5 Tips for Better Toddler Sleep

The gift of great sleep is one of the best we can give our children (and ourselves!!). There are numerous studies outlining how important good sleep habits are in young children. Pediatric researchers have found that sleep is essential to good health - right up there with good nutrition and exercise.

Despite knowing how important sleep is to our children's' development, many parents find actually getting their toddler to sleep to be difficult. Some find bedtime to be the hardest time of the day. Toddlers often resist going to bed, making this a stressful time for both and a poor note to end the day on. A peaceful and happy bedtime filled with sleep is possible! Below are 5 tips for better toddler bedtime and sleep.

All three of our children are great sleepers...usually sleeping 11-12 hours per night. We have put a lot of work into their healthy sleep habits. See my post on infant sleep tips on ways to start this habit from the beginning. We started the below routine around the time our children turned one.  Our children are now 6, 4, and 17 months...and we continue to follow this routine with all three children.

1. Establish a consistent routine. This is one of the most important tips! Think of what you do before bed each night. Odds are you follow a similar routine prior to bed. Humans are creatures of habit and children are no different. A consistent routine helps wind them down for bed and know what to anticipate. What your actual routine is is not as important as the consistency of this routine. This should be a quiet routine that helps your child wind down and understand that they will be going to bed soon. There are bound to be some busy nights where you deviate from the usual routine, but following this routine most nights will help your family develop happy and healthy sleep habits.

Our nightly routine is as follows:
  • Head upstairs - this usually involves chasing them up the stairs or carrying them upside down or piggy back rides - some fun method of getting up the stairs. Not only is this fun, it gets them up quicker than saying "let's go to bed". 
  • Undress - our 6 year old is able to undress herself and she is expected to put away her clothes or put them in the hamper. Our 4 year old sometimes needs a little assistance, but is able to place his clothes in the hamper himself. We undress our 1 year old and she thinks it is a fun game to place her clothes in the hamper :) 
  • Baths - The second best part of the bedtime routine! Our 1 year old always takes a bath. The older two do sometimes take showers, but both prefer baths. This is such a fun time to play. There are some nights where time does not permit much play time, but most nights we do try to give them a fair amount of time to play. I linked some of our favorite bath toys below.
  • Brush Teeth, Lotion, and Pajamas - with our 1 year old, we continue to do the lotion massage that we have done since infancy. The older two are learning to put the lotion on themselves as well as brush their teeth and dress themselves. 
  • Stories - The best part of bedtime routine! We started stories with the kids once they turned one. We read to our one year old separately and read to the older two together. For our one year old, we cuddle up and read 2-3 stories. The older two each get to pick a book to read - see my post on our favorite children books. During story time, I often think about times like this leaving lasting impressions on them. They have this sweet time with us each night. And even if it has been a rough day, we get to end on this great note. 
  • Tucking in - We always make this an individual time. We both take the time to go separately into each child's room to tuck them in. Our one year old gets a much quicker tuck-in - prolonging this may make it difficult. She is always put down awake and given countless kisses. The older two get a little more time with us to say prayers and discuss their best and worst parts of the day. 
This is an example of what our typical bedtime routine looks like. Again, the specifics of the routine are not as important as the routine itself is...so find a routine that is fun for your family. And stick with it!

2. Kids should remain in their bed - This is an easy thing to accomplish when your toddler is still in a crib. One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give you on keeping your child in their bed is to begin placing them in their crib awake early on. We started placing our babies drowsy, but awake, in their beds as early as 16 weeks - see my post on infant sleep tips. You want your child to be able to fall asleep on their own and the earlier they can do this, the better. If your toddler still needs you to rock them to sleep, you will need to break this as soon as possible. This may require a couple rough nights for both of you...but the payout will be worth it. Avoid allowing your toddler to sleep with you as this will make it harder for your child to sleep or fall asleep alone.
Our older two love their beds and do not fight us on going to bed nor do they get out of their bed after we tuck them in. We credit this to them feeling safe and secure in their beds. Once you transition them out of a crib into a toddler bed, the expectation should still be for them to remain in their beds. Watch for a future post on the transition from crib. Some toddlers struggle more with this transition than others. If you are struggling to keep your toddler in their bed at night, you must put in the work now and power through this tough time. Letting them continuously come out of their bed or come into your bed will only create a habit that is hard to break in the future.

3. Tools - There are a couple tools that we have used with all three children that I feel have aided in their sleep.
  • Sound machine - Sound machines are useful for infants to help provide that noise simlar to the womb as well as block out noise from the rest of the house. If you used this for your children in infancy, you will want to continue as they may find it hard to sleep without. I continue to use it in all of our children's rooms for both the noise and the comfort.
  • Lovey/blankey - Allow your child to have a special blanket or stuffed animal in their crib or bed. This should be something that stays in their bed as this keeps the particular item special for bedtime. Our kids each have "babies" that they still sleep with. Our one year old tosses it in her crib in the morning and waves good-bye :)
  • Ok to Wake Clock - This clock is something you can consider for your toddler once they are old enough to understand the concept - I remember our older two understanding it after 2 years old. You are able to set this clock so it glows a certain color once it is okay to get out of bed.
  • Blackout curtains - Everyone sleeps better in a dark room. A dark room is all the more important during the spring and summer nights when it stays dark out longer.

4. End the day with security and love - No matter how great or difficult of a day you have had, these bedtime moments are the final notes you end your day on with your child. A consistent routine that ends with love and cuddles will help your child feel secure and loved. There are often times we will spend some extra time laying in bed cuddling them each. Use this time to talk about their day or tell them stories - my children love to hear about things they did as babies or stories from when I was little.

5. Is it too late? It is never to late! If your toddler is having problems going to bed, the sooner you help them establish a better bedtime, the better. You, as their parent, must direct this habit...not the other way around. If your child is old enough to understand, explain to them the new routine as a special time so they may look forward to it each night. Use the above tools to help your child. Regardless if your child is old enough to understand or not, you may have a couple rough nights in your future if your child is not used to staying in their bed or falling asleep on their own.
  • If your child is still in their crib, you may have to let them cry it out. This can be difficult for both parents and children. You may choose to periodically return to their room to comfort them, however, sometimes this does make it more difficult. These rough couple of nights will pay off in the near future once your child learns how to fall asleep on their own.
  • If your child is no longer in a crib, odds are they are old enough to understand you telling them to remain in their bed. You may have an exhausting couple of nights putting them back in their bed, but again, your work will pay off. Continue to place your child back in bed. Try using some of the above tools to help.
Keeping these tips in mind when creating your toddler's bedtime routine will help you give them the tools they need to become good sleepers. Here's to a great night sleep to you and your child!

XO, Brooke

PS - Harper's Room Details here



  1. Our 4yo (in Feb) has been in a big bed at least 6months. All of a sudden he's waking up early (since this last time change)--like 630am--and getting out of bed on his own, which we always tell him not to do and he listened...up until now. He has always been a good sleeper since infancy, 8am wake up was not unusual on the weekend. WHAT'S UP WITH THIS!?!!? I just want to to sleep/get ready in peace?!?!? :)

    1. Ugh! I hear ya...our 4 year old went through something similar where he was waking pretty early and coming in our room. We tried a reward chart (where he got a star for every night he stayed in his bed until 7am - and he got to buy a prize after 7 stars). We used the above okay to wake clock to teach him when it is 7am and it was okay to get out of bed. Maybe this will work for your little guy?! Hang in there!!


Hello, I am Brooke...wife + momma to 3! I love coffee, lists, and anything monogrammed. Here you will find fun things that inspire me and I hope you enjoy as well. Thanks for stopping by!! XO


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