A good bedtime routine is helpful in getting your toddler to bed at a decent hour every night. Some combination of a bath, books, cuddling, or other quiet and calming activities for about an hour before bedtime is essential to help your child unwind so that he can fall asleep. That said, the bedtime routine is not the only factor that determines whether your toddler will actually go to sleep at bedtime.
One thing that can affect your toddler’s willingness to go to bed at bedtime is that he simply is not tired. This can happen for a couple of reasons, two of which I have personal experience with. If your little one truly appears to not be tired at bed time and he’s not just stating emphatically that he’s not tired while rubbing his eyes and yawning, it might be time to think about whether he still needs a nap during the day. It could also mean that he has not had enough opportunities throughout the day to exercise his body and his mind.
Some clues that may indicate that your toddler’s nap is sabotaging his ability to go to sleep at bedtime are that it takes a great deal of effort to get him to nap or, on the odd day when you miss a nap for whatever reason, he falls asleep easily at bedtime without any hassle. Try making less of an effort to get your toddler to nap, and see what happens. Be forewarned, though, that your toddler may be cranky for an hour or two during his usual nap time for some time after he gives up napping. Also, if your toddler is falling asleep or is trying to fall asleep, whether at the usual nap time or another time during the day, let him sleep. Sometimes, even kids who gave up napping months ago may need a nap occasionally or may fall asleep on a long car ride.
In order to prevent your toddler from arriving at bedtime with a full tank of energy, plan plenty of active play throughout the course of your day. Of course, you don’t want to get your tot all revved up before it’s time to wind down, so make sure to get all of that fun stuff in before dinner time. It can be hard to get enough active play indoors during the winter, but get creative and find ways to chase, wrestle, play ball, or otherwise engage your toddler in activities that get him moving in a way that is safe for the type of indoor environment that you have available. For example, we have a long hallway that serves as a race track and soccer field for the boys, and we spend plenty of time outdoors whenever we can.