggling, please reach out. I would love to help you.