Bedtime battles with your toddler are stressful, sleepless, and seemingly never-ending. If this speaks to you, then this post about a bedtime routine visual schedule for your toddler is for you!
There are many different things you can do to help ensure you have a peaceful, and successful bedtime with your toddler. In this blog post, I am going to talk about
How to have a successful bedtime with your toddler
We know that toddlers thrive on:
Having the same bedtime routine each night in the same order.
Knowing what and who will be a part of the bedtime routine each night. Also, it’s important that you have planned out what your boundaries will be and stick with it each night so your toddler knows exactly what the expectations are.
Toddlers want to assert their independence and will have an easier time following expectations and respecting boundaries if they have lots of autonomy leading up to sleep.
When toddlers WANT to participate in the bedtime routine, it often goes a lot more smoothly.
Toddlers crave connection and love from their caregivers. Meeting this emotional need also helps reduce separation anxiety at bedtime.
These are all the main pieces to ensuring you will have a successful bedtime with your toddler. So how do you achieve all this? Using a visual schedule is the key!
What is a bedtime routine visual schedule and how to use it?
A visual schedule is simply a series of pictures that communicate a meaning. For the purpose of a bedtime routine visual schedule, we use a series of pictures to communicate what will happen once the bedtime routine starts, and in what order.
So let’s pretend your bedtime routine looks like this: bath, lotion, diaper, pajamas, sleep sack, brush teeth, book, sound machine on, bed.
Your visual schedule would be a piece of paper with little pictures of a bath, lotion, a diaper, pajamas, a sleep sack, a toothbrush, a sound machine and a bed.
You can be fancy and print these pictures off the internet, laminate them and put velcro on the back so your toddler can take them off when they complete each “task” in the routine. Or it can be super simple and a checkmark is put beside each picture or cover it with a flap of paper. The idea is that your toddler is engaged and enjoys using the visual schedule.
Navigating Boundaries at Bedtime
If you are having a lot of difficulty with boundaries at bedtime, then before you make your visual schedule, I recommend coming up with a plan that meets your sleep goals. It may be that being strategic about the bedtime routine and choosing which boundaries you want to hold is an important piece to mitigating your bedtime battles.
For example, if your toddler is making “requests” at bedtime such as “I’m hungry” or “I need a drink of water” or “one more story please” and that is causing bedtime to drag on, you can use the visual schedule to make the new bedtime plan very clear to your toddler. Maybe that means you offer a snack as the first step in your bedtime routine (and then hold the boundary to not offer a snack again that night) or once they are in their bed they have access to a water bottle (which you include in your bedtime routine visual schedule). Whatever you want the bedtime routine to be, the visual schedule is a fantastic way to support the plan!
Side note: if you need help creating a plan that meets your individual sleep goals for your toddler, we can help! We would love to hop on a call with you and create an individualized sleep plan that is the perfect fit for YOUR family! Check out our consultation options here!
To address the autonomy piece, I recommend giving your toddler as much choice/control as possible during the bedtime routine. For example, they can pick the star pajamas or the elephant pajamas, the purple toothbrush or the green toothbrush, the lavender lotion or the citrus lotion… you get the drill.
When should we go over the visual schedule?
I recommend going over the visual schedule BEFORE bedtime as well as referencing it during the bedtime routine process. Also, use positive reinforcement to encourage engagement. So saying something like, “What do we get to do after putting on your sleep sack? That’s right! Brush your teeth! I wonder if you will choose the purple toothbrush or the green toothbrush? Oh, what a great choice! Look at you making such big decisions all by yourself!”
It may seem excessive, but truly, building your toddler up, encouraging them to be engaged in the process, and showering them with positive reinforcement will pay off when it comes time for you to hold the one boundary you actually care about: go to sleep in your bed.
How to access your printable bedtime routine visual schedule
So now that you are super stoked to use a visual schedule for your bedtime routine, where do you get one?
You can certainly make your own OR you can check out the one we made for you!
Click here to check out the toddler bedtime routine visual schedule.
Our bedtime routine visual schedule is great for ages 18 months and up! Even children past the toddler years benefit from it! The one we created is 100% customizable. We have a bunch of different visuals (pictures) for you to choose from that represent different elements of different bedtime routines. If by some chance we don’t have a picture for something that is in your routine, you can always just draw it in!
So all you need to do is print it off and then cut and paste the visuals (pictures) that apply to your child’s bedtime routine.
Recap on Bedtime Routine Visual Schedule for Your Toddler
A big part of having a successful bedtime routine that isn’t an exercise in a battle of wills is to implement a visual schedule!
Using a visual schedule at bedtime:
- Fosters consistency and predictability for your toddler
- Contributes to bedtime being engaging
- Creates healthy positive connection
- Is highly accessible as it uses visuals
- Promotes independence
Your visual schedule will strongly support the bedtime plan that you have chosen so everyone in your family has an enjoyable and peaceful bedtime!