Your toddler’s developing sense of identity, independence and curiosity may be a delight, but can also be a big challenge, especially at bedtime. Even if your baby nodded off happily during his infant years, you’re likely to find yourself engaged in more than one bedtime battle once he becomes a toddler. If you’re dealing with bedtime issues with your little one, the solution may be as simple as strategically tweaking your existing bedtime routine.
Don’t Wait Until Bedtime
If you want bedtime to be stress-free, you have to start preparing for it at the breakfast table, says Paula Spencer, author of the book “Bright From the Start,” in Parenting magazine. Your child needs the right balance of sleep and play time during the day to burn off energy without becoming over-tired. Most kids need naps until they’re about 5 years old, according to Spencer, so if your toddler has stopped napping, you may need to readjust his nap schedule instead of cutting it out completely. No nap can mean your child is hyper and exhausted at bedtime, practically ensuring bedtime stress. At the same time, make sure your child has plenty of opportunities for active play during the day so he’s not channeling lots of leftover energy when you need him to calm down for bedtime.
Give Her Some Control
A toddler likes to control her environment and giving into that desire can make bedtime go more smoothly for both of you, explains Jill Spivack, co-creator of the book and DVD “The Sleepeasy Solution,” in Parents magazine. You set the basic framework for bedtime — a bath, a story and lights-out — but let your child make small choices throughout the process. Ask her to choose which bath soap to use, which bath toy she wants, which pajamas she’d like to wear and what story she’d like to hear. To keep it similar, limit her choices to just two — the duck or the boat, the red pajamas or the green ones, “Good Night Moon” or “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” She’ll be less resistant if she feels like she’s able to make choices.
Avoid Free-Range Exploration
Your toddler can probably climb out of bed on his own now, and the urge to explore can drive him out of bed all night long. Solve the problem by firmly enforcing that bedtime means staying in your room until morning, even when you’re not asleep, recommends Spivack. Calmly and consistently return your little wanderer to his bed whenever he leaves his room after lights-out. Put a basket of quiet toys — like cloth books, small stuffed animals or play silks — in his room so he can entertain himself when he really can’t sleep. If bedtime wandering is a regular problem, consider putting up a half-gate at his door so he can’t escape; just be sure to leave his door open so he doesn’t feel scared or trapped.