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What are the basics of a good bedtime routine?The important thing is that you do the same thing every night, so that your toddler learns to associate particular activities with bedtime.
If you're not at home, try to follow your routine as much as possible. The familiarity may make it easier for him to settle down in his new surroundings.
Your toddler's routine should always include spending a little time in his bedroom. This will teach him that his room is a nice place to be, not just where he's sent at the end of the day.
Once you've tucked your toddler in for the night, give him a kiss and leave the room. If he grumbles, tell him that you'll be back to check on him in five minutes. In all likelihood, he'll be fast asleep by the time you return. If not, do the same thing again until he settles.
What can I include in my toddler's bedtime routine?What you include in your toddler's routine is up to you. Just make sure you choose activities that help calm your toddler, rather than excite him. Here are some ideas for you to try:
Give him a soak
A nice, warm bath is a soothing experience, and getting your toddler clean and dry is a great way to ease him into bedtime.
However, if your toddler doesn't enjoy baths, or if they make him too excited, it's probably better to leave them for the morning. Give his face and hands a wash instead.
Brush his teeth
Your toddler's routine should always include brushing his teeth. It's important to start the habit of brushing as early as possible so that he learns to look after his teeth properly.
Get him changed for bed
Change your toddler into a fresh nappy, or encourage him to use the toilet if he's already potty-trained. Then help him get changed into his pyjamas. Offer him a choice of two pyjamas so that he can exercise some of his growing independence.
Play a quiet game
Having a calm game on the floor of your toddler's bedroom is a great way to spend some fun time with him before bed. Older toddlers may enjoy simple puzzles or card games, and younger ones are always entertained by peek-a-boo.
Your game doesn't have to be big or special. It can be as simple as taking turns saying the alphabet or counting to 10. Anything that entertains your toddler without over-stimulating him is fine.
Have a chat
Whether or not your toddler's talking yet, bedtime is a perfect opportunity to have a quiet chat. Of course, if you have a young toddler, you'll have to do most of the talking yourself, but he'll still love getting your full attention.
Talk about everything you've both been doing throughout the day, and how it may have made him feel. If your toddler's old enough, ask him to tell you about the best and worst things that happened to him, as well as anything that's worrying him. This may help him to work through any anxieties or fears so that he gets a better night's sleep.
Read a bedtime story
Cuddle up for some cosy story time. Your toddler will love spending time with you, and hearing you give all the characters silly voices. It'll even help him learn new words, and encourage a lifelong love of reading.
Give your toddler a choice of books from a small selection each night. He'll enjoy getting to have his say. You may end up reading the same few books for week or so, but repetition is a key part of your toddler's learning. While it may be a tad frustrating for you, it's great for his development!
Sing a song
A soothing lullaby is a classic way to help your sleepy toddler drift off. Your voice and your partner's voice are your toddler's favourite sounds. You could even record a tune for him to listen to when someone else puts him to bed.
Your toddler may enjoy going around the room saying goodnight to his favourite toys. Don't let him take advantage, though. If he insists on saying goodnight to every single stuffed toy in his bedroom, he may just be trying to put off bedtime a little longer.
Bear in mind that anything can occasionally throw your toddler's routine off for a few nights. Find out when your toddler will be ready to sleep away from home.
Last reviewed: May 2015