Practical Tips To Help With Toddler Bedtime Battles

bedtime gentle sleep coach gentle sleep tips sleep routine toddler sleep Apr 15, 2024
Mom reading a book to her toddler

Bedtime struggles are common in many households, particularly those with young children. If you're dealing with a toddler who fights bedtime, you're not alone. This blog will provide practical tips you can implement today to help make bedtime a smoother, less stressful experience for both you and your child.

Understanding the Why

There are many reasons why bedtime might be tough for your toddler. The first thing to keep in mind is that bedtime is often a chronic misalignment of your toddler's needs and your own. For your toddler, this is the biggest time of separation, and for you, it's the last thing to conquer before you get your break. Having some perspective around the 'why' can be so helpful when it comes to supporting your toddler through bedtime.

There are four common reasons I see toddlers resisting bedtime.

Sleep Pressure is Off

The first reason is that they simply aren't tired enough. Keep a sleep diary and have a look at your toddler’s sleep totals. The recommended range of sleep from ages 1-2 is 11-14 hours, decreasing to 10-13 hours from there (with 2 hours either side also being appropriate!). If your toddler is taking 30+ minutes to fall asleep and isn’t showing strong signs, consider reducing your nap length, adjusting bedtime to be later or using bedtime fading to find their sweet spot.

Struggling with Separation

Bedtime is a big period of separation for your toddler. Toddlerhood often involves a lot of social changes for your toddler; they may be spending more time apart from you, and even if they aren’t in care, their 'circle' is expanding and their worlds are getting bigger. This can be a bit overwhelming for them!

Here are some strategies to help them cope:

  • Offer uninterrupted 1:1 time before bed, even if its just for 10 minutes
  • Slow down their wind down
  • Give them a way to hold on to you while they are sleeping and you are apart
  • Use a visual that you are close like a collecting hearts ritual

Craving Autonomy

You’ve likely noticed this new need for autonomy in the day - wanting to brush their own teeth, do their own shoes. It's normal, but autonomy and bedtime don’t really mesh that well and bedtime can feel like a list of 'have tos' for your kiddo that they have no control over. Think about how you can offer more autonomy at bedtime:

  • Letting them choose their pjs
  • Taking them shopping and letting them choose their bedding
  • Allowing them to choose which toys come to bed
  • Allowing them to choose your wind down activity or what books they read before bed etc

Struggling with the Transition

Transitions can be harder for some temperaments more than others, but broadly speaking, the transition to bed might become tricky - lots of parts of the bedtime routine aren't necessarily fun. And it makes sense that they don't want to stop playing!

Here are some things that may help:

  • Visual bedtime routine charts
  • Visual timers
  • Consistent bedtime routine
  • Pre-empt bedtime for your toddler '2 more books and then its bedtime'
  • Fun and playful transitions - “Quick! The timer went off, do you want to fly to the bed or will we have a race instead”
  • Bedtime boundaries and loving limits

Toddler sleep can be a doozy! If you need more help, check out our recently updated and JAM packed toddler sleep guide HERE

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Hi! I'm Claire! Hi! I'm Claire! A mum of three from Sydney, circle of security facilitator and OCN level 6 Certified Holistic Sleep Coach. Together with my incredible team, we are on a mission to support families to get better sleep in a truly responsive way that feels good, and works! 

Here at The Gentle Sleep Coach, we are passionate about working with families to provide them with gentle, responsive and holistic approaches to sleep that are 100% comfortable and reinstall confidence in the parents as the experts!