Toddler Fighting Bedtime? Three Changes to Help Tonight

Do you have toddler who is fighting bedtime? I hear you, but don’t worry you are not alone.  As an experienced Certified Toddler Sleep Coach, I am here to help you and your little boundary pusher take three steps tonight to make those bedtime battles a thing of the past.  The key to toddlers and bedtime, is creating a consistent bedtime routine that they can follow, while also empowering their independence and growth.  Let’s get right to it!

Importance of Sleep for Toddlers

Before I give you those three key steps, let’s quickly touch on why sleep is so crucial for your toddler’s growth and development.  Sleep is a necessity for you toddler and they should be getting between 12 – 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.  Don’t just take my word for it, , powered by the AAP is driving the importance of sleep home.

“Sleep is just as important to your children’s development and well-being as nutrition and physical activity. The amount and quality of sleep we have can affect our safety, how alert we are, as well as our memories, moods, behavior, and learning abilities. Establishing good sleep practices while your children are young will not only benefit you, but it will help them for many years to come.” “Sleep.” HealthyChildren.Org,

Prioritizing your toddler’s sleep should definitely be at the top of the list, but it can be exhausting when your toddler is fighting you at bedtime to not only fall asleep, but is fighting your throughout the whole bedtime process. So what are three steps to make a change tonight?

3 Crucial Steps to Make Bedtime Easier Tonight

  1. Create a Bedtime Routine:  This is #1!  Maybe you already have a bedtime routine, but is it consistent?  Your child’s bedtime routine should only last between 20 – 30 minutes and should be exactly the same every single night.   Your toddler thrives on predictability and routine, it allows them to feel safe by knowing what is expected of them.  Extra Tip: Create a Visual Bedtime Routine Chart for them to hang in their room.  This gets your toddler interacting and understanding the step by step process of the routine.
  2. Set the Scene and Check Your Timing:  Environment plays a key role in helping your toddler sleep through the night.  Set them up for success by making sure that their room is dark, cool and calming.  If they request a nightlight, make sure that it is a soft yellow, orange or red color.  The room should be between 18-22 degrees Celsius (68-72 F).  Make sure that their bedding and pajamas are not causing them to overheat at night.  Make it calm by playing soothing music as they get ready for bed, add a massage into the bedtime routine and read a calming story to help them relax for sleep.  Extra Tip:  Is your toddler going to bed too late?  Toddlers should be going to bed on average between 7:00 and 8:00 pm.  If they have dropped their nap (ages approximately 3.5 to 5), be sure to offer an earlier bedtime, to assure that they are not overtired during the routine.
  3. Boundaries:  Who is the boss at bedtime?  Is it you or is it your toddler?  If it is your toddler, it is time to set some boundaries.   If your child is constantly asking for four stories instead of two and you are giving in, guess who the boss is?  It is time to give your child choices to help foster their independence, while still being firm.  Example:  “Of these three stories, which two would you like to choose tonight.”  Hold firm to the boundary of only reading two books.  Explain to your toddler the expectations at bedtime, sometimes we forget as parents, that they don’t know the rules unless we tell them.  Extra Tip: Make it fun! If your toddler is pushing back at bedtime, incorporate fun into the routine.  Example: “Let’s hop like a frog into the bath” or “Let’s try and walk backwards into bed.”  This can help to keep everything moving along.
  4. EXTRA TIP: Because I really want this to go well for you, here is one more tip you can use if your toddler is struggling with bedtime. Make sure that they are getting sufficient outdoor play and sunlight throughout the day.  This plays a key role in setting their body clock and helping with the production of melatonin which aids in sleep.

Boundaries and Toddlers

As a mom of two myself, I can also tell you from experience both at home and in my work, how important setting boundaries for your toddler is during the day as well.  Your toddler feels safe when there are expectations and boundaries, so don’t feel as if you are limiting them in their development by setting some rules.  If your toddler is napping still, make sure to use the tips above for naps as well, and when they drop the nap, be sure to implement quiet time for them, so that you get time to yourself as well. Yes, that is a necessity for you too! One more quick tip before I leave you with these important steps, try not to transition your toddler into a toddler bed until at least the age of 3.  They are much more likely to understand the expectations and boundaries around sleep by this age, resulting in less visits to your bed overnight, and know that it is never too late to instill healthy sleep habits in your toddler.

Missy Morrison Charko is a leading Canadian based Certified Baby and Toddler Sleep Consultant, who works with exhausted parents around the world to help get their children sleeping soundly.  A mom of two young children in a shift work family, she empowers parents to use the right tools and strategies with her support to get their family sleeping better.  If you would like to learn more about her coaching, you can book a complimentary call to discuss your families struggles and see how she can help you feel rested again.  

Free Download For Parents

The Five Steps to Getting Your Child to Sleep Tonight!

Sign Up to Get your FREE copy of my “Getting Started Guide”.