You might be thinking that your kid should probably be going to bed earlier. But there’s so much to do in the evening, it may feel impossible! That’s why you’ll want to try these three hacks to speed up the evening, so bedtime can happen earlier and more peacefully.
And if there seems to be that one thing that throws bedtime off every single night (you know the one I mean), you don’t want to miss number three.
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Why early bedtime tips for toddlers are important
If you’ve been following me for a while or even just researching how to improve your child’s sleep, you’ve probably noticed that most experts say to make sure your child has an early bedtime.
(Yes, even earlier than you’re probably doing now and maybe even earlier than you think.)
Many families feel like, “Okay… but an early bedtime is not physically possible with all the stuff we have jammed into the evening. There won’t be time to eat dinner or have any play time!”
Don’t be too dismissive of the importance of early bedtime by thinking you’re just too busy in the evening. A big mistake here is assuming it’s advice for other families and not yours.
Ask yourself a different question - “What could I do to make an early bedtime possible?”
Just sit with that question for a minute and let your brain come up with some ideas. It may take being patient and intentional to come up with some new strategies, but in most cases, it’s possible to streamline your evening.
The benefits for you and your child are so worth it.
Here are 3 easy hacks to speed up your evening so you can get your kid to bed earlier.
Three early bedtime tips for toddlers
Family dinner change
One of the biggest obstacles to an early bedtime is family dinner. For one reason or another, dinner happens late and pushes the whole bedtime routine late. Maybe one parent gets home from work late and everyone waits to eat, or maybe everyone gets home from work and school late and cooking dinner takes up a big chunk of the evening.
This was exactly what happened in our family. Both my husband and I worked outside the home, our kids were in daycare, and our evenings felt busy and hectic and crunched. The kids were going to bed too late. So, one thing that saved us is redefining the idea of the family dinner.
What we did was plan something easy for the kids’ dinner - like leftovers from the night before. We all sat together while the girls ate and had time to talk, but my husband and I didn’t eat.
Instead, we would get the girls to bed early and then cook our dinner. It was actually way more relaxed that way.
Cooking wasn’t stressful because my attention wasn’t being split in a million directions with kids yelling, “Mommy, Mommy!” My husband and I could sit down and eat in peace without having to deal with the kids. Bonus: we would also get to feed those leftovers to the girls the next night.
It was a great rhythm that still allowed us to have the family dinner concept, but also get the kids to bed at the right early bedtime.
Skip bath time
Another big evening obstacle for lots of families is the bath. Kids either love the bath and want to spend forever in the OR they hate the bath and getting them in is a nightmare. Another issue for some kids - like my own kids - is that taking a bath actually energizes them and isn’t calming or relaxing at all.
Giving my kids a bath was like giving them ice cream. It was never something I could do right before bed.
Let me give you permission to give up the nightly bath! Now, some families don’t like this and it’s totally a personal preference but, as I understand it, unless kids are really, really dirty, their skin doesn’t actually need a bath every day. You can always use wipes or a washcloth to clean their face, hands and feet without doing a full bath. So, if bath time is a struggle for your kid, consider skipping it on nights where they seem really cranky and you think getting them to bed earlier is more important.
Move the one tough bedtime task to a different time.
Sometimes it’s the bedtime routine itself that really throws the evening off and makes time drag on and on so bedtime becomes later than it should.
Maybe your child loses it whenever it’s time to put on their PJs or brush their teeth. You’ll recognize yourself here if there’s usually one thing that sets your kid off and it’s usually the same exact struggle every night.
Let’s use changing into PJs as an example. Whenever you say “Okay, bud, time to get your PJs on” it’s either full-on meltdown mode or PJs always become an issue somehow: they don’t feel good, they’re too tight, they’re too hot.
Instead of kicking off the bedtime process with that tough bedtime task, move that task to a different part of the evening.
Maybe have your kiddo put on PJs before dinner - or try moving it to before something they enjoy, like watching a show. “If you can hurry and get your PJs on, then we can watch Paw Patrol for a few minutes.”
Sometimes just rearranging tasks that tend to cause problems can help change the mood completely and make bedtime much easier.
What other ideas can you come up with to speed up evenings? Share them in the comments.
If you are looking for additional support to sleep train your toddler, join me in my next Toddler Sleep Masterclass. It's free and I'll teach you all about my REST Method. >>Click here to save your spot<<