15 Ways to Play Your Toddler into Bed

by Julia Pelly May 09, 2022

toddler wearing head scarf in bed

Parenthood is full of surprises. In the first few years of my kiddo's life, I was surprised by how well I could function on so little sleep, how much of a mess one tiny human could make, and just how mad the words “I think it’s your turn” could make me feel when it was not, in fact, my turn.

My biggest surprise of all, though, has been that I, worrier of the electric bill and enforcer of the no-screen time rules, am actually super fun. When we go to the park I chase my son with wild abandon, at home I can build a mean lego tower. I’ve fully embraced playful parenting and take pride in finding fun and joy in the everyday tasks of parenthood.

One parenting task that sometimes takes a great deal of effort to turn playful is bedtime. By the time the sun sets my boy and I are often both wiped out and, while exhaustion turns me grumpy, it turns him wild. Our mismatched moods, along with the fact that bedtime often feels like a race against the clock (there goes my sole hour of relaxation each day!), sometimes combine to make for a rocky path to the bed.

A few months ago, in an effort to bring playful parenting to bedtime, I started thinking long and hard about how to get my kid from the floor (where he usually plants himself at bedtime) into the bed without tears, struggle, or fuss.

If you have a kid who hates the bedtime transition, I invite you to try out one of the many, many ways I’ve used playful parenting to get my kiddo to bed with smiles and giggles all around. Check out the list below.

1 | Spread out a blanket and roll your kiddo into a taco. Deliver her into bed like a waiter delivering dinner to a table.

2 | Mime a fishing poll, hook your kid using your arm, and trek towards bed as he wiggles with giggles like a fish out of water.

3 | Scoop your tot up like the digger at her favorite construction site and drop her into bed like a pile of dirt. Authentic digger noises are much appreciated.

4 | Start to beep as you lean down slowly and catch your babe's ankles. Lift him slowly and carefully, carrying him across the room to his bed. Lower him gently like a crane lowering heavy building materials.

5 | If your kiddo is resistant to being lifted, scooped, or rolled into bed, challenge her to a frog race and hop your way towards her bed. Last one to the lily pad reads the bedtime story!

6 | Ask your little snake to slither his way to bed and chase behind him, nipping his heels like a wild snake catcher.

7 | Everybody loves a good rock band. Pick your kid up and strum on her tummy like a guitar. Lower her onto the stage so that she can play a solo.

8 | Bake a kiddo-cake! Crack imaginary eggs on his tummy, pour in the water and oil, and watch his smile rise as you stir him into a fit of giggles and pour him into the pan (his bed) to bake.

9 | Have a pizza party. Using your best pizza-man voice, decorate your little one with imaginary pepperonis, sprinkle on the cheese, and lift her towards the bed on two flattened, pizza paddle arms.

10 | Let your little star shine! Line up your child’s stuffed animals and ask him to hop on stage to perform in the animal-land talent show.

11 | Give your little one tickets to the one-and-only Mom & Dad (or whichever grown-up is putting them to bed) Show. Put on a 60 second variety show complete with a song and dance, a joke, and a physical trick like juggling or somersaulting.

12 | Channel your inner giant and herd your kiddo to bed using a deep, giant voice and heavy play-stomps.

13 | Have your partner grab your child’s wrists while you hold tight to her ankles and swing her into bed with a gentle landing.

14 | Fold the corners of a blanket upwards to make a pouch as your babe sits in the middle. Heave him over your shoulder like Santa Claus and head towards his bed to drop him down the chimney.

15 | Take your kiddo's ticket and ask her to hop on the bedtime train. Chugga-chugga-chug your way towards her bed.

Enjoy bedtime!

Julia Pelly


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