How Do I Get My Toddler to Go to Bed?

By Alex Beschorner, Occupational Therapist

toddler going to bed

As adults we often look forward to turning in for the night. However, to children, bedtime is often the least favorite time of the day and can result in a battle of wills, leaving parents and kids exhausted by the end.

Strategies to Support the Bedtime Process

Toddlers can be especially difficult when resisting bedtime, as they are driven by emotion and are not easy to reason with.

Here are some strategies to support the bedtime process so that you and your little one can rest easy.

  • It is best to limit screen time for at least an hour prior to bedtime. Research has shown that the blue light from screens can actually disrupt our brain’s ability to fall asleep.
  • Developing a consistent bedtime routine will allow your child to know what to expect. Predictability will help them feel organized and will help develop bedtime associations. Bedtime associations are sounds, smells, sights, and activities that signal that the time for sleep is near.
  • A bedtime routine might look something like: a snack or low-key activity, a bath (or just washing face and hands, if it’s not bath night), change into pajamas, brush teeth, reading 1-2 stories in a dimly lit room, transitioning into bed, 1-2 songs (if you’re the singing kind), and lights out, Goodnight!
  • Comfort object such as lovies, special blankets, nightlights, and other such items can be very useful for children when transitioning to sleep. As long as the item is safe and age appropriate, it is perfectly fine for your child to use one (or a variety!).

Be Consistent

We all know how unpredictable and chaotic life can be. There will be times that your ability to follow the bedtime routine is disrupted by factors outside your control.

However, the more consistent that you can be with your routine, when possible, the easier it will be for you and your child to be flexible with the transition to bed during the times when life makes the exact routine impossible.

It is unlikely that every single night will go smoothly, but, by developing a calming and consistent routine, you and your child should be able to call a truce over the bedtime battles (most nights, anyway…).