Four first steps on how to help your toddler unwind for bed – guest blog by Kathryn Stimpson 

Being a parent to a toddler can only be described as a total emotional rollercoaster. One minute is full of laughter and giggles and the next is all about tears and tantrums. It is no wonder that bedtime doesn’t always go to plan or ends in a battle between you and your toddler, with usually the smaller person taking the upper hand.


Helping your toddler unwind to bed can be the difference between your child fighting bedtime or thoroughly enjoying it. Let’s face it, it is a whole lot less stressful putting your child to bed when they are looking forward to it compared to dealing with anger, upset and anxiety.


Here I share with you my top 4 expert tips on how to make bedtime a smooth experience rather than a bumpy stressful ride


Tiredness vs Overtiredness


There is a very thin line between a tired toddler and an overtired one. It is so easy to miss the tiredness signs when you have had a busy day and have other children to look after in the house. However, missing the signs can make bedtime a complete disaster, let me explain the reasons why. A little science for you, once your child is overtired their body begins to overproduce the stress hormone Cortisol, making it very difficult for them to unwind for bed.


Cortisol produces the fight or flight response, which is why in some children you either see behaviours such as hyperactivity, shouting, screaming and general meltdowns. All of which are not desirable states to be in when your toddler needs to be winding down for bed.


So my professional tip is to “catch” your toddler when they are tired for bed rather than overtired, which I know is easier said than done. Make sure, your child is taking enough day time naps for their age which are appropriately spaced out from nap wake up time to bedtime. If your child doesn’t nap well, where possible it is absolutely okay to bring bedtime forward by a maximum of 30 minutes to start bedtime before they become overtired. Don’t worry if you have an early riser, this won’t encourage early rising, in fact this can help it!


Screen time


Removing screen time from a toddler’s life is not realistic for the world that we now live in. Technology is a huge part of our daily lives. However, there are better ways and times that technology can be used. Set a cut off time for screen time, I recommend no screen time after 5pm or 2 hours before bedtime. The reason for this is devices such as T.Vs, mobile phones and tablets emit blue light which blocks the production of the sleepy hormone melatonin by 2 hours, therefore making it very difficult for your toddler to wind down. If you would like your child to have screen time, try to use this for a limited time in the morning or afternoon, just not in the 2 hour window before a nap.




Nutrition and quality sleep go hand in hand. If you have a bedtime resistor or general sleep thief, be sure that your toddler is eating a balanced diet. Ensuring your toddlers meals include plenty of protein, which keeps them fuller for longer and stabilises their blood sugar (very important for sleep) and helps to prevent the body overproducing cortisol (the stress hormone that keeps you awake). Sorry to be the fun police, but I highly recommend removing or reducing foods which contain sugar from your toddlers diet, especially at dinner time. Foods containing sugars increase your toddlers blood sugar quickly and therefore encourage the overproduction of cortisol. Basically anything you can do to keep cortisol at bay in the evening, the less likely you experience a stressful bedtime


Bedtime routine


Having an appropriate relaxing bedtime routine which lasts around 30-40 minutes allows your toddler to wind down for bed. Start your bedtime routine at the same time every evening and stick to the same order daily. For older toddlers (aged 3 upwards) breathing buddies is a fantastic mindfulness exercise to incorporate into your bedtime routine. Choosing 1-2 bedtime books that are calming, non stimulating/exciting and use rhythmic language is essential for helping your child to enjoy bedtime but also know sleepy time is coming. I recommend Sleepy Me and Goodnight Moon for young toddlers and The Mindfulness Bedtime book for older toddlers (3+).


There are my four first steps on how to help your toddler unwind for bed. I recommend putting these into practice as soon as possible. If for any reason you still run into bedtime or sleep challenges, book yourself into a discovery call with me to start getting your toddlers bedtime and sleep back on track so you can enjoy the bonding experience of bedtime and enjoy a relaxing evening.


Thank you Kathryn!



check my other guest blogs and my blogs here.