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A Sleep Routine For 2 Year Olds That Actually Works

Sleep routine for 2 year olds and how we made it work for us

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Getting your child into a sleep routine can be hard right? It’s something that you can spend way too much time stressing over and wondering whether you’re doing right. All too soon it can end up being a nightmare trying to figure out what to do when the books, websites and experts all say different things.

Lets face it, figuring out a sleep routine is overwhelming. It’s also controversial, and it’s something that too many people seem to have opinions on.  Everybody wants to give you their 2 cents on it, but at the end of the day, all you can do is what works for YOU and your family.

In this post I will be sharing what works for us, and also some tips and tricks to hopefully make your bedtimes go a little bit smoother.

Sleep routine for 2 year old problems

Let’s start with the problems that we all face before we talk about anything else.

Personally, I’ve always been very relaxed with Cupars sleep ever since he was born, and it’s actually taken me just over 2 years to get a steady sleep routine for him. I’ve never been one for the traditional ‘sleep training’, and I much preferred a natural approach for him.

It has been hard, but I’m glad I did it the way I did.

Although our sleep routine works most nights, we do still have the odd problems from time to time.  Things happen, life gets in the way, and sometimes your routine does get thrown out of the window.

It happens to all of us at some point, and you just have to learn to go with the flow as best as you can.

As well as trying to stick to your routine, there will also be those times that your children will throw the occasional spanner in the works. Sometimes they will fight you every step of the way, but it’s just how they roll.

They will suddenly decide that they don’t want to go to bed one night and are going to make a fuss instead.  Just so you know, this will always be on the very evening that you have a bottle of wine chilling in the fridge and a film set up to watch on Netflix.

So why do children fight bedtime?

The thing is, that children don’t see sleep in the same way that we do.  When we start to feel tired in the evening, we get ourselves ready, jump into bed and promptly fall asleep when our head hits the pillow.

For kids, they have this horrible ‘fear of missing out’.  They may feel tired, but they can’t stop looking at that train set that still needs to be played with.  Similarly, they may be yawning away on the sofa, but keeping one eye on that lego that just isn’t going to build itself.

Sleep is just one of those annoying things that gets in the way of play time – whether they’re tired or not.

With all of these distractions going on of course it’s going to be hard to persuade them that 7 pm is time to go to sleep when they’re just not ready yet.

You can’t force kids to switch off and go to sleep instantly, and obviously in the summer when it’s still light outside, it’ll make them want to sleep even LESS.

Sleep training

We’ve never tried sleep training as I said before, and you can read about my reasons here. It just wasn’t for us, and it was something that I never wanted to do. It seems too forced to me. I wanted bedtime to be a happy, natural experience, rather than a stressful one.

I don’t have a magic, instant solution, but what I do have is a routine that works for us and may work for you too.

Sleep routine for 2 year old

Weve been in our new routine for about 3 months now, and, although we do have days where it doesn’t work, it is something that we all enjoy, and even look forward to!

So, here is our sleep routine for a 2 year old

8 – 830 pm – Bath time

This might seem a bit late to some people, but Cupar has always been a night owl (just like me).

Bath time before bed is a relatively new thing for us. Cupar has always had really bad eczema, so we’ve had to be careful. We’ve just started to introduce it again though, and it’s been amazing.

I bought some Child’s Farm oaty bubbles as I’d read it was really good, and it’s done wonders for his skin already. Before using it he’d get very red and blotchy in the bath with his eczema flaring up, but now he hardly has any patches on him.

We usually do bathtime about 4 days a week, and we find that it really helps to relax him and make him sleepy before going up to bed.

I’d always heard about people doing the whole bath routine before bed, but I’d never realised how great it was until we tried it.

9 pm – Pajamas, teeth and go up to bed

We try to make going upstairs to bed a fun thing to do. Cupar knows that going upstairs doesn’t necessarily mean sleep time straight away. He knows that he can play with his toys and read books for a little while before going to sleep.

We’ve put a box of teddies, a box of duplo and lots and lots of books in his room for him.

When we go upstairs, we’ll usually play with something for a little while, before reading a couple of books while we lay on his bed. I try to be quite quiet when we go upstairs, so that if he does decide to play with some toys for a bit, he knows that it’s ‘quiet playtime’.

Giving him a chance to play and read helps him to unwind and relax a bit before getting into bed.

10 pm (ish) – Sleep time

I say ish because sleep time does vary a little bit. Sometimes Cupar will be asleep 10 minutes after going upstairs, and sometimes it will take a little longer.

It really all depends on what time he had his afternoon nap and how active he’s been during the day.

Hes very good at recognising when he’s tired now, and he’ll get under the covers and shut his eyes when he wants to go to sleep.

As I said before, we can’t force it, because then he fights against it and will lay awake for ages. By letting him wind down a bit and get himself into bed when he’s ready, he doesn’t feel pressured.

That’s not to say it’s easy, because it’s definitely not, but we are getting into more of a rhythm now. I’m going to try moving the whole routine back by an hour and see if we can get his sleep time to 9 pm rather than 10 pm soon.

Wake ups during the night

Cupar usually tends to wake up and climb into bed with us around 3 am. He’ll then fall asleep again quite quickly and wake up around 6/7 am and be up for the day.

We have had a few nights recently where he’s slept until 5/6 am in his own bed which has been good. I think it all just depends on his afternoon nap, what time he goes to sleep, and how light it is outside.

Honestly, children are so confusing sometimes!!

Does our routine work?

Our routine works well for us. As long as we’re upstairs by 9 pm, Cupar will fall asleep pretty quickly.

Now that we’ve started doing bath time, it’s definitely a lot easier. Also, reading bedtime books seems to help him associate certain stories with feeling sleepy.

If we’ve been out and get home late, or it’s a special occasion like a birthday or Christmas then we won’t worry about what time he goes to bed. A late night every now and then doesn’t matter too much, and we’re quite relaxed about it all.

Who does bedtime?

One of the things that really helps us, and I know that’s not the case for all of the single Mamas out there, is to take it in turns to do bedtime. Aeron does bedtime on the nights that I have work the next day, and I do it on the nights that I don’t.

This works really well for us because it means that when Aeron does bedtime, I get an hour downstairs on my own to work on the blog.

I do actually miss doing bedtime on the nights that I don’t do it. It’s great bonding time and I hate to miss out on that, but I do have to work.

So, what’s the conclusion?

The most important thing, which is definitely the case for us, is to not force anything. Bedtime should be a relaxing experience and a time for you both to unwind. If you can get your child to look forward to it, and enjoy going upstairs, then you’re on to a winner.

Having Cupar’s room as a nice space with his favourite toys and books has really helped us. It’s a place that he likes to be, and somewhere that he feels happy and comfortable.

Remember that there will be times that you can’t stick to your routine, but that’s OK. You don’t have to be super strict about it, and actually, it’s probably a good thing if you’re not.

If you find that your child isn’t tired and doesn’t want to go to bed yet, then give it another half an hour. Let them get that energy out! Also, if you’re out and you know that you won’t be back until after bedtime, don’t stress about it.

A late bedtime every now and then isn’t going to mess up their routine. They’ll get back into it after a couple of days.

Children change as they get older, and bedtimes change with that. Also, some children need a lot of sleep, and some just don’t, just as some adults do and some don’t.

Above all, just remember that you know your child better than anyone else, and what you do is up to you. Whether you do a 6 pm bedtime or a 10 pm bedtime, as long as it works for you, that’s the main thing.

Quick tips to remember

  • Dont force it if they’re not tired yet
  • Use it as a bonding experience to relax and unwind together
  • Keep some quiet time books and toys in the bedroom
  • Don’t stress if you can’t stick to your routine for the odd night
  • All children are different and what works for one may not work for another

So that’s our sleep routine for a 2 year old. What does your sleep routine look like? Please feel free to add any extra tips or recommendations below.

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