A predictable, peaceful routine is the path of least resistance at bedtime

Do you have an Energizer Bunny on your hands, one who’s crawling, running, jumping, climbing and bouncing around your house? Then chances are you’re having trouble braking for bedtime or, at least, convincing your cutie that its time to power off that busy engine and switch over to sleep mode.

How do you get your little one to make that trickiest of transitions from wide-awake to sound asleep, the tot equivalent of going from 100 mph to zero in no time without a struggle? Make bedtime routine. The right bedtime routine can help your older baby or toddler apply the brakes on daytime activity gradually, so she can unwind that wound-up body and mind and succumb to slumber.

Shhhhhh . . .

The best bedtime routine, no surprise, is one that’s relaxing, soothing and calming. But it’s also one with no surprises. Walk your little one through the same set of steps, performed in the same sequence, each and every night. A predictable bedtime routine that your toddler can set her internal clock to signals that its time to stop playing and start snoozing.

Use these steps as a guide to building your own custom bedtime routine. Adjust it to fit your family’s style and schedule, but once you’ve settled on a settling-down routine, stick with it. Consistency is what makes it work. Even holidays and vacations should include at least a modified form of this routine.

  • Quiet down Let the countdown to bedtime begin by taking the noise and activity level down a couple of notches after dinner. Turn down the lights, turn off the TV and the computer games, put on some quiet music and lower your voice (with the hope that your tot will do the same). Send stress packing. This is chill time.
  • Bath time Nothing relaxes your busy ┬ábody and soul like a warmbath. Mellow your munchkin even more with a baby-safe lavender bath wash. You’re getting sleepier? So is she.
  • Soft touches If your little one is massage-friendly (and most tots are), give him a soothing rub down with baby oil or sensitive skin lotion. Massage helps boost levels of melatonin, the sleep hormone.


  • Recap the day Its pajama time. As you slip your sweeties PJs over her head, recap the day by talking about all the great things she did as well as whats on tap for tomorrow once she wakes up in the morning. Even if she doesn’t quite get your message yet, you’ll be starting a treasured ritual.
  • One last snack Serve up a light bedtime snack. A carb-protein combo like sliced bananas and yogurt will stave off late-night hunger pangs and keep your tots blood sugar level steady for sounder sleep. If your baby still takes breast or bottle, nows the time for the days last feed. Follow up by brushing teeth, of course.
  • Soothing stories Cuddle up with a calm book (nows not the time for Cookie Monster imitations) or a lilting lullaby (older babies and toddlers love to hear the same song every night). Then take a good-night tour of your childs room, bidding sweet dreams to his teddy, his toys, even the tree outside his window.
  • Departure signals Signal your final farewell with a hug and a good-night phrase (like nighty-night or sleep tight or sweet dreams) that you’ll say night after night. Not only will this phrase become a special part of the bedtime ritual, it will help bridge the gap between awake and asleep time. Repeat each night (and follow-up in the morning with a routine wake-up greeting), and you’ll reassure your little one that daytime always ends with nighttime, nighttime is always followed by morning and you’ll always be there to greet each new day with him.

Heidi Murkoff is the author of the best-selling What to Expect series, including What to Expect the Second Year. Go to whattoexpect.com for more of her pregnancy and parenting tips.