Most Amazing Bedtime Sleep Routine for Babies and Toddlers – Make Bedtime Easy
A big blessing in our home is how well our son sleeps. Like clockwork every night there is no fuss when bedtime comes and he sleeps through the entire night. All because of one simple word – ROUTINE.
Our son is almost three years old now, but night time sleep wasn’t always easy. In fact, as first time parents we made the mistake of rocking our baby to sleep and at first it was fine, but at around four months, babies start to learn sleep habits and by six months old we had a major problem.
Our son had to be rocked / held to sleep which created a sleep crutch and prevented him from learning how to self-soothe and put himself to sleep.
Babies wake up multiple times a night after each sleep cycle with is around 50 minutes long. Babies who know how to self-soothe can fall back asleep quickly, but our baby cried until we picked him up and rocked him, then he fell asleep no problem, but the picking up and rocking to sleep every 1-2 hours all night long was the most exhausting circumstance we have ever been in.
After 16 weeks of severe sleep deprivation, we hired a the best certified child sleep consultant named Kelsey Husak. Our lives changed in just 24 hours after implementing the custom plan Kelsey created for us.
Those long 16 weeks of getting maybe three hours of interrupted sleep a night made our life crumble. We kept saying that our baby would get better with time and grow our of it, but no, it only got worse….
Our health declined (I gained 15 lbs), we were in a fog all day long, our marriage suffered – we were tired and irritable plus too tired for intimacy, and then our business started to suffer. That’s when we sought out help because I could not let this affect our clients. I wish we reached out for help sooner and now I am the biggest advocate for child sleep consultants. I urge ALL parents to work with a certified child sleep consultant because our life has been so blissful since then. When you think about it, sleep is the foundation for everything we do!
So, our son went from waking up every 1-2 hours all night long and not sleeping in his crib (he would just scream until we picked him up) to sleeping in his crib 6 hours straight on the first night we started using the custom sleep plan. I could not believe it – we actually got a decent night’s rest!
Our son was 9 months old when we finally got his sleep back on track. Within weeks he walked and did other milestones. Good, healthy sleep allows babies to grow and thrive.
Since this time, bedtime has been a breeze and we follow the same routine for many years now. I learned parts of this from Kelsey our Sleep Consultant (she works at Radical Minds) and the rest we created on our own.
The benefits of a bedtime routine:
- Keeps your child’s sleep schedule the same so they get the right amount of sleep every night.
- Sets a clear expectation to your child when it’s time to start winding down.
- Your child will know exactly what comes next so when it’s time for lights out there’s no crying or child trying to engage with mom/dad.
The Most Amazing Bedtime Routine for Babies & Toddlers:
Step 1: Bedtime Routine Starts Way Ahead of Actual Bedtime
So an effective bedtime routine actually begins 45 minutes to 1 hour before your child is actually in bed. You never want to go from high-energy play and then straight to bed. Kids need time to wind down and during this process their bodies prepare for sleep time.
Step 2: Dim the Lights
So there are three phases to our bedtime routine: 1) downstairs play, 2) upstairs play while bath is running, and 3) calm down time in the bedroom.
Dimming the lights in the living room is the first indication to our son that it’s time to start winding down for bedtime. We turn a small lamp on and turn off the big overhead lights in the room.
Step 3: Downstairs Play
Downstairs play for us is a nightly dance party! Music and dancing may sound active, but it actually helps kids sleep better. Our son loves YouTube shows like Blippi but is not really into TV or cartoons. However, he LOVES LOVE LOVES music videos on YouTube. So we choose three songs and play them on the big TV while dancing. The volume set to medium low – not too loud.
Some songs our son loves are:
- Thunder – Imagine Dragons
- Can’t Stop the Feeling – Justin Timberlake
- Maroon 5 – Sugar
- Zero – Imagine Dragons
- Stressed Out – 21 Pilots
- Meant to be – Bebe Rexha
Step 4: Upstairs Play
After we dance to three songs, we head upstairs. I run the bath, get my son’s PJs ready, and also lay out his clothes for school the next day.
While the bath is running, we play hide and seek! So my husband will hide with our son or vice versa and the other person seeks. My husband and I know all the hiding spots in and out so we pretend to look really hard to find our son. He loves it so much!
It’s really fun because we get creative and hide our three year old in laundry baskets full of clothes (clean of course), climb in closets with him, and more.
Upstairs play lasts about 5-8 minutes. Right before the last time our son will hide we set the expectation and say, “Okay, hide one more time and then it’s time to brush our teeth!”
Step 5: Bath Time
My son goes potty and then brushes his teeth… then it’s bath time! It’s important that bath time only lasts 10 minutes or less. Any longer could stimulate your child instead of calm them down.
We take really quick baths and stick to the same routine even for the bath:
Using a bamboo washcloth for babies, I wash my son’s ears; face; neck – especially for those chunky babies, make sure to lift up their neck well to get in between the creases; private parts; hands; feet; and back.
Juddlies Bamboo washcloths are super soft and healthy for babies’ sensitive skin. They get softer and softer with each wash!
Next, we wet and wash hair, then rinse. We LOVE Babo Bontanicals eco shampoo and bath wash for babies and kids:
While the tub is draining, my son plays with the water and some toys while I wash my face and brush my teeth (I am two feet from him always keeping an eye on him of course).
I even say, “The water is almost drained – soon it will be time to get out to go read a book!” This sets the expectation – otherwise, my son likes to stay in the tub even when the water is all drained.
When the water is drained, we get out and I wrap him in his bamboo hooded bath towel for babies. I love Juddlies Bamboo Hooded Bath Towels because they are SO SOFT and delicate on my son’s skin – after each wash they get even softer. I LOVE THESE TOWELS and so does my son. He’s wrapped up and cuddly warm while we transition into the last phase of bedtime.
Step 6: Calm Down Time
After the bath, my son is cozy and warm in his hooded bamboo towel and we go right to his bedroom. The light, by the way, in his bedroom is already dimmed. This is very important to go from the bath to a dimmed bedroom. We turn on the night light in the room so there’s enough light to read.
- Calm down time starts on the changing table where we massage cream all over his body and put Shea Butter on his dry patches such as his cheeks (both sets – lol!).
- We wipe ears with the towel and use oogiebear to safely clean the ears. Never use a q-tip in babies/toddlers ears! Oogiebear is the best baby booger tool.
- PJs go on and then the Dream Swaddle or the Dream Sack goes on. Currently we use the Dream Sack and it’s amazing! Keeps our son warm all night (blankets can fall off kids and plus blankets in the crib are not safe) and an extra bonus is kids wearing the Dream Sack cannot put one leg over the crib to climb out!
- During this time we may play a game such as pointing to body parts or I will talk about what we did fun that day – this is mostly to keep my son to stay still.
- I also have a toy near by for my son to play with – again so he stays still. The best developmental toys for babies and toddlers are from People Toy Company. We LOVE their People Blocks which are magnetic, but before bedtime we play with our Eddie Educational Rattle or Push and Pull UFO.
Eddie Educational Rattle
This rattle is awesome!It has a variety of fun shapes and textures to satisfy their developmental needs – babies at around five months love to lick and chew things. Chewable rope, teething feet, safe, hinged limbs, soft-ripple hat and rattle help stimulate your child’s senses while keeping them entertained for hours.
- Toy of the Year award winner
- Perfectly sized for your child to grip and hold on their own
- No batteries required
- My toddler still loves to play with this toy!
Push and Pull UFO
The Push and Pull UFO is another favorite bedtime toy we play with. As your baby pushes and pulls, playful “pico pico” and “kari kari” sounds help develop important tactile and motor skills. Bonus…by pushing the “landing button,” melodies are played that help enrich auditory development.
- Encourages the natural development of tactile skills through play
- 8 colorful push and pull buttons
- Pushing and pulling help develop important motor skills
- 6 month+
Step 7: Cuddle Corner
Next is my favorite part — cuddle corner time! We learned this from Kelsey and it’s a space on the floor with pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, and lots of books.
Here is where I sit with my son and read a few short books. My son knows that at bedtime we read three books. Before the last book, I say, “Okay, choose your final book before we go into your crib and sing.” Again, this sets the expectation that this is the last book before the next step in the bedtime routine.
Step 8: Sing Songs
After we read, in the crib he goes. We sing three songs. Again, it’s the same three songs. Tomorrow from Annie, You are my Sunshine, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. For naps, we sing only the first two songs, but for nighttime we sing all three. Again, an indication that this is time to go to sleep and helps our toddler know that it’s overnight sleep and not a nap.
Step 9: Cave Dark & Key Phrase
So two awesome tips we learned from Kelsey are to keep babies’ and kids’ rooms CAVE DARK. Which means covering the windows so the room is as dark as possible. There are darkening shades, but the best solution for us was black trash bags on the windows. They don’t look pretty, but I will swap looks for years of good sleep any day!
Keeping the room very dark helps kids produce very important sleep hormones plus there’s no light to stimulate them.
After kisses and hugs, I turn on the sound machine set on medium across the room. Another tip: make sure the sound machine is set to white noise. Rain, waves or other noises that have different pitches actually can keep babies awake.
I say our key phrase: “Na-night, Vas. Love you” and then I cover the sound machine with a blanket so even the little light does not illuminate the room and the nightlight goes off.
I kiss my son again and as I leave the room I say the key phrase again, “Na-night, Vas. Love you.” The door is shut, I put a towel under the crack of the door to stop light from coming in, and then it’s relaxing time for mama and papa! We don’t hear a peep from our son until he wakes up in the morning. PURE BLISS.
- If your baby does not know how to fall a sleep on their own, this routine won’t fix this issue. That’s something completely different and we recommend that you contact Kelsey Husak with sleep related questions.
- If your child already can self-soothe and sleeps through the night, this routine works so well to make bedtime super fun, calming and easy!
What kind of bedtime routine do you do? Comment below!
XO- talk soon.