Toddler Bedtime Rituals

November 29th, 2009 by Dionna | 5 Comments
Posted in Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family

“Experts” consistently recommend that parents help toddlers develop relaxing bedtime rituals. There are several advantages to incorporating a bedtime ritual into your nighttime routine.

1) Toddlers thrive on consistency and predictability. Constant change is stressful to toddlers, they are more comfortable when they know what is coming next. Having a predictable series of steps before bedtime will help your toddler relax and transition to bedtime.

2) A calm, peaceful routine will help your toddler calm down from playtime. Often toddlers need to run off some energy in the evening, and they can get pretty ramped up from playing with parents and/or siblings. Build in an hour of quieter activities later in the evening to help them transition from playtime to bedtime.

3) It is a time for you and your toddler to reconnect. Bedtime rituals are a way for parents and toddlers to spend some quiet time cuddling, talking, and enjoying each other away from the distractions of daily life.

There are many tried and true methods parents employ to help their toddlers wind down. You may have to try several things out before landing on what works for your child, but here are a few ideas:

*A soothing bath
*A soft massage
*Soft music
*Turning the lights down steadily starting at least an hour before bedtime
*Bedtime stories – read from books or made up as you go
*Allowing toddlers to say “good night” to people, animals, and objects in and around your house
*Talking about your day and asking your toddler about his
*Playing a quiet game (put dolls to bed, peekaboo while putting PJ’s on)
*Singing songs together
*Preparing your toddler’s environment for bed (turning on a small light, pulling the covers back)
*Take care of necessities: brush teeth, get a drink of water, go potty, get a stuffed animal or blanket, etc.

After Tom gets home from work, our evening routine starts with dinner together at the table. The time it takes Kieran to eat dinner is considerably shorter than ours, then he spends the remainder of dinner time running between laps and using every bit of sway he can muster to convince us that we are “all done!” Dinner eaten, we clean up before Tom takes Kieran to play and rough house for an hour so I can have time to get something done without a toddler clinging to my legs.

Around 7:30, it is time to wind down. Kieran brushes teeth (while we sing and sign the ABC’s), sits on the potty chair, and gets dressed for bed. Occasionally his playtime with Papa is cut short to take a bath, but not every night.

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Eventually, I climb into bed with him to read. We read for about 30 minutes before I pull out the official bedtime book. The bedtime book is the one Kieran falls asleep to, sometimes after two or three readings. We have two constants, and from time to time I chance over a good book at the library that will make an appearance for awhile before we finally return it. The two books in our permanent bedtime collection are “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown and “Time for Bed” by Mem Fox.

We checked out a book last week that I will probably buy soon. It is “The Animals’ Lullaby,” and it was written by a folk singer/songwriter, Tom Paxton. The illustrations leave a little to be desired (in my opinion) – the colors are very muted, and it is hard for Kieran to see them because we have a dim light in our bedroom. But Paxton’s verse is absolutely lyrical, and the words are beautifully written to invoke clear mental images and emotional responses. Here are two of my favorite verses:

Bright fish are swimming
Down through a coral sea
Deep in the clear blue water,
Day is a memory.

Good night, fish,
Good night.


Red sun is setting —
Colors across the sky.
Evening is slowly falling,
Sandman is coming by.

Good night, sun,
Good night.

I tried to find a video of Tom Paxton singing this lullaby, but I had no luck. I did find a video of him singing “Ramblin’ Boy” with Pete Seeger, it is a great tune. Here:

What is your toddler’s bedtime ritual? Does your toddler have any favorite bedtime stories?

5 Responses to:
"Toddler Bedtime Rituals"

  1. Tonia

    We mainly do couch quiet time. About an hour before bed, we turn all the lights down and we either play with her quiet toys quietly while sitting on the couch or watch a quiet show. Then we go up to bed, depending on the time I either hum a song or we read a story. I am actually not sure what the book I read is called, but it has 6 stories in it and she gets to pick one. She picked it a long time ago, and it’s what she always asks for at bedtime.

  2. London is so great at bedtimes that we just say it’s time for bed, brush his teeth and tuck him in and he is out. Often we will read stories, but most of the time he crashes out too fast!

  3. Katje Sabin

    “Grandfather Twilight” and “The Little Fur Family” are two of my favorites.

  4. Heather   xakana

    You know, I have “Goodnight Moon” totally memorized and haven’t used the book in forever? lol Also “Zoophabet”.

    Sounds like a nice, relaxing routine. However, some children are the opposite and struggle at bedtime if they don’t get a big burnoff right beforehand. That would be Lilly. If she’s peaceful and calm for an hour before bed, going to bed is going to be like going to a trampoline, lol. Lots of toddlers are like that, too. Of course, the routine can simply have hard play as a part of it instead of wind down time.

  5. No toddlers anymore but I just wanted to add that calm down time and regular routines aren’t limited to the early years :) Mine are 6 and 7 and we still have energy time, chill out time and then bedtime. Of course, mine put themselves now – woohoo! – so our routine is a lot quicker.

    We used to do a book at bedtime but never had an ‘every night’ book – I liked the variety of pulling something off the bookshelf.

    However, my kids still request a singing of the mockingbird lullaby (“Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Momma’s gonna buy you a mockingbird…” every week or so. And when they aren’t feeling well, they love to hear it as they rest on the couch.

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