Here’s the hack: “Have your toddler tuck their favorite toy in for the night downstairs (think: random blanket, wash cloth, or towel) and have that be the transition to go upstairs for bedtime.”
And why it works: “Here, we are helping them learn to say goodbye and transition away from something really fun while still holding that bedtime boundary.”
Not only that, but as the parenting pros point out, by putting your little procrastinator “in charge” of tucking in their favorite stuffy it gives them just a little bit of control over the whole bedtime routine. And toddlers love control. “This small piece shifts the toddler brain into collaboration-mode, rather than power-struggle-mode,” they add.
And parents are noticeably impressed. “This trick stopped a total meltdown from happening last night. Thank you,” reports one Instagram user and “We do this often and it does work! Often takes extra time but less fighting for sure!” says another.
As the parent of a toddler who simply has to build one more tower/dig one more hole/eat one more cracker before heading upstairs, I knew I had to put this seemingly simple trick to the test. And so I attempted it every day for a week.
The first night, my son didn’t really seem interested in the idea, leaving me to do the tucking-in for him which not only defeated the purpose but also felt ridiculous (have you ever said night night to a school bus covered in paper towels?).
But the second night went way more smoothly. My son understood the assignment and got to work putting his cars and Lego characters “to sleep.” (He even gave them each a high five and a fist bump, part of our own bedtime routine.) But the best part was that he seemed amused/distracted enough by the activity that when I told him it was time to go upstairs, he happily toddled up without a fuss. Success!
The third and fourth night didn’t quite go as smoothly, with some back-and-forth about how many toys he could put to bed (I drew the line at tucking in the blender) and some usual stalling tactics. But even though it took us longer to go upstairs, there was no whining or pleading—another win in my book.
And the remainder of the week continued to go pretty well, with a few hiccups here and there (at one point, my son wanted to do the tucking in upstairs which we did but then it kinda sorta led to 15 more minutes of playtime with the toys).
So, were our bedtime struggles miraculously gone? Well, not exactly. There was still a fair amount of stalling, but I’m pretty sure this did avoid quite a few tantrums (and it was also super cute to watch).
The final verdict: For kids who struggle to transition from playtime to get-ready-for-bed time, this easy, 60-second activity might just work. Of course, like any toddler hack, it probably won’t work every night but I was impressed enough that I’m going to keep it in my back pocket for when I sense a bedtime power struggle coming on. Heck, next week I might even see if we can use the same tactic for tooth brushing—even diggers need to clean their teeth, right?