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Toddler Tips

Bedtime Routines

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 11 No. 1, January-February 1994, pp. 23-4

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

"Toddler Tips" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents of toddlers. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.


My fifteen-month-old son used to nurse in my arms while I read bedtime stories to my four-year-old daughter. This was a lovely way to get both children to sleep at night, but it no longer works. My toddler wants to climb all over us, grab the book, or pinch and poke his sister. He's too tired to accept Daddy as a substitute, and wants to be with me, but my older child really needs this special quiet time. Any suggestions for a bedtime routine that will accommodate them both?


Would it be possible to push back your daughter's bedtime until little brother is asleep? Would big sister's bedtime be a good time for little brother's bath? While he might not want to sit or play with Dad, he might enjoy time in the tub with toys that he sees only at bath time.

Can story time be somewhere other than in the bedroom? Your children can have their bath and be dressed for bed and then join Mom and Dad for stories in the family room. It's okay to let them fall asleep on the couch!

You might also think about doing something other than read a book. When my children were younger, I used to make up stories out of my head. The sillier the stories, the better they liked them. We also did stories with puppets. Little brother might enjoy being one of the characters in the story. Finger plays can be a lot of fun, too, and are especially appropriate for energetic children. You should be able to find books of them at your local library.

Flexibility is the key. When one thing doesn't work anymore, try something else. You will have changing challenges that require changing solutions for many years to come.

Claire Bloodgood, Georgetown, Texas, USA


We have learned to stretch out our bedtime routine. My two-and-a-half-year-old willingly watches a quiet thirty-minute video (his favorite is "Peter Rabbit") while I nurse his twelve-month-old brother. Then the one-year-old goes to bed while the toddler receives his cuddles and stories. Occasionally we reverse the order to accommodate a sleepy big brother. And when Daddy is available, we each take a little boy. Our toddler loves to have Daddy put him to bed, after spending all day without him. But when I am the lone parent, or when both kids need me, giving each child individual attention is worth the extra time it takes.

Karen Colvin
Ft. Lewis, Washington, USA


My children are five, three, and one. At our house, Daddy reads the bedtime stories to the older ones while I put the baby to bed. On the evenings that my husband is working late, I have found that it is easier to put the baby to bed before I start reading to the older ones. Usually I read something to the baby first, on her level, pointing at and naming the things in the book, making the animal sounds. Sometimes she listens, other times she just wants to turn the pages and I let her. I just want her to enjoy the story time. You may want to try this with your little one, too, and your daughter can sit with you and listen (and help with the animal noises!) if she wants to. Then, while you put the baby to bed, your daughter may be getting herself ready for bed, putting on her "jammies" and picking out her book. When the baby is sleeping you can have a quiet story time with your daughter.

Leena Rosentreter
Mooresville, North Carolina, USA


Put special, quiet story times together as a family on the shelf for now. If your toddler is too tired for time with Dad, then he is too tired, and needs to sleep! Then enjoy a really good story with your older child. Be encouraged that the time will come when the younger sibling will be drawn into bedtime reading again.

Reading to a child is more than a way of putting them to sleep, it is a whole new world with as much enjoyment for the parents as the kids. Now that our children are grown I look back with nostalgia to the times we read all through Tolkien's Lord of the Rings with two different "sets" of children. Even now we still occasionally read a book aloud when we get together. And by the way, Dad is the best reader in our family!

Mary Rea
Kitwe, Zambia, Central Africa

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