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A Look at Bedtime - Babies and Toddlers

One of the questions I get the most is, "what does bedtime look like at your house?" And the short answer is that this changes based on the age of the child you're talking about. Every child, just like with anything, is different and has his/her own sleep patterns and rhythms. We as adults try to respect that and still make the routine work for us.

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Maria Montessori's own influences certainly play a role in how we approach bedtime. Some quotes that we keep in mind around bedtime {from The Secret of Childhood} include: 

"He has need of and certainly should get, a normal amount of sleep, but it is necessary to distinguish between what is suitable and what is artificially induced. A stronger person through  suggestion can impose his own will upon one who is weaker. An adult who forces a child to sleep more than he needs is unconsciously forcing his own will upon the child through the power of suggestion." Maria Montessori 

"A child should be permitted to got to sleep when he is tired, to wake up when he is rested, and to rise when he wishes." Maria Montessori 

A look at bedtime with babies and toddlers in our Montessori home, how we choose to follow our child

So I thought I would share a little bit about what bedtime looks like for us. First up, babies and toddlers. And, remember, I'm no expert, I'm just sharing what has worked for our family. 


I think the key to our bedtime for any child in our family is routine. Children thrive on order and routine, especially young children. Babies are no different. We keep it short and simple. Dim lights in the evening, a bath (this might not be everyday depending on the baby's age, the younger the baby the more likely this is every few days), nursing and quiet. 

Now, a routine is not a strict schedule. When this routine happens varies a lot based on the baby's behavior. We are observing our child, getting to know him/her and following the baby's lead on sleep. This might mean an early bedtime one night and a later one the next. We are essentially following the child. 

What it doesn't mean is that we decide on a specific time for sleep. Or that we spend a ton of time trying to force sleep (tons of rocking/swaddling/nursing). We will of course attend to our baby's needs (so lots of rocking if our baby is contented and happy to rock) but not for the purpose of inducing sleep, for sleep's sake. 

Basically, we follow our baby's lead! 

A look at bedtime with babies and toddlers in our Montessori home, how we choose to follow our child


As our babies turn to toddlers, I have noticed that they do tend to settle into a schedule with sleep, where there is more of a "bedtime." But, we still respect their sleep needs. This is the phase where Gus is at right now. Generally, he is ready for sleep by around 8:00 p.m., generally. We again keep a simple routine for bedtime that helps him and us to recognize that our day is winding down. 

We do bath, books, nursing, bed. We try to start baths at around the same time each evening then do a family book reading time. Now, usually Gus is showing us he is ready to nurse and lay down. We observe his sleep and respect that, giving him support when he needs it. 

But, let's say we feel like he's ready, but we nurse and lay down and he's just not going to sleep. Then, we trust him. We aren't going to spend tons of time forcing him to sleep. We will just let him get up and play until he is ready. This doesn't happen a ton. Usually, he might play for another hour or so and then come tell us he is ready to nurse or sleep. 

This play can take place quietly. Morgan and I may play with him (if we are available) but often, he will just play by himself near us. We still keep the house dim and quiet at this time, but really we just trust that he understands his sleep needs better than we do. 

And, that's it! Trust, respect, routine. Next time, I'll share a bit of how bedtime looks with preschoolers and elementary age! It's a bit different, for sure! 

A look at bedtime with babies and toddlers in our Montessori home, how we choose to follow our child

Do you trust your baby or toddler to choose a bedtime? How do you decide when your child is ready for sleep? 


Unknown said…
What do you do about night time waking?
If they need me, we go to them. If they are happy, we let them be!
Becky said…
I love this! Thanks so much. It’s exactly what it looks like in my family with 6 mo. baby. Her “last wind” falls sometime in our evening routine every night, and sometimes it means she has a energetic bath, sometimes it means she is super interactive with the books and “together time” and other times it’s right after we nurse and she will want to move and climb or play by the bed until she cuddles in to nurse to sleep again.
Thank you for sharing this peek into your bedtimes! It works so well for us right now. It’s nice to know we have friends across the country in the same boat!(Especially when people who are nearest think i’m nuts.)
Amanda GL said…
We follow a similar method with our 13month old and let her nurse or play etc until she is ready for sleep but she has NEVER slept through the night. This results in several more late night nursings and mom often cosleeping on her floor bed. Any advice/insights?

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