If you have a three year old and your trying to figure out the perfect 3 year old bedtime routine, I feel your pain. Three year olds are going through so much. They are strong-willed. They don’t want to miss ANYTHING. They are probably still napping but not needing that nap nearly as much as they used to which makes them a little less sleepy at bedtime.
It’s a recipe for disaster!
I used to be a stressed-out parent at bedtime.
My focus was all wrong.
Instead of focusing on making bedtime enjoyable for my child, I was focused on getting my child to sleep fast so that my “me time” could start.
We moms put all of our energy into so many different things throughout the day, that by bedtime, we are exhausted and short-tempered.
This is why it’s so important to create a bedtime routine that is relaxing, and that you and your child will actually look forward to.
Of course you will still rejoice when you finally close the door, or when your child finally closes her eyes and drifts off to sleep, but imagine how much nicer it will be if you don’t dread the bedtime routine.
Before you develop your routine, you should remember two things:
Don’t use bedtime as a punishment
We’ve all done it. I know I have. And as the words are coming out of my mouth, I know that I shouldn’t say it.
Don’t make bedtime a negative thing. Keep it positive.
I have one child who has despised sleep since the day that she was born. She’s finally getting better. She knows the importance of sleep now because I have told her over and over.
Be sure to teach your child about the importance of sleep, how it will help your child to feel happier and recharged.
2. Include time to connect with your child
This will help your child to drift off to sleep peacefully.
Routines are so important for young children. They thrive on them. If you have a toddler, you might want to incorporate this awesome 3 year old bedtime routine chart into your routine, that can help her visualize what is going to happen next.
Before we talk about a bedtime routine, let’s make sure that your 3 year old’s sleep schedule is appropriate.
3 Year Old Sleep Schedule
According to the National Sleep Foundation, children from the ages of 3 to 5 need about 11-13 hours of sleep every night.
The truth is, young children are naturally early risers. In order for your child to get enough sleep, your child’s ideal bedtime is between 7 and 8 pm.
At the age of three, your child may or may not still be napping. Typical naps at this age last from 1-2 hours. I suggest at least trying to get your child to nap midday, unless your child can easily make it to 6pm or later without major meltdowns.
If your 3 year old is fighting bedtime, you might want to shorten his daytime nap to encourage him to get a better night’s sleep. You might also want to consider that your child is fighting sleep because he is overtired.
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3 Year Old Bedtime Routine
Let’s talk about some things that you can add in to your 3 year old’s bedtime routine to encourage him to drift off easily.
1. Start Your Routine At The Same Time EVERY DAY
This first one is SO IMPORTANT. You NEED to have a set bedtime. I know so many moms who let their toddler stay up until they drift off on the couch.
A toddler is not going to simply put himself to sleep at the ideal time. That toddler is going to fight it until his body finally just succumbs to exhaustion.
It’s actually good for our bodies to go to sleep and to wake up at the same time everyday. With a set bedtime, you will ensure that your child doesn’t get overtired and that he gets enough sleep.
You can also encourage your child to wake up at the same time each morning with the Okay To Wake Clock. My children both used it with success. It turns green at the time that you set, letting your child know that it’s okay to get out of bed.
I think that even if a bath isn’t exactly relaxing for your child (how could it be with all of those toys?), the best thing about a bath is that it is a transition period. It signals to your child that bedtime is coming. To up the relaxing factor, I highly recommend Alaffia Bubble Bath. This stuff is amazing, completely gentle and natural for your child’s skin, and the company is AWESOME, which totally makes me want to buy all of their products.
From the bathtub and straight into your child’s pajamas. I like to dim the bedroom while my kids are in the tub too, to set the mood.
4. Brush and floss
5. Connection Time
-I ask my 3 year old her “question”. This is where the connection comes in. No matter how busy your day was, you can take a few quiet minutes at bedtime to connect with your child.
I get so much enjoyment out of hearing my daughters answers to questions like “What would you like to do more as a family?”and “What makes you beautiful?”.
It’s a keepsake that I will look back on when she’s older. Learn more here about my Mother Daughter Keepsake Journal.
6. Read books
Make sure you snuggle together for this one! Consider choosing one of my favorite books for 2 and 3 year olds.
7. Tell a story
My husband actually started this and my daughter loves it. We don’t do it every night, but it is something that is often requested. It can sometimes be difficult to come up with a creative story, but I can guarantee that your child will think your story is great anyway.
The story that my husband tells is always about her, and if he is running low on inspiration, he asks her what she wants the story to be about.
Bridget from This Mom Life has a great how-to post about the power of storytelling.
8. Lights out
Congratulations, mama. You made it to the time of day that is all about you. And now you should actually be able to enjoy your “me” time because you’re not frazzled and annoyed from fighting with your children at bedtime.
If you have been dealing with a sleep fighter, the best advice that I have is to create a routine and stick to it. If your routine is the same each and every SINGLE day, your toddler is going to know that you mean business, and that bedtime is bedtime.
And if your child is still having trouble winding down before bed, you can find some great tips here.
What does your 3 year old’s bedtime routine look like?