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I don't know about older children, but toddlers often get more agitated as they get more tired and by the time they are in bed it can take a while before they actually sleep.

I often read that taking a bath before bedtime helps toddlers to calm down, but this doesn't work with our child (actually it's counterproductive). Another standard technique is reading a book, but he likes it so much that once we finish one he just want another one and another, ...

So what other ways do you suggest for calming down a toddler before bedtime?

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All the answers here have been very helpful. I have tried it all it takes my two-year old at least an hour to two to fall asleep, she tosses all over her bed until she has fallen to sleep.I have left the room she gets out the bed I send her back she does that at least twice. I have started her bed time at 730 so by 830 im assuming she will tried herself out when I look at the clock it's 1030. Now im tried. any suggestions..... –  user4387 Jun 8 '13 at 5:04
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9 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

A bath worked really well for our toddlers (which didn't seem to for yours), but I think the bigger picture was a routine. Our first daughter was very wild towards bedtime until we started making a routine and sticking to it.

We followed the same steps every night at bedtime and after a couple of weeks when we started the routine each night, she would start to calm down. We tried to start the routine at the same time every night as well.

We also tried to get her to be physically active about an hour before we started the routine to wear her out a little bit.

There is the obvious one of not giving them sugar too close to bedtime, or any food too close to bedtime for that matter.

She still had her wild moments every once in a while, but having a structured, consistent routine helped us out immensely.

Good luck!

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+1 Consistency is key! –  Ben Jun 11 '13 at 17:53
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The only thing I haven't seen listed here that is standard advice is limiting, moving earlier, or eliminating nap time. As sleep needs decrease and awake time needs increase there is, I've read, an awkward stage of transition between taking a nap and not taking a nap.

Some children will protest the nap to show that they are ready to drop it, but others will develop bedtime problems. That awkward transition can lead to lots of mucking around at bedtime if the nap is too long, too late, bedtime is not late enough in relationship to the nap, or the nap has been completely outgrown. The mucking at bedtime can cause the child to get so wound up that they play past when they are actually tired and become overtired, leading to a vicious cycle of seeming tired at naptime when a nap isn't really needed or taking a too-long nap, then playing at bedtime again. If no change in bedtime is helping perhaps try nap limiting or moving the nap earlier, and if that doesn't work consider eliminating nap time.

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My daughter gets crazy wired if she is overtired. So you might try moving bedtime 15 minutes earlier until you hit the sweet spot. Also, something that really seems to calm both of my girls down is a walk around the block after they have their jammies on.

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I will second all of the answers about a constant routine here. One thing I will add is soothing music. To this day if my kids hear a Norah Jones song they start yawning.

Both of my little ones had a small boom box that we would turn on during rough nights and they rarely made it past two songs before they would start snoozing.

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Oy. This actually totally backfired on me. I've always sung a song or hummed a tune I know really well (or practiced learning the song ;) to put him to sleep. With our first son, by the age of two, as soon as he heard the first strains of one of those songs, he'd start to cry and complain that he didn't want to go to sleep! I've found that a consistent bedtime routine at a consistent time helps the most. It doesn't hurt to have a big brother, either, but those are a bit of a tall order. ;) –  Ernie May 17 '11 at 18:43
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The other answers all mention a solid routine, which is great advice.

I'd only add that we often save slower paced activities for our 2 year old until near bedtime.

For example this is one of the few times we're happy for him to watch kids TV (which in the U.K. has a specific slower paced bedtime programming).

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The tips provided here are all correct: develop a consistent routine for bedtime, including a bath, books, brushing teeth, etc. Do everything in the same order every night.

Probably the only thing I can add is that perhaps singing a song to your toddler after the light is out, a soft lullaby, could help calm them down (for example, if reading books excites them further).

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I think the best answers have already been given--a consistent bedtime routine that includes a bath.

Since the bath doesn't help in your case, I would add that right after our bath we typically do a rub-down with lotion before putting on the pajamas. Something about the skin contact, the massaging, the softness of the lotion, and the scent really helps calm our toddler down, even after a rowdy, splashy bath.

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Being a parent of twins who actually like going to sleep, I have no active experience with this problem. Friends of ours used the what they called clock method. They would put their kid to bed and watched the clock. They did not give attention to their child in the first 17 minutes. Only after 17 minutes they would calm their kid. Apparently this procedure was quite uncomfortable, but did work. I guess it is like setting the standards. They really have nice kid now, so it might work. But I guess that you should be able to distinguish between "a cry for help" or "a cry for attention"

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I personally think that 17 minutes is too long. I'd fear that it feels like a very lonely eternity, which is not constructive and could be harmful. At least start each evening with short intervals and make them successively longer. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun May 14 '11 at 20:18
    
We used that process successfully here, though the important part is to start with a short time before you go back, say 2 minutes, then each time you go back that night it's a minute longer. I don't think we ever got past 10 minutes unless there was a serious problem. These days our son is better about going to sleep, so I start at 10 minutes before I go back in the first time... rarely have to go back a second time. –  cabbey May 14 '11 at 21:46
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I wrote an answer to a similar question:

  • have a solid bedtime routine
  • put the kid to bed and say good night, then leave the room. Repeat as needed.

It helped me much to accept that my son doesn't fall asleep right away. When I put him to bed, there's not total darkness, and I tell him it's okay to not sleep yet but he must relax and wind down. He can sit for as long as he wants, but he must not yell. Over time, he relaxes and it's no longer a matter of hours until he sleeps. But it still takes 30-45 minutes.

Also, know that routines are very important. Always follow the exact same steps, and start at the same time every day. Kids are almost autistic in this regard; a solid routine helps enormously!

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"Repeat as needed" is great advice, don't do anything special on return visits, just re-iterate the fact it's time for sleep. –  Jon Hadley May 13 '11 at 12:30
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