Our easy toddler bedtime routine that helps our toddlers settle down at night and go to sleep quickly and without a fight.
Most people (adults and children alike) thrive on routine because it helps your brain know what to expect each day and what’s coming next. A bedtime routine is no different and can help you wind down and sleep better at night.
I’m a mom of two toddlers and i’m sharing our toddler bedtime routine that we do just about every night with my boys. We started a routine when they were both babies and have kept up with our bedtime routine, although it has evolved over time as they have gotten older.
<<< Check out this post to see our baby bedtime routine! >>>
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What is a Bedtime Routine
A bedtime routine is a consistent set of actions that take place every night before your toddler goes to bed. A bedtime can be a simple set of actions such as changing into pajamas, brushing their teeth, reading a book, and going to bed, or it can be more elaborate and include more steps.
There is no one-size-fits all and you should create a bedtime routine that works well for your toddlers and your family. The main goal of a bedtime routine is to keep it fairly consistent.
Why Your Toddler Needs a Bedtime Routine
A bedtime routine is important for toddlers for a few reasons:
- it can help them physically and mentally wind down for the night
- a predictable schedule can help them feel more secure since they know what to expect each night
- it can help their brain separate day from night (night sleep is different from a nap)
- it can help them go to sleep more calmly and therefore sleep better at night and be more well-rested during the day
- it can be a great way to connect and bond with your toddler
How Long Should A Toddler Bedtime Routine Be?
A bedtime routine should be approximately 10-15 minutes (or up to 30 if you include a bath every night). Our bedtime routine is on the longer side because my toddlers do take a shower or bath every night, but if your toddler doesn’t bathe, try to stick to a shorter routine.
You will want to include enough steps that your toddler clearly understands that the bedtime routine is taking place, however if your bedtime routine is too long its also hard to distinguish bedtime routine from normal activities and they might get a second wind after they start to wind down.
Can a Baby Have a Bedtime Routine?
A baby can definitely have a bedtime routine! Most sleep experts will say that your baby can start a bedtime routine at just a few days old, however most moms will wait at least a few weeks to settle into any sort of routine before bed. When your baby is very young the bedtime routine can be very very short, and you can work on adding in more steps as they get older.
With both of my boys we started a bedtime routine when they were a few weeks old. Check our our Baby Bedtime Routine.
Our Easy Toddler Bedtime Routine
Bedtime for my toddlers right now is around 7:30pm. If your bedtime is earlier or later, feel free to adjust the schedule to meet your family’s needs. However, it is a good idea to stick to a relatively similar bedtime each night so that your toddler’s schedule doesn’t get too out of wack.
- Bath – our bedtime routine almost always starts with a bath or shower. My toddlers are very active and get pretty dirty almost every day. We almost always go right from dinner to bath time so there’s less time for a second wind.
- Lotion – lotion can be helpful for babies and toddlers because their skin is often very sensitive and prone to drying. A lotion massage with calming scents can also be a great to help your toddler wind down for bed.
- Pajamas – right out of the bath we like to put on our toddlers’ pajamas. It helps them feel warm and cozy and realize that it’s time to rest soon and not play. My 2 and 3 year olds love to pick out his and his brother’s pajamas each night and we’ve found that it’s a great way to include them in the process and make them a little more excited about putting them on.
- Play in Bedroom – if your child has a hard time settling down for bed it’s best to do quiet play activities or skip this step completely. We normally play in the boys’ room so they don’t run wild all over the house. This is special since they don’t play in their room much during the day.
- Read Books – after they are both dressed and ready for bed, we always read 2-3 books. Again, we let our toddlers each pick a book so that they feel more involved in the process and are more willing to sit down and read. They normally read books with dad since he is gone at work most of the day and this is their special time to relax together, cuddle, and bond. If your toddler likes to stall by requesting more and more books be sure to set a firm limit on the number of books you are going to read.
- Sleep Sacks – next we always get our toddlers into their sleep sacks before laying them in bed. I love knowing that my kids are warm and cozy and safe at night without loose blankets in their cribs.
- Sound Machine – after getting in their sleep sacks we turn on their sound machine, which they sleep with every night. We started using a sound machine day 1 in the hospital and both boys have used one every day since.
Favorite Sound Machine: Hatch Baby Rest. We love that its controlled remotely from your phone so you can turn it up or down throughout the night or nap time depending on what is going on at your house. My toddlers share a room so if one of them is crying we can turn it up to help the other one stay asleep. It’s also a rise-to-wake clock which has been a game-changer for my 3 year old staying quiet every morning!
Here is a timeline for our bedtime routine:
- 6:30 pm – Bath
- 6:45 pm – Lotion & pajamas
- 6:50 pm – Play quietly in bedroom
- 7:15 pm – Read books (2-3 books)
- 7:30 pm – Sleep sacks, sound machine on, lights out
With a bath, our bedtime routine normally lasts about 60 minutes (without play time it would be about 30 minutes). I’ve found that this is the perfect amount of time for my toddlers to wind down, without having it be too drawn out they get a second wind.
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