Getting your toddler to go to bed without a fight can be a struggle and, in some cases, an all out war. But remember that it’s normal for a toddler to fight bedtime.
What’s happening when you have toddler bedtime troubles? Your toddler on the one hand, is learning to assert themselves and their newfound independence and control of the world around them. On the other hand, they do need routine and sleep and it’s up to us as parents to us to ensure this happens. But this in no easy feat! If you’re dealing with a difficult toddler at bedtime, here are some tips for parents to help nip these bedtime troubles in the bud!
Keep to an early bedtime
As your toddler get older we are often tempted to move bedtime later, assuming they are fighting bedtime because they are just not tired enough to sleep, but this can actually exacerbate the problem. If your child is overtired they are more likely to fight going to sleep. Remember that up until the age of 5children still need between 11 and 12 hours of night time sleep!
Give them a visual concept of time
Your child has no concept of time, which is why routines are so important – they give the day structure and also help your child feel secure because they know what’s coming next. Try to give them pre-warning of what is going to happen next. For example, saying: “we have 10 minutes of playtime left and then we will be going to bath, then to bed”, can help them prepare – and lessens the chances of toddler bedtime troubles. Tip for parents: you can use a timer with an alarm to help your toddler conceptualise the time, by letting them know that when the alarm goes off, it’s time to get ready for the bath.
Learn their love language so you can meet their emotional needs
Toddlers are emotional little people, not logical little people, and we cannot expect them to follow rules or just lay down in bed without putting up a fight if their emotional needs are not met during the day. Find out what you little one’s love language is to help fill their emotional cup and get that quality one-on-one time so they’ll be less likely to act out at bedtime.
Make going to bed fun
Often bedtime signals the end of play time, which is why your little one might be showing so much resistance to going to sleep. A good idea is to make a sticker chart that outlines each step of the bedtime routine and hang it beside your child’s bed. As you go through the routine, let your toddler put a sticker or a check mark beside the completed steps.
Toddlers love this and it helps them develop a sense of independence and control over their bedtime routines. It also makes going to bed FUN, which means no tantrums at bedtime. Offer your toddler choices to add to the sense of fun and independence, for example “do you want bubbles or bath salts?” or “choose two stories we are going to read tonight.”
Make sure all bedtime needs are met
If you want your toddler to go to sleep without putting up a fight, make sure that all your little one’s bedtime needs have been met BEFORE you put them in bed for the night. Ensure that everyone who needs to be kissed goodnight has been kissed, they have had their water or sleep comforter, or whatever it is that makes your toddler feel comfortable, safe, and secure. This way, they won’t be able to use these things as excuses to call you back into the bedroom or to climb out of their bed to do ‘one last thing’!
These are just a few small things you can do to encourage your toddler to go to bed without a fight, but remember that all children are different so sometimes we need to think a bit out of the box or take a different approach for a specific child. Sometimes the smallest changes can make the biggest difference in their journey to better sleep.