For a toddler, the reasons to resist bedtime and sleep can be many. Some toddlers feel they are losing control when they let sleep take over. Others have a hard time giving up the fun they have when they are awake and with the rest of the family. Some toddlers feel anxious about being alone in a solitary room and a solitary bed, and other youngsters have trouble because they fantasize about what might happen to them in the darkness of the house.

Bedtime rituals can be very helpful when it is time for your toddler to go to sleep. Rituals at bedtime encourage a sense of security that reduces anxious feelings and also provide the reassurance of human connection. By structuring activities before bedtime, you help your child develop a feeling of belonging that he or she will carry off into sleep.

The following list includes examples of activities that you could incorporate throughout each evening to link bedtime to feelings of safety and protection. All of these suggestions can ultimately become part of a bedtime ritual.

  • Having uninterrupted family dinners
  • Playing quietly
  • Creating ceremonies for getting into pajamas, brushing teeth, and reviewing the events of the day
  • Anticipating the goings-on of the next day
  • Reading a story
  • Singing a special lullaby
  • Switching on a night light
  • Sharing a positive thought right before the lights go out

If you can create activities leading up to bedtime that provide a connection to feelings of safety and protection, your child can hold those feelings and the accompanying thoughts as he or she goes to sleep.

A smooth end to the day is comforting for everyone in the family, and bedtime rituals can be a big help in promoting peaceful sleep for all involved. Enjoy the process on the way to bed . . .