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How To Get Your Toddler’s Bedtime Routine Back On Track

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Toddlers- am I right?! So small, but so smart! If you’ve ever been outsmarted or bullied during your toddler’s bedtime, I can assure you that you are not alone.

One minute you have a perfectly executed bedtime routine in place and the next thing you know, your bedtime routine has been extended by an hour, you read 10 books instead of 2 and you’re singing for 15 straight minutes before you can even put your child in bed. You’re already exhausted, huffing and puffing because of all the excess energy you did not intend to exert during your toddler’s bedtime and now your child absolutely will not fall asleep unless you lay in their room with them.

Sound familiar? I thought so. It’s because this behavior is SO COMMON in children 2 and older.

What happens once your child turns 2? A lot! This is usually the time when your child’s language explodes, and they begin to understand logic and reason. What that means is that your once innocent baby is now able to negotiate with the best of them and they get a gold star for their ability to trick you into doing things you swore to yourself you would never do.  

If you’re feeling like you’ve completely lost control of your toddler’s bedtime, I’ve included 3 simple tips to help you get back on track.


Children thrive in an environment in which there are clear expectations and predictability. If they know what to expect, they are not surprised. When we avoid (not fun) surprises, it is easier to dodge tantrums.

So, what is the best way to establish clear expectations for your toddler’s bedtime? Set a consistent bedtime routine. Involve your little in this conversation so that they feel like their needs are met too. Together you can decide exactly what steps will be a part of your permanent bedtime routine. Once these expectations are set, your child knows exactly what to anticipate (they may not act like it, but trust me, they know). They also know when they are trying to add extra steps to the bedtime routine and aren’t (as) let down when you tell them no.

child using toddler's bedtime routine chart

If a conversation about your toddler’s bedtime routine and setting expectations together isn’t enough to keep your little one on track (this is normal), it means your might need to get visual to emphasize your expectations. Bedtime routine charts are great for helping keep everyone on track.

Don’t have one or don’t know where to start? Great news! I took care of that and created one that you can download here! If you don’t like mine, I won’t be offended. You can purchase this or this really cute downloadable option from Etsy or make your own!


There is no such thing as over communicating something with a child, especially a toddler. That’s right. You could tell them something 10 times in a row and it probably still wouldn’t be enough. Your established expectations will fall on deaf ears if you don’t keep communicating them.

If you are trying to get your toddler’s bedtime on track, then you need to reiterate expectations ALL. DAY. LONG.

What does that look like?

  •  “Hey William! Remember our conversation about bedtime earlier today? Let’s both say the steps of your bedtime routine again!”
  • “Don’t forget, tonight at bedtime we are going to take a bath, brush our teeth, read a book, and then you are going to get in bed and close your eyes like a big girl!”
  • “I can’t wait for our new bedtime routine tonight! Remember, after we read books, you’re going to show me how you get in your bed and close your eyes like a big boy!”

Then, I want you to break out all of your very best micromanaging skills during your toddler’s bedtime! You literally cannot repeat the steps of your bedtime routine enough.

Here’s what I mean:

  • “Sophie, can you tell me the steps of your new big girl bedtime routine one more time?!”
  • “Ok Cade, it is time for bed. Let’s go upstairs and take a bath, then we are going to brush our teeth, read a book, and get in bed.”
  • “Ronnie, you’re having so much fun in the bath! In a few minutes, we are going to get out of the bath and brush your teeth!”
  • “Hannah, this is our last book, once we finish this book it is time for you to get in bed and close your eyes!”

Contrary to what you might think, kids don’t like surprises. They like predictability. By over-communicating your expectations your child will know exactly what is coming. Outlined expectations and clear communication put you, the parent, back in charge!


Arguably one of the hardest aspects of a toddler’s bedtime routine. Well, who are we kidding?! It’s one of the hardest parts of being a parent in general!

So, you’ve established a concrete bedtime routine, you’ve talked it up all day long, now what?! It is time to execute! You have to do your toddler’s bedtime routine, exactly the way you discussed it, and you CANNOT, I repeat cannot, deviate from your established routine. The minute you allow one more book, one more song, or one more anything you instantly lose all of your credibility, and you are no longer the one in charge. That’s right – your 3-year-old is once again running the show. Tomorrow it will be two more somethings, and, in a few days, you are back to the chaos that was your toddler’s bedtime “routine” (or lack thereof) when this all began.

toddler's bedtime routine

But what about if you stayed consistent? On night one you knock it out of the park and for the first time in what feels like years your child has (potentially) gone down without a peep. What now?! You have to do the exact same thing tomorrow…. And the next day…. And the next… I think you get it. You have to stick to the plan.

We live in an on-demand society. We’ve become accustomed to instantaneous results. It makes things like this hard. You will need several days of consistency before you begin to see reproducible results. Stick with it! It will all be worth it in the end, I promise!

To Summarize How To Get Your Toddler’s Bedtime Routine Back On Track

That wraps it up, my friends! In a nutshell, you are letting your small child push you around. Don’t be embarrassed – we all are. There are plenty of nights where even I, a sleep consultant, can’t seem to get bedtime under control.

Start by resetting expectations for your toddler’s bedtime routine. Establish a new bedtime routine that will work for the whole family and make it something that everyone will enjoy! Then, talk about it! Don’t stop talking about it! Make it a BIG DEAL! Finally, stay consistent. You must follow through. Any deviation, even once, from the plan and you’re back to being bossed around by a little you!

Good Luck!!

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I'm Kristen

The expert & woman behind the screen. I'm also your new best friend who is ready to empower you on this incredible journey.

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