Getting a bed-resistant toddler to go to sleep can be extremely frustrating. From endless wailing to constantly getting out of bed, those little munchkins really know how to play the game when it comes to nighttime struggles. Fortunately there are some techniques you can use to avoid toddler bedtime wars. We’ve put together a list of suggestions for mastering a smooth, hassle-free bedtime routine for toddlers.
How to avoid toddler bedtime wars #1: Avoid over tiredness
Typically toddlers can cope with between four and five hours of ‘awake time’ before they begin to become drowsy. If you miss this window of opportunity to get them into bed you run the risk over tiredness. Logic tells us that if a person is tired, they should want to sleep, but in fact the opposite is true. When your toddler is overtired they have to work harder to stay alert. To do this, their brains release cortisol, which is the hormone that keeps us awake.
How to avoid toddler bedtime wars # 2: Establish a routine
Setting a bedtime routine is absolutely essential when it comes to winning the toddler bedtime battle. The key is to make the transition from being awake to being asleep as comfortable and consistent as possible. Always begin the routine at the same time every evening and be sure to make it fun, with bath-time play, followed by a story.
How to avoid toddler bedtime wars #3: Give them choices
It’s a toddler’s prerogative to be contrary. It’s what they do. So when you say ‘it’s time for bed’ it’s pretty much guaranteed they’ll disagree. The trick here is to give your tot some choices. Let them choose between two pairs of bedtime pajamas or which story book they want. You’ll be surprised how much this softens the blow of bedtime.
How to avoid toddler bedtime wars #4: Make tucking in time count
Separation anxiety is particularly common at bedtime when toddlers can feel uneasy about being apart from mummy during the night. To avoid a fight, take some extra time to connect while tucking in, and be sure to include lot of reassuring cuddles and kisses during story time. Of course, you’ll probably still be begged to ‘staaay’ as you leave the room, but if your little one feels assured and calm, the protest is likely to be short and sweet.
How to avoid toddler bedtime wars #5: Address fears
You know how badly you sleep when you’re feeling stressed? Toddlers are the same. Just as you might panic about the mortgage, they panic about dark rooms, scary dreams and monsters in the closet. To alleviate those fears, try popping a nightlight in their room. We suggest the Gro Clock. As well as providing a little extra security in the dark, this nightlight also uses the stars and sun to communicate when it’s time to wake up and when it’s time to go back to sleep.
How to avoid toddler bedtime wars #6: Be consistent
It’s the end of the day and you’ve finally got a chance to put your feet up and watch Netflix… Then your toddler gets up from bedtime. It’s tempting to let them sit with you while you finish that episode of Chef’s Table, or let them play while you take five minutes to chill, but actually you’re teaching them that getting up results in extra attention and fun time. Instead, immediately put them back to bed without discussion. It might take a week, or it might take a month, but eventually they will get the point.
How to avoid toddler bedtime wars #7: Encourage nap time
Due to their newfound sense of independence, toddlers will often refuse to take naps during the day. It can be incredibly frustrating to keep putting them back to bed, but stick with it because a lack of sleep during the day means they’re often not able to sleep well at night.
How to avoid toddler bedtime wars #8: Help them unwind
Transitioning from an action-packed day to la-la land can be challenging, especially when your tot knows you’re up and about on the other side of the bedroom door. Help them unwind with a soothing bedtime routine. As well as a warm bath, dim the lights in the bedroom while you get them into their pajamas, and then gently tell them a calming bedtime story.