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?

  • 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
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 5:04
  • I have tried reading a book and singing a song and giving warm bubble baths. And turning the t.v off
    – user17474
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 1:45
  • I have a 3 year old daughter with ADHD and a 4 year old son, I'm a single mother so it's really hard to put them to sleep, they like to fight over me and they keep each other awake sometimes it's almost midnight before they are asleep. I've tried every other method also the only thing that works is to lay down and pretend I'm asleep while they talk or whatever, it still takes about an hour.
    – user23707
    Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 2:52

15 Answers 15


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!


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!

  • 2
    "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
    Commented May 13, 2011 at 12:30

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.


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.

  • 1
    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
    Commented May 17, 2011 at 18:43

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.


We found a semi routine helped with our 2 year old, but not to make it too strict. No naps after 3. Bedtime 7.30-8.30ish (depending on when he started to look tired) rather then a set time. Agreed on baths, he loved it but needed to be 45min prior to bed or good luck getting him down. We let him run/play up to about 30min prior then went into wind down mode. Quiet books, TV (most parents seem to hate this but for our very active child a few minutes zoning out with tv worked wonders compared to most activities). Offered him milk sometime in that period. He had a quick time-for-bed by saying good to whatever he was doing, get him into sleep sack, bedtime toy to cuddle (only allowed at bedtime) couple of favourite books - one which was a bed sleep/bedtime book in bed. Having toy/books that he loved for bedtime only helped him look forward to it. We occasionally broke our own rules if didn't work to, sick miserable child that couldn't get comfortable got to sleep in our bed that night.

Any stricter and more often then not we had a tantrum child most nights. This was quite different then most my family and friends, I got warned about breaking routine and not having a set time but with this one it worked better this way.


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.


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).


What has helped me a bit is researching what personality type my toddler is. He fits more in a "social" type. It was recommended that he not spend so much time alone (TV, tablet time) and more one on one and lots of fun. When I eliminated TV and Incorporated fun through the day (exhausting for mama), he reacted differently during night hours. I could tell a difference. So, wanted to add that bit here.


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"

  • 1
    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. Commented May 14, 2011 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
    Commented May 14, 2011 at 21:46

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).


I agree with all of the following. However I am experiencing the issues with my 3 year old. Nothing seemed to work until we started sitting with her for a consistent amount of time and setting the timer on the stove. When the alarm goes off she knows we are done and goes to sleep no problems. Using a timer can help take the pressure off you and help give her structure. Eventually we tapered our time down to nothing. She did pretty well.


I would personally give them a warm bath. Typically the warmth will slow them to falling asleep easier. And maybe even a bedtime story. But nothing too crazy. Just something soft and moving. And even then, just cuddling with them helps out alot. I dont know why but many children seem to react differently when sleeping next to someone theyre connectd to. Rock them back and forth to sleep would also be a good idea. The continuous and repeated movement would be good for kids.


I used to put my daughter to bed at 8 pm. As she was not tired enough to sleep I'd stay with her in the room pretending that I am very tired and ignoring anything she would do. That would be: "I want potty," ok that's fine; "I want water" ok you can have water; she would sing, ask me lots of questions, talk about anything, change her pyjama, change the end of the bed where she wants to sleep, pinch and scratch me, and eventually I would get upset and leave. That was approx 1-2 h long. Being calm for that time made her more agitated and eventually would start crying and coughing and if she was put back to bed or ignored would make herself sick would vomit all over the bed and cry hysterically until mum would come back.

My solution: we skip the entire bedtime drama and she should stay head down on the pillow as I am just outside the door nursing the newborn. It does not work if I am soft and nice as she would still do the entire shouting, crying, vomiting.

Bath before bed done, reading stories done, talking about the past day and the following day done as well, running around and wearing her off done and helps a lot. Honestly I think she can not control herself and she can't help herself being naughty.

  • I just want to add that my 3 months old is falling asleep in 5 minutes on her own hearing the crying of her older sister.
    – Bianca
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 22:41
  • 2
    Please try to include some additional formatting in your post. I tried to edit it, but I found the lack of periods/sentence spacing and lack of paragraph spacing too hard to decipher. You can edit your answer, and make necessary adjustments. If you have access to a text editor such as Word or Pages, it should help you find and fix the errors. As it stands, I'm unfortunately not able to read this answer or even tell what your solution for the asker is.
    – user11394
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 19:20
  • 1
    Bianca, welcome to the site. Please note: Stack exchange works different from many other forums on the web. We ask clear, defined questions, we answer these questions. And only the question. Yes, especially with children, anecdotal evidence can be useful, but only as an addition. Please try and answer the question, writing what doesn't work won't help the asker or anyone else reading the question. Perhaps taking the tour or reading this page of the help center would help you understand the site better.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 9:56

My firstborn would ask to go to bed, even at 1. We would read a book, sing a song, and she'd go to sleep by herself. With my middle child, I found that she was just a needier child than my firstborn. She would constantly get out of bed and beg for us to lay with her, probably until she was 10. She was pretty easy, if I laid there for 5 minutes and rubbed her back she was out for the night. My youngest was a different story. He was a poor sleeper from birth. We tried everything, routine, calming activities, etc. He was also a poor eater and underweight and I think this really contributed. He ended up in our bed a lot which we didn't like but were so sleep deprived we gave in. He is now 2.5. We still haven't found the magic answer, he still requires a long bedtime routine, but we have gotten a few more hours in his bed at night. I really found that he was hungry. Now that he eats better, we have "second supper" and that makes the transition to sleep go much faster and easier and he seems more tired. Good luck to all those who are dealing with this and I hope you find what works for you. Just remember that all children are different and there's not a one size fits all answer. Try all the things suggested until you find what works. Just remember to give it a good 2 weeks! I hope God blesses you and your beautiful babies!

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