Sleep plays an important role in your toddler’s health, well-being, development and even behavior, but getting a toddler to sleep isn’t always easy. You know the drill: Your little one is fighting to stay awake in a full-on sleepy toddler meltdown because of her FOMO (fear of missing out); meanwhile, you know she needs to go to bed so that tomorrow (or the rest of the day if it’s naptime) isn’t a complete disaster. Establish a healthy bedtime routine with these tips that will help both you and your little one get the rest you need and deserve!
Before we get into the tips for getting your little one to sleep, let’s make sure you’re aiming to get her enough sleep each day. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Children ages 1 to 2 should get 11 to 14 hours of sleep every day, including naps.
- Children ages 3 to 5 should get 10 to 13 hours of sleep, including naps.
The most important thing to do when it comes to getting your toddler to sleep is to create a consistent sleep routine. A good bedtime routine lets your child know it’s time for bed and allows her some time to wind down before lying down. Here is an idea of what a bedtime routine can look like: family dinner, bath time, pajamas and bedtime story.
To make sure the bedtime routine doesn’t take all night, you’ll want to set firm time limits and be consistent. Keep bath time short and sweet (and not a wild playtime that gets your toddler excited and more energetic) and make sure the bedtime stories aren’t never-ending.
The more consistent you are, the less likely it is that your child will think she can get away with “one more book” over and over again and use the age-old trick of “I’m thirsty” to stay up later. It’s also important to limit screen time before bed. Screens, such as TVs, tablets and smartphones, stimulate and can keep your little one wide awake or even disrupt her sleep. If your toddler is participating in screen time at night, we recommend powering down at least an hour before bedtime.
It’s important for your toddler to learn how to fall asleep on her own, and her sleep environment can play a big role in that. Your toddler’s room should be quiet, comfortable and dark. If your little one is afraid of the dark, consider getting a night light instead of keeping the lights on or leaving the door open. Leaving the door open makes it really easy for toddlers to get distracted by what’s happening in the rest of the house and want to leave bed. It’s also better to keep bedroom doors shut from a fire safety standpoint.
If your child is used to falling asleep with you by her side, try to give her some comfort with a security object, such as a favorite blanket or lovey she can snuggle up with instead. And if your child wakes up in the middle of the night asking for a drink, offer water only. If she drinks milk or anything else in the night, it can lead to cavities and tooth decay.