How to do bedtime with a toddler

We recently had the extreme joy of turning Baby Girl’s cot into a “big girl’s bed”. This was something we were completely unprepared for and hoping to put off as long as possible, as our second born is, shall we just say “challengingly adventurous”. But one evening, half an hour after putting our beloved no-longer-baby to bed, she appeared back downstairs with a proud grin on her face, declaring “Doddle doodle doo! Wakey wakey! I get up! I climb out my cot all myself!”. And so, the cage had to go.

We knew that taking our two year old out of her caged bed cot would spell the end of peaceful bedtimes and, unfortunately, we were right. Toddler bedtimes are now fraught with all kinds of negotiation, lost tempers, games and (from me) utter exhaustion.

If you’re here for expert advice on how to nail the toddler bedtime then I’m afraid you’ve probably come to the wrong place. However, I can offer you some tips on what NOT to do or, at least, give you a play by play of what every evening in our house currently looks like…


  1. Run a soothing bath and initiate a calming bath time with low voices and gentle songs.
  2. Spend most of bath time shouting at children to stop “Bloody splashing” and tipping water all over the bathroom floor.
  3. Waste three clean towels drying up the emerging swimming pool from bathroom floor.
  4. Wash hair of loudly protesting children and spend ten minutes negotiating teeth brushing.
  5. Beat a hasty bath retreat as youngest child stands up and performs a dramatic wee on her sister’s Barbie doll, in the bath.


  1. Spend ten minutes coaxing toddler into pyjamas, explaining that the favourite gaudy “Peppa Pig ones” are in the wash and the alternative Instagram-friendly bold coloured stylish PJs won’t poison and kill her.
  2. Spend another ten minutes chasing hyper toddler around the upstairs of the house, swearing under breath and ruing the day a super king sized bed seemed like a good idea (NOTE: a super king bed is like a red rag to a trampoline-obsessed toddler, plus the size of the bed makes it harder to catch slippery, fast tots intent on bouncing).


  1. Suggest a fairly short, calming story, lovingly recommended to help calm a tired little brain (do not judge – most mothers I know have tired little brains by 7pm on a weekday evening too).
  2. Relent at barrage of toddler anger and apologise for suggesting such a disgusting, clearly offensive book. Pick up toddler’s choice of book with resignation, leafing through the 160 pages of small text, wondering if it’s possible to skip a few pages without her noticing.
  3. Read book, with constant interruptions and questions. Feel so #blessed to have this close bonding moment with beautiful child. Wonder how much of book will actually have to be read that evening.


  1. Lift toddler into bed, with a kiss and a short lullaby. Reassure that Daddy will come “say night night” as soon as he’s read a story to oldest child. Blow kisses and softly close door. Breathe a sigh of relief.
  2. (Two minutes later) Return to room and repeat kisses, tucking in, reassurances.
  3. (Four minutes later) Return to room with Daddy, repeating kisses, tucking in, reassurances.
  4. (Six minutes later) As before.
  5. (Eight minutes later) As before.
  6. (Twelve minutes later) Watch toddler empty all drawers of clothes, on the monitor. Decide some battles are not worth fighting.
  7. (Twenty minutes later) Return to room, after toddler has put on as much of her clothing collection as possible and is now crying that she’s “Too hot”.
  8. Resettle toddler. Say goodnight. Close door. Pray.
  9. (Forty minutes post-bedtime) Return to room, repeat.
  10. (One hour later) Enjoy heated discussion with husband over whose turn it is to settle hyper, screeching toddler, who is currently running amok around the upstairs of the house, jumping on her sister’s bed, emptying all drawers in sight and lobbing teddies over the banister of the landing.
  11. (Ninety minutes later) Sit on sofa, exhausted, after toddler has finally fallen asleep. Decide an early bedtime might not be such a bad idea. Creep upstairs and get into pyjamas. Settle in super king size bed with book, removing teddies and lego from safe toddler storage place under duvet.
  12. Fall asleep, only to be woken ten minutes later by only toddler in the UK to have the exceptional ability of falling out of a bed that has not one but TWO side safety bumpers on it.
  13. Rejoice that, at least, in two days time you’ll be in Paris on a kid-free adventure with the husband and won’t have to deal with bedtime for three whole days. Smile in the knowledge that the grandparents are going to feel so #blessed enjoying this special bonding time with their grandchildren.



  1. says

    Challengingly adventurous – love this! I have one of these too! Last night my very own sprightly child finally fell asleep at 10pm on the sofa. Exhausting, but gorgeous 😉

  2. says

    Ha ha. Once our eldest had begun to heave himself out of the travel cot he slept in whilst also wearing his sleeping bag, we realised that the game was up and moved him into his grown-up bed. He took to it OK, but now he is four and a half, he has begun a new phase of being unable to live without his Mummy for even a moment. So, the grown-up time is also getting pushed further and further back. Joy unconfined!

  3. Ghislaine Forbes says

    I loved the girls’ extended bathtimes, doing their hair, reading them stories and making reassuring noises as they went off to sleep, oh and going to bed at 9pm with one of them. A beautiful phase of childhood. But…it’s bloody wonderful this evening to have a g and t and have some adult time! Love ma xxx

  4. Jess Hall says

    I too have a “spirited” toddler (who looks remarkably like your one) and am DREADING the bed transition. Luckily she’s so far blissfully unaware that children can also sleep in beds, not just cots, so is content in her ‘cage’. We have under 3 months until havoc will be unleashed and the cot is moved into her baby brother’s room….

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