How to Create a Toddler Sleep Schedule

Overwhelmed with your child’s erratic sleep patterns and bedtime tantrums? Learn how a toddler sleep schedule can make for smoother days!

Toddler Sleep ScheduleIf there’s one thing that has saved my sanity as a mom, it’s relying on routines and schedules. Sure, sometimes it felt like I was that parent, the one who wouldn’t attend late family gatherings because it was past my kids’ bedtime. And yes, trying to run errands and outings between daily naps isn’t always easy.

But it all pays off in the end. A toddler sleep schedule has so many benefits, including:

  • Fewer meltdowns and outbursts
  • Well-rested, happy kids
  • No rushing or scrambling
  • Kids sleeping through the night

Having a schedule doesn’t mean you can’t make exceptions. In fact, it can make those special events that much smoother. After all, when every other day has been consistent, staying up late for a family wedding or Fourth of July fireworks is more doable.

So, how exactly can you create a toddler sleep schedule that works for you? As you might’ve guessed, there isn’t one schedule that fits every child’s or family’s needs. You might work earlier or later, or your toddler’s daycare has a set schedule to follow.

Instead, I’ll share tips to help you create a schedule suitable for your needs. Take a look at these best practices:

1. Nap at the same time as your toddler’s daycare or preschool

Wondering how to tie in your toddler’s daycare or preschool schedule? Follow her nap schedule at daycare, even when she’s at home.

Let’s say she takes a midday nap from 1-3pm at daycare. Follow that schedule on the days she’s at home, on the weekends, or during school breaks. This can help her body sync to consistent times to sleep, regardless of whether she’s at school or at home.

1 Year Old Nap Schedule

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2. Aim for 10-12 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night

Toddlers can clock in 10-12 hours of nighttime sleep without interruptions.

Even if your child can sleep nine hours straight, that likely isn’t enough to feel revived and ready to go for the next day. Similarly, clocking in 12 hours of sleep isn’t going to do him much good if he wakes up five times a night.

Now, if he happens to whimper and cry or wake up but settle back to sleep, that’s okay. But frequent wake ups, taking too long to fall asleep, or late bedtimes and early wake ups can prevent him from going into deep sleep.

3. Have a bedtime no later than 8:30pm

Some parents might argue that the time kids sleep is irrelevant, so long as they’re clocking in a full night of sleep. It also doesn’t help when our kids’ bedtime is determined by how late we work (especially when we want to spend time together in the evenings).

The thing is, we’re wired to function best during the day. Even people who work graveyard shifts are more exhausted and less focused than had they done the same job during daytime hours.

In other words, it’s not just the hours of sleep you get—it’s also when you sleep that matters. If your toddler isn’t going to sleep until 11pm—even if she wakes up later in the day—she might not be getting the quality of sleep she needs.

Aim for a bedtime no later than 8:30pm. This applies to kids even past the toddler stage—they simply function better when they sleep at a decent time.

2 Year Old Not Going to Sleep Until 11pm

4. Have your toddler take a long midday nap

If your toddler has already transitioned to one nap, have her take one long one in the middle of the day. Whether she sleeps for 45 minutes or three hours, schedule the nap with equal parts of wake time before and after.

Let’s say she’s awake from 7am to 7pm and takes a two-hour nap. Schedule nap time at 12-2pm so that she’s awake five hours in the morning, and another five hours in the evening.

5. Stick to your schedule, even on weekends

A schedule is only as effective as it is consistent. It’s the repetition that cues your toddler of what to expect and helps her listen and comply during transitions. Consistency is key, and yes, that includes weekends.

If you’ve been consistent all week, she can follow the same rhythm through the weekend. So, don’t force her to stay up late on Friday or Saturday nights unless a special reason calls for it. Reserve the flexible times for when it truly counts instead of making it a regular weekend activity.

6. Set consistent times for non-sleep activities

Consistency isn’t only important when it comes to your toddler’s sleep, but to the rest of his daily activities as well.

Start your mornings at the same time each day, and set specific times to eat meals and snacks. Begin bath time at the same time each night, followed by the same activities that lead to sleep. A consistent bedtime routine makes for better, more predictable sleep.

Of course, you’ll have exceptions. He might sleep in some mornings, and play dates and outings might mean taking a later-than-usual lunch. But for the most part, stick to doing the same activities at the same times.

How to handle your toddler waking up at night and not going back to sleep.

Toddler Waking Up at Night and Not Going Back to Sleep

7. Use a toddler alarm clock to prevent early mornings

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You can’t expect your toddler to stay in bed until 7am when he isn’t exactly versed in telling time. One simple way to solve the early morning wake ups is to use a toddler alarm clock in his bedroom.

Rather than relying on the hands of a clock or even digital numbers, a toddler alarm clock can signal that it’s wake up time. Typically, it turns a certain color or plays music to let him know that it’s okay to get out of bed. Take a look at these favorites:


Without a schedule, I would’ve spent most of my days with cranky kids, exhausting nights, and not much sleep.

Thankfully, creating a toddler sleep schedule is possible, regardless of your circumstances. Aim for 10-12 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, and put your toddler to bed no later than 8:30pm. Schedule naps for the middle of the day, with equal parts of wake time before and after.

Stick to your schedule even on weekends, following the daycare or preschool’s schedule. Set consistent times for other daily activities, and not just naps and bedtime. And finally, use a toddler alarm clock to signal when it’s okay to get up for the day.

A schedule can help with your sleep problems—even if that means turning down late family gatherings to make it home in time for bed.

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  1. Over time, my partner and I have allowed the “routine” to get longer and longer with a game, story from a book as well as me telling her a story I make up. I am in some ways not a routine person. Sometimes it is easier just to “give in” to my daughter but I know that too much of that in the long run is not good. I believe that if we don’t give in too much during the first few years of a child’s life the teenage years will smoother. I am trying to be assertive by repeating things in a calm way several times but giving her love and hugs when she needs them. Parenting not easy but a very worthwhile job.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      The bedtime routine can definitely get extended when we’re not careful. For me, what really works is to stick to a certain time to do things and get them done by. For instance, one of the kids will start bathing at 6:45pm. Then, by 7:30pm we read books, and they’re usually in bed by 8pm. For my older one, he showers after the twins are done with the bathroom, and he can relax after the shower and read, but he has to be in bed by 9pm.

      So, it’s more about doing things by a certain time. You can start doing bath time at 6:45pm and call it a night by, say, 7:30pm for instance. That way, it’s not about what you do, but being asleep by 7:30pm. If you happen to tell a long story but it’s already 7:30pm, then you’ll just pick up the story the following night because you ran out of time.