How to Put a Toddler to Bed

Sleeping Babe

Fairy tales will have you believe that adroit parents simply put their offspring to bed and retire to enjoy the peace and quiet of adult time.

The plan:

  1. Carry sweet child upstairs.
  2. Tuck them into bed. Read educational storybook.
  3. Kiss cherubic chubby cheeks.
  4. Close door gently. Return an hour later to simply stare at angelic perfection.


Bedtime is a multi-hour process. Beginning from the moment the daylight descends toward darkness.

Step 1: Feed the Meltdown.

At the end of an exhausting workday – comprising storytime, playtime, pretend-time, snacktime and recess – toddlers are in dire need of sustenance. However the intrinsically alluring draw of toys may prevent realization of this need.

Do not be afraid to bribe them with peanut butter and jelly. They will still refuse to cooperate, but morsels of the ensuing artwork, Foodstuffs in Fingerpaint, will likely be accidentally ingested.

Step 2: Cleansing Ritual

While the toddler is distracted with determination to make every existing surface sticky, scurry to collect bath towels and pajamas.

Cajole the small one toward the sound of running water. Make sure you are ready for an evening workout of toddler deadlifts prefaced by suicide sprints when your toddler refuses and runs away. (Fear not, simply track the trail of tiny jellied handprints to drag and drop.)

Douse with soap. Scoop soggy bottom boy from tub and plop them in the living room for diapering. Sop up flooded bathroom with remaining towels.

Step 3: Dapper Dressing

Attempt to wrestle the toddler into a diaper. Clean up pee on floor. Take on Round 2 of diapering, which will likely require more self-control than a bubble-wrap factory employee.

Proffer pirate pjs. Try to calm complete freak-out amid demands for Mickey jammies.

Put diaper back on bare-bottomed miscreant. Stuff child into Cars nightware.

Step 4: Mountain Climbing

Get the toddler to the bedroom. Positive affirmations, pleas, and stern suggestions. Avoid landmine obstacle of Legos and Little Tykes toys strewn in your path as an avoidance technique.

Scoop kid up and football carry him upstairs.

Return downstairs to gather water sippys, and various accouterments needed as stuff to surround the boys.

Step 5: Oral Care

When faced with refusal to go near the bedroom, excitedly suggest tooth brushing. Toddler will run to suck on minty flavored LighteningMcQueen toothbrush.

Prepare for meltdown upon offer to help *actually* combat cavities. Spit. Rinse. Replace.

Step 6: Bedtime Reading

Request child pick out a single storybook. Read book.

Ask if anyone is actually listening while watching little one take everything out of his bed and put it in the laundry basket, push basket around the room, empty toy bin and climb in.

Finish story. Tell child to go climb into bed.

Combat begging and pleading for 17 additional stories. Explain why this is not possible. Try not to feel smug about engaging in a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.

Step 7: Starlight, Starbright

Plunk tot into bed. Pick him up and put him back when he gets out. Repeat six times.

Tuck toddler in. Sheets. Covers. Special blanket. Provide water, special lovey, acceptable number of toys requested. (Toddler will demand every plaything he has ever seen.)

Tuck toddler back in. Kiss. Hug. Squeeze. Acquiesce to request for another kiss, hug, squeeze, kiss. Tuck toddler back in.

Turn on astronomical starmap nightlight. Reposition turtle light map. Change turtle light map color.

Tuck toddler back in. Turn off light.

Step 8: The Return

Stare at video monitor. Let toddler scream for 15 minutes before returning to recover. If mother enters, wee one will demand father. If father enters, mother will be required. Come up with increasingly creative reason why this is not possible.

Pour wine. Collapse and drink.

Once child is asleep, for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT re-enter room or otherwise awaken the circus clowns.

Total time: 5 hours. Multiply by two for twins.


Editor’s note: For those that feel today’s children have no discipline, yes – it would totally be possible to simply lock the child in their room. Except for that I actually love my children. This post is written for those with a sense of humor as I relate our routine in raising functioning members of society. If you send me hate mail I will retaliate with a bevvy of toddlers just coming down from a sugar high sent to your home.

Search and Destroy have friends…tired friends…



Filed under Bed-rest, Home, Parenting

6 Responses to How to Put a Toddler to Bed

  1. Gramma J

    I still think they are angelic!

  2. Nana

    Best. Children. Ever.

  3. Brittany

    We’re working on own own bedtime routine… Good to know what lies ahead 🙂
    Haha! Thanks for sharing Trisha!

  4. This is so hilarious and the truth!

  5. Dude. That sounds exhausting. We get them all ready for bed by 7, then ‘cuddle’ for an hour or so, then get them upstairs in their beds. That’s about as much as I can handle. We do that whole tooth brushing crap in the mornings. I will move up to twice a day once I feel sufficiently equipped to handle it.

  6. Joanne Hamann

    They refuse to go to bed as teenagers too – but then want to drive themselves to Jazz Band at 6:30 AM – does it ever get better?

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