I have always been surprised to hear how much sleep babies and toddlers actually need. But when you think about it, little ones tend to go a million miles a minute and have to recharge their battery somehow. Sure, naptime might put a dent in the exhaustion they are likely to face come 2pm, but what about an actual bedtime?
My pediatrician recommended that my toddler gets at least 10 hours of sleep a night, not including nap times. So, really toddlers need a total of 12-14 hours of sleep. That sounds like a lot to me. But, when you have spent all day with your little one, you probably welcome bedtime. (Or at least I do!)
For a while, our daughter (she just turned 3) would get her ‘second wind’ around 9pm. So this would entail her running, jumping, playing and doing everything but winding down for the night. Recently, we have tried a few new things that have proven to work for her. So instead of partying each night until 11pm, she now falls asleep by 9(ish) and sleeps through the night. Let me repeat: asleep by 9 and sleeps through the night. Cue the angels singing.
I’m sure some of you are thinking, a 2 year old staying up until 11? Trust me, I didn’t love it either, and a friendly reminder: I’m doing my best as a parent. It just happened to take me a while longer to figure it out. And I’m still taking it one day at a time.
So, want to know what worked for us?
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Some people swear by quiet time about an hour or so before bed, but for us, we run, jump, throw balls and do just about anything to get that energy out. She is a busy little girl, so the more tiresome the activity, the better. Walks with the dogs around the block are a go-to as well.
With summer time just around the corner and warmer weather within reach, I am (not so) secretly jumping for joy that she will be outside with the neighbors quite often, more than likely meaning an even earlier bedtime for her. The more energy she exerts, the more tired she is in the evening.
2. Bath time
Picture this: a warm bubble bath with soft lullabies and maybe a rubber ducky or two. Now, add about 25 Peppa Pig figures, 6 My Little Ponies, a few baby dolls and their bottles too. And that is what our bath time looks like, with a little Kidz Bop in the background. I will typically keep bath time for self-directed play, but sometimes I will play with her if she asks me to.
Bath time is an absolute must for our bedtime routine. This helps her to relax and get that last little play out of her. We typically do bath time about an hour to an hour and a half before bedtime.
3. Bedtime books
We don’t read just any books as we’re getting ready for bed. We specifically choose books that are longer and made for bedtime. Sounds like a no-brainer, right. Even though she doesn’t always hold attention to what we are reading, as long as she is sitting with us and quiet, I am pleased.
Not only is reading to your child a great bedtime ritual, but it can foster an early love of reading in children as well. I am happy to say that we have read to my son (now 6) since he was an infant and every night since, and one of his favorite things to do is to grab a chapter book and read to us.
You can find more suggestions at The Best Bedtime Books For Your Toddler Who Hates Sleep.
Hint: Our favorite is #6 on the list!
4. Weighted blanket
Weighted blankets have been said to reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. They have, what feels like, little weighted beads inside of them and apply a consistent and firm pressure on your child while they are laying down.
The weighted blanket is a great option for a child with sensory processing disorder, affecting different senses, like touch. According to SensaCalm, by applying firm but gentle pressure, a weighted blanket delivers all of the benefits of a hug without forcing unwelcome or unpleasant body contact with another person. Although this doesn’t specifically apply to my daughter, the feel of the added weight on her body is comforting to her.
I would recommend getting a child-sized weighted blanket, as a larger one could be overwhelming and possibly too large for a small child. This is the weighted blanket we use here.
Since purchasing the weighted blanket for our daughter, she is less fidgety at bedtime and appears to relax a little more quickly. The velvet touch is also very appealing to her, and the color as well.
I would suggest researching weighted blankets before purchasing one for your child because they can be pricey. Possibly show your child some pictures online and let them choose a color/design for themselves so they are more open to the idea of this kind of blanket. You can find blankets at Target and Amazon.
Bedtime routines are important because they establish expectations and kids thrive on routine. When children get enough sleep, this limits behavior problems and overall, creates happier children. Happier children = happier parents. Consistency is key when teaching children new routines and habits.
For us, we divide and conquer. My husband puts my son to sleep, and I help my daughter get to bed. By following our above ritual, we are showing our children the importance of routine. And did you know that when you maintain and enfore a routine, the expectation (from the child) on what’s to come can actually make them sleepier? In other words, your child knows when it’s time to have their bedtime snack, then it’s shower time, time to brush their teeth and then time to read, all leading to feelings of being sleepy (because that’s what comes next).
So, create a routine that works for your family and run with it. It may take some adjusting along the way, and it may not work for both or all of your children the same. Setting expectations for what is to come next will likely have your kids ready to tackle bedtime with you.
What does your bedtime routine look like?