If you have a three year old and your trying to figure out the perfect 3 year old sleep schedule and 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.
But they still need a LOT of sleep!
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 such a good idea 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 bedtime!.
Before you develop a schedule and routine, you should remember two things:
1. Don’t use sleep 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 naps or 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.
Make good sleep habits your focus.
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
How much sleep should a 3 year old get?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Sleep Foundation, children from the ages of 3 to 5 need 10-13 hours of total sleep (including naps). Watch your child for signs that he is not getting enough sleep and adjust if necessary.
What time should a 3 year old go to bed?
The truth is, young children are naturally early risers. In order for your 3 year old to get enough sleep, your child’s ideal bedtime is between 7 and 8 pm. On days that your child does not nap, an even earlier bedtime may be necessary.
At the age of three, your child may or may not still be napping. Typical daytime naps at this age last from 1-2 hours. I suggest at least trying to get your child to take a short 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 longer naps 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.
I know. Confusing.
If your child is dealing with sleep issues like fear of the dark, bad dreams, night terrors, night waking, sleep regressions or other nighttime fears, making sure that he’s getting adequate sleep in even more essential.
Sample 3 year old sleep schedule with a nap
- Wake up: 6am
- Nap time: 12:30-1:30pm
- Bedtime: 7:30pm
Sample sleep schedule with no nap
- Wake up: 6:30am
- Quiet time or rest time: 1-2pm
- Bedtime: 7pm
Just as important as WHEN you put your 3 year old to sleep is HOW. Below is a sample bedtime routine that allows your 3 year old time to unwind and connect with mom and dad before lights out. The best way to teach healthy sleep habits is to start in early childhood!
If your child needs to burn more energy during the day, check out my 44 ways to tire out your toddler before bedtime
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3 Year Old Bedtime Routine
Many parents wonder…
How can I make my 3 year old’s bedtime easier?
- Allow time for your child to connect with you and to tell about their day
- Provide choices (Would you like to read one book or two?)
- Stick to a consistent bedtime routine
- Consider laying with your child until he falls asleep (separation anxiety can be a big issue!)
Let’s talk about some things that you can add in to your child’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 and a consistent sleep schedule. 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.
2. Bath time
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.
9. Keep Screen time out of the bedtime routine
Electronic devices can be too stimulating for many young children.
8. Lights out
It might be helpful to play soft music or white noise, or to have some kind of sleep association such as soft toys included in bedtime.
Congratulations, mama. You made it to the end of the day, 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 are you struggling with when it comes to your 3 year old and sleep?