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"Can I have some water?", "Will you read me another book?", "But I am not tired"... If you have a toddler, these bed-time avoidance statements should sound familiar to you, and you probably have a whole host of other comments to add to the list. Toddlers often don't want to go to bed, and especially if they are already overtired. Many parenting experts agree that the best way to create harmony during bedtimes is to set up a bedtime routine. The question is, how?

You may have to go through some experimentation before you find a bedtime routine that works for everyone in your family. One thing remains universal though the more hyperactive your little one is, the less likely he or she is to comply when you say it is time to bed. And, if she thinks you will give in and allow her to get out of going to bed, she will grab the chance. Here is what has worked for us:

  • Having a bath or shower around an hour before you plan to have your toddler in bed, and putting PJs on right after.
  • No television after having a bath for us and many, many other parents, prying a toddler away from a TV show is really hard. Television right before bed also makes it hard to go to sleep for many kids.
  • Doing a quiet activity before bedtime helps our kids get in the mood for sleeping. This can be reading a book, drawing (with crayons or pencils, not elaborate craft supplies allowed at this time), or doing a game like memory together as a family. We also put on sleepy music and discourage the kids from chasing each other and working themselves up.
  • I've tried reading a book, singing a song, and then leaving the room. This has resulted in struggles and statements like the ones at the beginning of this post. Even though staying by my kids' beds while they are working on going to sleep can feel like a waste of time, it does make them sleep sooner. When they were younger, I often pretended to go to sleep together with them. Now, I like to read aloud from a book I am reading (after reading a children's book or two for them). I pick something that I enjoy, but that is boring to them. Professional literature, philosophy, or home-improvement books are favorites. Not, obviously, murder novels. :)
  • For younger toddlers, breastfeeding moms can use nursing as a great way to get them to sleep.
  • Keeping the actual bedtime fairly consistent really helps reduce struggles.

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