The Best Bedtime Routine for Your 3 Year Old | Awesome Little Sleepers
Do you ever hear parents talk about having an easy toddler bedtime routine with their kid, and you secretly roll your eyes?
You’re thinking, “How the heck are the words “easy” and “bedtime” next to each other in a sentence?”
If you’ve gotten used to the long, drawn out bedtime matrix filled with reading a full library of books, plus a litany of requests and demands that you never seem to execute in a way that pleases your child, keep reading.
I’ve got the 3 keys to the best bedtime routine for your 3, 4 or 5 year old.
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The best toddler bedtime routine for your child
1 - The best bedtime routine is one that your child ENJOYS!
Oftentimes, we parents have set up a routine back when our child was younger and didn’t have any opinions. We try to keep the same one going as they grow up.
But, the truth is, once your kiddo hits 2 ½ to 3 years old, they may want some input. Of course, instead of asking nicely, they just tantrum, freak out, and misbehave while never seeming satisfied (typical toddler/preschooler communication tactics).
Ask yourself: What’s a bedtime routine they would actually enjoy?
Start by thinking about what they like. There may be differences for every kid - some kids may want talk time, some want snuggles, some love having books read to them, some love singing, some may want to play with dinosaurs, some may want to change their baby doll’s diaper. Every kid is different, so there’s no exact roadmap for what should be included in the routine.
But, universally, one thing kids this age like is to have some control.
They’re being told what to do all day long: what to wear, where to go, when to eat, what to eat, and by the end of a long day, the struggle for power reaches a head, which is when you get the never-ending bedtime saga.
So involve your child in the process of setting up a routine they’ll actually enjoy. Talk to them about it. When you talk to them about it, involve them in the process, and make it something fun, they’re less likely to push back on you.
And if your child REALLY likes to be in control, draw out the steps of the bedtime routine and put them “in charge” of it. Let them boss you around for a change!
2 - The bedtime routine needs to have a well-defined ending. I call this the Grand Finale. This is the point when the lights go off, parents leave the room, and bedtime is officially over.
The Grand Finale should be a final step that your child recognizes. It marks the end of the day. Lots of families end bedtime with a favorite lullaby, but it could be anything you want. Tucking your child in super-tight the way they like. Having a tickle fest. Having the world's greatest squeeze hug.
What it actually IS doesn’t matter as much as doing it consistently.
Consistency is the most important piece. Regardless of who’s handling bedtime, your child learns that the Grand Finale means the day is done. I explain this in a bit more detail in my free Toddler Sleep Masterclass. You can reserve a spot if you’d like at ToddlerSleepMasterclass.com
3 - Timing bedtime correctly will make the toddler bedtime routine better for everyone.
If you try to start the bedtime routine too late (after your child has gotten too sleepy), they get a second wind and have more fussy energy to fight bedtime every step of the way.
But, when you time it correctly - about 30 minutes before you want your child to be asleep - things go much more smoothly. So, look for your child’s signs of tiredness. Do they start to zone out, twirl their hair, get quiet, get slouchy? These are signs that it’s time for bedtime.
If your child is yawning and rubbing their eyes - they’re TOO tired - bedtime should have been earlier. So look at the clock and start earlier tomorrow night.
Bad timing is one of the main reasons why bedtime battles happen.
If your child is under 6 years old, their bedtime should be before 7:45 p.m. so they fall asleep peacefully and get the 10-12 hours of sleep they need each night.
Try changing up bedtime tonight using these tips.