Once your infant becomes a toddler, bedtime routines need to change slightly to allow time to get all that toddler energy out. And as crazy as it is, your 13 month old is now a toddler!
Unlike infants, toddlers don't need a significant wind-down time before falling asleep. Instead, they need an opportunity to PLAY before bed. To laugh and get all those last wiggles out.
How long does bedtime routine last?
30 minutes - that's it! Because all toddler parents are familiar with toddler stalling tactics. In fact, I have another whole blog post on navigating the "one more..." ask during bedtime with a toddler!
Here's an example of a bedtime routine you can implement tonight. This routine can last up beyond 4 years old.
Just like with infants, it's completely okay for bath to happen every other night. On no bath nights, I still like to wipe my son's face and neck with a warm cloth to get all the grime of the day off and help cue his body that our bedtime routine is beginning.
On bath nights, keep it to 5-7 minutes. While bath time can be a great opportunity to play, we want to keep this short to allow for enough time for some high energy play before we wind down with books.
In my house, getting the toddler into a diaper/pull-up and jammies is basically an Olympic sport. As our little ones learn to express their own autonomy, it's easy for us parents to become frustrated when our child doesn't want the blue jammies, the dinosaur jammies or the heart jammies...and all the rest are dirty.
Expressing control is a huge part of your toddler's development. To give them this control while you stay in control (because you're the parent) try offering two choices. "Do you want to wear the dinosaur or the rainbow jammies tonight?" Hold them out and let your toddler pick. Letting your toddler chose between two options (more than two options can often overwhelm) helps them feel like they have total control of what they're doing, and allows you to set the boundaries.
This is non-negotiable. If your toddler is a picky eater and needs a bedtime snack, or if you're still offering a bedtime feeding (bottle or breast) be sure to brush teeth after that feeding before bed.
One thing that is often missed during the toddler bedtime routine is an opportunity for your child to laugh and play. To get all that energy out and really giggle with you. In my toddler bedtime routines, I always build in time for this intentional connection and laughter between the toddler and parent.
This is a time where you are solely focused on your child - your phone is elsewhere, you're leaving the dishes for later, and you're interacting with your toddler on their level. Encourage high-energy play, lots of laughter, and let them chose that activity. Sometimes that might just be a puzzle, and that's okay. Work in that laughter and giggling still.
Our toddlers, especially if in daycare, are absorbing so much information during the day. At the end of the day, they need the opportunity to process all this new information and to destress through either laughing or crying. Both are very healthy and beneficial ways of processing stress. So let's get silly with our little ones and help them process that stress through laughter. This doesn't mean there won't be any tears later, but keep in mind that crying reduces the levels of stress hormones in the body, and can even trigger a soothing effect, helping your little one relax.
So...set a timer for 10 minutes, and get to laughing with your toddler tonight. When the alarm sounds, it's time to head to the bedroom and pick out 1-2 books to read together.
Set your boundaries here. "We can read 2 books tonight. Go pick the 2 books you want to read." Or for a younger toddler, "We can read Goodnight Moon or If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. You pick."
1-2 books is plenty. If your toddler is already in a big kid bed, get in bed to read these books together, but be sure to get out of bed as soon as books and snuggles over, BEFORE your toddler falls asleep.
If you're toddler's in a crib still (keep them there until at least 3!) then books should happen in the same room they'll be sleeping in. Pick somewhere comfy to snuggle up with your toddler in their room. If you don't have a chair in there, throw some big pillows on the floor and snuggle up for books there.
Don't skip over the sleep sack (if still in a crib), lights off and white noise on. These are all cues that the next thing to happen is sleep, and set the stage for a good sleep foundation.
Your toddler goes into their crib or bed awake, you say your goodnights and you're out of there.
If you're laughing at that right now because there's just no way... I can help! Set up a free 15-minute consultation with me to learn how I can support you and get your toddler falling asleep and staying asleep in their own bed.