Bedtime Do’s and Don’ts for Toddlers

These do's and don'ts can help you make bedtime a breeze.

Your little boy has just taken a bath, and you’ve helped him get into his favorite Batman pajamas. Now it’s time for some snuggles, a couple of stories and, finally, to put him to sleep. But, unfortunately, he’s not quite ready to settle in, and you know what that means – a battle of wills.

Every parent of toddlers knows that bedtime can be a serious struggle. Babies may cry or whine when they’re put to bed, but as toddlers start to gain independence, they often argue, fight or flat out refuse to be tucked in. So what should you do? Here are a few do’s and don’ts that can help you and your toddler find some peace at bedtime:

Do have a consistent routine

It can’t be said enough: You must come up with a bedtime routine. But more important even than coming up with the routine is making sure you stick with it 99 percent of the time (special occasions may require a break from the nightly regimen). Don’t overthink this. For most toddlers, it’s enough to set a specific time to start preparing for bed, after which he or she will take a bath, get into pajamas, read a book with you, then get into bed. Create a regimen that works for you and your toddler, then stick with it.

Don’t argue with your toddler about bedtime

Even parents who have routines likely won’t be able to make it through toddlerhood without a few bedtime battles. After all, your child is learning independence and testing his or her limits. Bedtime isn’t up for debate, so be firm if your child is trying to argue. To allow him or her some freedom, try to provide two choices when possible. Does he or she want to wear these jammies or those ones? Should you read this book or that one? On a night when he or she is refusing to accept that it’s time to get ready for bed, you can even give an option: “Do you want to start getting ready right now or in three minutes?”

Mother reading to young son in bed.Bedtime isn’t up for debate, but your son can still choose what book he wants you to read.

Do make sure the crib-to-bed transition is smooth

One of the biggest toddler milestones is the transition from crib to bed. The consistency of your bedtime routine will be an important part of ensuring this transition (which is sometimes rocky) goes as smoothly as possible. Most toddlers are ready to make the leap at around 3 years old. Before you make the change, talk to your son or daughter about it – tell him or her that nothing will change about his bedtime routine except for the bed itself.

Don’t forget that pre-bedtime is important, too

Remember that having a successful bedtime isn’t just about the half hour before bed – the rest of the day matters just as much. Make sure your toddler has a consistent nap schedule, and be aware of the amount and types of foods he or she is eating in the evening. A healthy, balanced meal at dinnertime is important, but try to avoid letting him or her eat too much right before bed – sugary snacks should especially be avoided at this time.