As many of you with toddlers may know, they are just fascinating creatures. Watching them develop into thinking, creative little people is such a fascinating time, and one that parents often wish would last a little longer.

If you have a toddler at home you may have noticed along with that creativity and new found intelligence, we usually see a lot of boundary-testing, which can be a frustrating experience.

Let me tell you, I know from personal experience. At the moment, I have TWO toddlers at home. Yes, you read right! My two youngest are 3 and 2 years old. They are full of life, funny, and love challenging one another and proving to the other that he is a “big boy.” One minute they are besties and thick as thieves and the next minute they become enemies and rivals, both wanting the same toy or both wanting to wear the same batman costume. Yes, it can be challenging at times. They are definitely cute, but I know how challenging and defiant toddlers can be.

When I have initial consultations with parents of a toddler, there’s usually some kind of amusing story surrounding bedtime. They’ll tell me, sometimes a little sheepishly, about how their little one gets three or four stories a night, sometimes five, and then they usually ask for a glass of milk that they’ll only drink a few sips of, then they want to say goodnight in a very specific, drawn-out way, and the parents will end up looking at each other wondering- how on earth they got to this point.

And it always happens the same way… a little bit at a time.

Toddlers love to test boundaries, and they know that the one thing you want from them at bedtime is for them to go to sleep, so they’ll use that to their advantage. It’s their way of seeing where your boundaries lie and how much authority they actually have.

So one night they ask for a glass of milk, and the parents think, “What’s the harm?” The next night, they ask for a glass of milk and an extra story. A WEEK LATER, they want a glass of milk, an extra story, and three hugs and two goodnight kisses. Little by little, these crazy bedtime routines get established, all according to what your toddler wants.

So here’s a simple, two step solution to this issue.

  1. Establish a short bedtime routine.
  2. Never deviate from it.

That’s it. It’s that simple. I won’t kid you, sticking to the rules can be a challenge, because they’re going to ASK, TEST and COMPLAIN, but if you STICK to your routine, they’ll understand sooner rather than later that the bedtime routine is not up for debate.

I’ll share my simple yet productive 30-minute bedtime routine that I do with my toddlers:

  1. Start with a bath
  2. Put pyjamas on
  3. Brush their teeth
  4. *Read one story (or 2 but stick to your number)
  5. Goodnight kiss/cuddle OR massage
  6. Bedtime

Starting your bedtime routine with a bath helps signal to your toddler you are getting ready for bed which makes for an easier transition as this takes away any surprises and your little one knows you are nearing bedtime. After bath we put their pyjamas on, which I have already laid out on the bed to avoid less distractions. Next, we gently brush their teeth and sing a song while brushing to add some fun into it.

Now, I have highlighted the *4th step of our routine because I like to occasionally mix it up if I feel they need to let out some energy. Especially, for those less active days, we introduce some light and gentle rumble play on the bedroom floor. This helps release any energy they may have left and also assists with helping them fall asleep.

If we read a story, I like to remind them to sit quietly and avoid distracting one another if they want a second story and I remain FIRM with this rule. Lastly, we give goodnight kisses and cuddles and off to sleep they go. Doing this bedtime routine every night has definitely helped us reduce and minimise stalling tactics or meltdowns.


Handling the bedtime situation in a firm but positive manner benefits both parent and the child, in spite of the fact that your little one might not agree. Toddlers take a great amount of comfort in knowing that you, the parent, are firmly in charge and are confident in your decisions. It gives them a sense of security. If you start allowing them to make the decisions, they actually start to feel like they’re in charge, and that feeling that Mum knows what she’s doing starts to fade.

Additionally, a predictable, repetitive bedtime routine is greatly conducive to a good night’s sleep. It signals the brain to start secreting melatonin and signals the body to start relaxing muscles in preparation for a restful, relaxing snooze.

And, finally, you’ll get your evening’s free to watch your favourite Netflix show with your partner and spend quality time that you desperately need and deserve or perhaps to finish off a work assignment or send a work email. This has been a huge game-changer for our busy household. If you have not yet introduced a bedtime routine, what are you waiting for…start tonight! You’ll be glad you did.

If you need help with your toddler’s bedtime routine or constant stalling tactics, take advantage of my free 15-minute sleep evaluation call.

I would be happy to answer any questions regarding your child’s sleep. Book your free 15-min call with me.

Sleep well,


Rosie Chiha