Let’s face it, the right 2 year-old sleep schedule can take each family member’s sleep and daily routine from completely off tilt to pleasant and enjoyable.
That’s because when 2 year-olds aren’t happy, it tends to spill over into everyone else’s emotional space.
I remember when my daughter went through her 2 year old sleep regression. Each night she’d either come out of her room 57 times or she’d stick her fingers out the bottom of the bedroom door in a crying plea to let her out.
Not exactly the relaxing evening we were all hoping for.
Then on top of all that, when a two year old isn’t sleeping well, they start throwing more temper tantrums, followed by incessant whining and a good dose of back talk. Without realizing it, you’re now dealing with a very strong willed toddler.
I rounded up several 2 year-old sleep schedules from stay-at-home moms who currently use and loved them. (You want to know that they actually work!)
Plus, you’ll learn…
- Ideal bedtime and wake up times
- Sample 2 year old nap schedules
- Sleep cycles of a 2 year old
- Tricks for handling sleep regression
- Secrets to overcoming bedtime battles
Sleep schedules for 2 year-olds that work.
Check out these sample sleep routines for toddlers that help kids fall asleep faster and wake up happy.
In my experience and in working with hundreds of parents, ideal wake times are between 6-8 am and ideal bedtimes are between 6-8 pm. Toddlers naturally fall into a circadian rhythm that is ballpark similar to when the sun sets and rises.
An early bedtime routine can also play a significant role in kids falling asleep faster and waking up rested. That’s because toddlers sleep the deepest between 8 pm and midnight. Protect this time as much as possible for a happier toddler!
My favorite toddler bedtime is 7:30 pm with a 6:30 am wake up time, creating a ballpark estimate of 11 hours of nighttime sleep. Knowing that most two year-olds need 12-14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, this leaves 1-2 hours for an afternoon nap. This is when I’ve seen my toddlers the happiest!
Sample schedule #1 – 24 month old
- 7:30 am Wake up | Read | Play | Quiet time
- 8:15 am Breakfast
- 9:00 am Outdoor play, outings, errands, activities, etc.
- 12:00 pm Lunch
- 1:30 pm Nap
- 3:00 pm Wake up
- 3:15 pm Snack
- 5:45 pm Dinner
- 7:15 pm Get ready for bed
- 7:30 pm Reading with mom or dad
- 8:00 pm Bedtime
Sample schedule #2 – 28 month old
- 7:45 am Wake up | Eat breakfast | Get ready
- 8:30 am Activity lesson
- 9:15 am Park time
- 10:00 am Playtime at home
- 12:00 pm Lunch
- 1:30 pm Nap time
- 3:30 pm Wake up | Snack
- 6:00 pm Dinner
- 7:30 pm Bath
- 8:00 pm Bedtime routine | Books | Prayers
- 8:30 pm Bedtime
Sample schedule #3 – 30 month old
- 6:30 am Wake up time | Make bed | Get dressed
- 7:00 am Breakfast | Clean up kitchen with parent
- 7:30 am Play
- 8:30 am Simple chores
- 9:30 am Outside play | Snacks
- 10:30 am Independent play
- 11:30 am Lunch | Clean up
- 12:30 pm Naptime
- 2:00 pm Wake up
- 2:30 pm Park | Exercise | Outside time
- 4:00 pm Screen time | Cook dinner
- 5:30 pm Dinner | Family time
- 6:30 pm Bedtime routine
- 7:30 pm Bed
Find 20+ daily schedules for baby, toddler and kids ages 0 – 5 in Routines, Rhythms and Schedules.
If you’re looking for all things routine, check out our Daily Routine Bundle with checklists, visual routine cards, chore cards, baby routine cards and the routines book.
Nap schedule tips and tricks.
There are several general rules I like to follow when it comes to toddler naps.
1. Keep nap times to as close to after lunch as possible.
If a toddler has enough morning activity and then eats a reasonable lunch, they will start to feel sleepy shortly after eating. Waiting too long can result in a toddler catching a second wind and then refusing to nap.
2. Sleep begets sleep.
2 year olds love to let grown ups think they do not need a nap. Don’t be fooled. Their brains are rapidly growing and developing at this age. Sleep helps their brain process and make sense of information.
Ideally, a two year old will get sleep after about 5-6 hours of wake time in the morning and then have about 4-6 hours of remaining wake time after the nap is over. So for example, if your child wakes up at 7 am, the ideal time to start an afternoon nap would be around 12 or 1 pm (5-6 hours later). They would wake up around 2 or 3 pm and go to bed around 7-8 pm (5-6 hours after waking from a nap).
3. End naps a minimum of 4 hours before bedtime.
Waking a two year old from their nap at least 4 hours before bedtime, helps ensure they aren’t going to be awake until 10 pm each night.
My preference is to stick with waking a child 5+ hours before bedtime, but I understand that sometimes the afternoon gets busy and a toddler might not fall asleep for a nap until 3 or 4 pm.
4. Nap duration ranges from 45 minutes to 3 hours.
The length of your child’s nap should really depend on how much night time sleep they are getting. Ideally a 2 year old will get around 12-14 hours of total sleep in a 24 hour period. You can use that number to help gauge how long your child’s nap needs to be.
Understanding basic 2 year old sleep cycles.
I’m often asked by parents what are the sleep cycles most common for a toddler?
There are 2 types of sleep that we cycle through many times each night. You probably heard this before; however, what makes it different is these cycles last 45 – 60 minutes in children (vs. 90 minutes in adults).
- “Deep” or Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep makes up 75 percent of our sleep. During deep sleep, muscle blood supply is increased, energy is restored, and essential hormones for growth and development are released.
- “Light” or Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep makes up 25 percent of our sleep. During light sleep, our brains are active and dreaming occurs. Our bodies become still and breathing and heart rates are irregular.
Regarding sleep cycles there is no optimal number of sleep hours that applies to all kids.
Per the National Sleep Foundation, most 2 year olds need around 12-14 hours a day. Charts are wonderful, but they can only give you a ballpark estimate because they do not take into account your child’s individualized sleep needs.
Sleep requirements are influenced by growth rates, stress, disease, and other aspects of your child’s physical condition. They may also be influenced by genetics. Sleep patterns also vary significantly across cultures. For example, in China toddlers and preschoolers tend to get less nighttime sleep but make up for it during the day with longer naps.
Navigating toddler sleep regression like a pro.
2 year old sleep regression is a huge challenge point for parents. It’s a time where toddlers are really coming into their own selves and wanting to test boundaries in order to make sense of the world.
If your child is struggling at bedtime, my first suggestion is to try an earlier bedtime. Move bedtime up to a half-hour earlier for at least a week. When kids are too tired, the brain gets excited and refuses to shut off.
If your toddler is struggling with separation anxiety, climbing out of the crib, waking early, refuses to nap or naps too long, or wakes up a lot at night, I wrote in detail about how we handled our toddler’s sleep regression here.
If potty training is causing sleep regression, skip the night time potty training until your child is older and just stick with day time potty training. I promise, it will automatically happen when your child is physically ready for the change. Here’s my take on potty training a toddler without going insane.
Handling bedtime battles with visual routine cards.
Toddlers are not the best verbal word communicators. They are excellent verbal sound communicators – crying, moaning, and squealing for joy 🙂
You can start by printing and creating your own toddler bedtime routine. Allow your child to help you put the cards in order and choose a place that is easy for them to access.
(Note: These cards also work well to create a complete daily schedule for kids.)
As you’re helping your 2 year old get ready for bed, offer as many choices that fit within your boundaries. All kids have 3 basic needs: Power, experience and connection, and they will all show up big time at bedtime.
To help meet your child’s need for power, allow them to make small decisions throughout the routine:
“It’s time to get your pajamas on. Show me which ones to help you with…this one or this one. OH, I picked the wrong one. Let me grab the other one for you.”
“It’s time to brush your teeth. You want to brush your teeth or should I? Tell me who should put the toothpaste on.”
Offering children some really small ways to feel powerful helps them avoid the controlling kid drama. It also has the magical ability to help you keep the your boundary of “it’s bedtime.”
It also helps meet your child’s need for connection with you.
And when kids feel powerful and connected, they are a lot more willing to cooperate with bedtime and skip the fight of coming out 57 times or crying in plea to “Let me out, mama.”