Learning to Love Bedtime with Toddlers


bedtime - Boston Moms

I LOVE putting my kids to bed at night!

OK, what parent of small children actually loves bedtime? In truth, what I love is the post-bedtime silence and the ability to give my full attention to “The Haunting of Bly Manor.”

But more than that, I love that putting my kids to bed without frustration and tears (mine, not theirs) starts and ends with books. 

Bedtime can be a huge pain, especially these days. Whenever there is the slightest bit of excitement or change in the schedule, the kids fight going to bed. Fighting bedtime comes with the territory of toddlerhood. I’ve been surprised to find that incorporating my favorite childhood bedtime (or anytime) activity has been the key to saving everyone’s sanity. Growing up, I was an avid reader, and I’m hopeful that my boys will at least grow up interested in reading. But I never expected books to be the hero of our bedtime routine. 

We read up to four books each night, depending on the length of the stories. There’s usually a Dr. Seuss book in the mix; my current favorite is “Green Eggs and Ham.” Then, we have a couple of Shel Silverstein collections we read a few poems from — I get a kick out of the double entendre. There’s always a book surrounding the themes of family and love and bedtime; my husband’s favorite is “You’re Here for A Reason.” Sometimes we throw a holiday theme or construction book in the mix — those are always a hit! 

Not that every book starts out a hit. I’d say half our bedtimes start with tears. No matter what the bedtime fit is about, I only fight the “stay in bed” battle. 

“You want milk? Nope. You want a bear? Sure. But please stay in bed.”

When fighting a bedtime meltdown, calmly getting the kids’ attention is the next battle. Depending on our moods, I’ll start reading quickly and in a low voice, or quietly but without my usual excitement. Lucas may yell, and Isaiah may fuss, but somewhere between page one and “the end,” there is quiet. There are nights where everyone falls asleep while I’m reading and others where I finish book four and hope they’ll drift off to sleep in the dark.

Bedtime doesn’t have to be the worst. It’s not always going to be easy, but parents and kids shouldn’t have to dread it. I picked something I used to love about bedtime as a child to get through the craziness of bedtime with my kids. And you can too!

If you loved sneaking a couple of extra toys into the bed and playing, let your kids know they can do that if they stay in the bed. If you loved having a bedtime snack, play it up! If you’re big into skin/tooth care before bed, ask them to join! Kids love sharing rituals with us. If you know your kid is the “one more hug” type, let them come give that last hug, or read that extra story, or go to the bathroom one last time — without being upset at them for it.

If you thank them for being so quiet/responsible/healthy and send them back to bed, it’s likely to be the last time you see them for the night!