There's something very soothing about sitting in your rocking chair, feet up, rocking your toddler gently to sleep ... problem is, it's too soothing, and you may end up dozing off before the toddler does, especially if you've had a crazy-busy day. But you've got the right idea -- rocking, along with reading stories and listening to soft music are effective options to help your toddler wind down at the end of her own busy day.
Establish a comfortable, calming bedtime routine to help your toddler wind down before going to bed, then stick to the routine. When she knows what to expect, she's less likely to fight you on having to go to bed. Include quiet activities to help her transition from her daytime fun, such as reading stories together, singing soothing songs or taking a short, warm bath. Some toddlers might enjoy a warm drink of milk, while others do well when parents sit by the bed to say prayers together.
Start the getting-ready-for-bed-drill earlier than normal on days when your toddler seems agitated, wound up or overly tired. It might take longer than usual for her to be able to calm down on those days, and starting early improves your chances of getting her to bed at her regular bedtime. According to parenting expert Dr. Laura Markham, watch for yawns at dinner or other signs your toddler is tired. Just as with adults, if she gets her second wind, calming down to go to bed on time might be difficult.
Avoid games, TV shows or family activities that get your toddler wound up or excited in the last hour before bed. Sorry, Dad, this means horsey rides or play-wrestling with your toddler aren't good choices for evening play. Keep her away from the TV or computer and encourage older siblings to tone it down a little so your toddler won't feel like she's missing something when it's time for bed.