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What to do when a two-year-old won’t sleep (9 tips for a better bedtime)

One of the biggest things we hear from parents’ struggles are bedtime routines and everything that comes along with it: being so exhausted by that point of the day, kiddos not cooperating, not getting to bed on time, not staying in their own bed, and maybe some tears flowing…from both parents and kids! 

Needless to say, all parents can sharpen up on their bedtime routine and although none of this is earth-shattering, we often forget the basics are the best and most helpful. Take a look at what we’ve come up with because having a good routine will give you and your two-year-old some structure when they won’t sleep!

1. Have a Visible Checklist

It’s no surprise that children do great with anything visual. We can tell them something, and it can often go in one ear and out the other. But when we give them something to physically touch or physically see, it helps sink in more. Make a chart for them (you can draw this out as it doesn’t need to be anything fancy or you can make things easier and find some visuals online and print them out!)

It would be best to laminate these so they are more durable as we know how easily something paper-thin will last in our house! You can have this for on your fridge like magnets, you can have this in a journal type book, or you can have this on some type of organizer board … again whatever is going to work best for your family! Come up with a plan together and don’t be afraid that you’ll need to adjust it over time. 

2. Keep The Same Routine

Consistency is key … in all things, right? Our children thrive off of routine whether they’re going to admit it or not. It brings a sense of safety and comfort as they know what’s coming next. Of course, things are going to come up that are going to throw your schedule off: that’s simply life. But on a normal day, try to stick to your routine as closely as possible for everyone’s sake! 

3. Close Up The Kitchen For The Night

Children tend to be what you would call “grazers”. They will go in and out the kitchen, in and out of the fridge, in and out of the freezer, and in and out of the pantry like it’s their job. You have to decide if once dinner is done, that’s it for the night or once you have a designated dessert or last snack of the day that that’s it until breakfast the next morning.

It’s easy to cave on this, but you have to be firm and consistent. If you bend once, it will make it harder for your toddler the next evening. 

4. Make Sure Everything Is Ready For The Next Morning

Whether your child stays home with you or they go to school or daycare, it’s imperative to have everything ready the night before! We get so tired and often say we’ll get to it in the morning, and then when we wake we are just as exhausted. As we start our day, it’s now a rush, we’re already behind, and we feel nothing but that constant aggravation and stress.

Gather everyone’s outfit the night before, pack any lunches or bags that need to be made, make sure you have your keys set out where they’re easy to find, have everyone’s shoes set out …I’m saying anything you can think of you’ll need for the next morning, have it ready to go. I promise you it will make your morning go much more smoothly. 

5. Bath Time Is Best At Night Time

If your kiddo requires a bath earlier in the day from a playdate or some type of dirty mess or their meal simply went all wrong and there is more on them than in their tummies, of course, don’t hold off on their bath. But bath time at night always seems to help calm them down and be a great part of that nightly routine. So even if they required a bath earlier in the day, it certainly won’t hurt to let them play and rinse off again to keep that same calming routine at night. Kids usually love this time and if you’re able to alot some time for  “light playing and splashing” in the tub, that will make it even more enjoyable for your kiddo to look forward to each night. Yes, just be sure to have extra towels on hand as most often it looks like a whale was just in your bathroom. 

6. Pajamas

Kids love having independence and being a part in decision-making. Allowing them to choose their own pajamas can be a great part of their routine. You can even choose two and let them decide between the two of what they’d like to wear for the night. This is always good to have out before their bath time begins. Perhaps as the tub is filling, you could be allowing your son or daughter to decide what they’re wearing to bed? 

7 . Brush Hair and Teeth

After bath and after getting jammies on, naturally, it’s making sure everyone’s hair and teeth are brushed. Depending upon your child’s age is whether they can do this themselves, or if you still need to assist, or maybe you need to do it completely for them. Either way, it’s good to be observing, at minimum, to ensure they’re properly brushing their teeth and getting all the knots out of their hair (you don’t want to wait for those tangles in the morning … trust me on this one!)

8. Use The Bathroom

Whether they say they need to go or not, encourage your child to use the bathroom just one more time before physically getting into bed. Many parents will see this as an ongoing game if their son or daughter needs to go to the bathroom again and again.

Just remind them that this is the last trip to the bathroom for the night so they get into the routine that once they’re in bed. More often than not, unless something is wrong, they’ll be in their beds until morning. 

9. Story Tme

Whatever works for your family or is important to you, be sure to incorporate! For many families, it’s reading a book (or books) before bed. Maybe it’s simply talking about your days and what happened? A lot of times we need to ask very specific questions in order to get specific answers from our children. Nonetheless, do what is best and most comfortable for your family!

10. Feeling Safe and Secure

The most important part of a nighttime routine before saying “goodnight” and leaving your child in their bed is to be sure they feel safe and secure. You can never remind them of that too often, so a nightly reminder of how much you love them, how safe they are can never be overdoing it. Hugs, kisses, cuddles, and affirmations of love and safety may very well be the most important part of your nighttime routine.