Bedtime snacks can be part of a healthy toddler bedtime routine that helps the kids wind down, fill their bellies, and be ready for a good night of sleep. Here’s how to choose one, how to know if your child needs one, and more tips on healthy toddler sleep.
This post is sponsored by JoySpring
Incorporating a bedtime snack into your toddler’s nightly routine can be an easy way to ensure that they’ve had enough to eat, help them settle down for bed, and can help to fill in any nutritional needs that they might have missed during the day. To me, bedtime snacks aren’t always necessary—especially if you go right from dinner into bath and the bedtime routine with little time for them to work up an appetite—but they can be a great option if your child regularly says they’re hungry before bed.
Toddler Bedtime Routine
Taking some time to think through your toddler’s bedtime routine and how you may include a bedtime snack can be a great thing to do ahead of time—and I’m talking like 5 minutes of thinking, not a big giant project! In our house, our routine looks like this for all of our kids:
- Bath time (some nights)
- Bedtime snack (some nights)
- Brushing teeth
- Lights out and good night
TIP: We’ve tried to do the same bedtime routine from the time our kids were babies so they knew what to expect even as things like breastfeeding and cribs changed. We even made up a bedtime song where we sing goodnight to all of our family members which is the final cue before bed.
How to Choose Bedtime Snacks
My best advice when deciding what to offer for a bedtime snack is to choose something fairly boring that the kids like fine, but probably wouldn’t ask for on their own. I’ve found that it’s really helpful to make the snack option always be the same thing to cut down on bedtime stalling and to make it easier for you to know if the kids are really hungry.
TIP: In my house, if a child says they’re hungry when we say it’s time for bed it’s “You can have a banana or be hungry for breakfast.” Then, if they choose the banana, it’s easy to eat, will fill their bellies, but they probably won’t eat it if they aren’t truly hungry.
Best Bedtime Snacks for Kids
There are lots of other foods that work well as a bedtime snack to help promote sleepiness and take care of any cries of “I’m hungry” as it’s time for bed. All of these snacks hit on the main food groups that little kids need each day, so they can fill in any nutritional gaps. But they are also straight forward, low on the fun food scale, and are easy to eat.
An applesauce pouch, either store bought or in a reusable pouch, can be a straight forward and simple bedtime snack.
You already know that this is my favorite and it’s nice because it boasts magnesium and potassium, which can help with sleep a little too.
My one year old burns through food really quickly and often needs a heartier bedtime snack. I like to give him a mix of fruit, fat and protein, and this super Easy Banana Yogurt is one of his current favorites.
A bowl of berries can be comforting and delicious, and a nice dose of vitamins and fiber.
5. Cheese stick
With protein and calcium and a yummy flavor, a plain old cheese stick is an easy bedtime snack that’s filling for little bellies.
6. Dry Cereal
Pick your favorite healthy cereal and let that be a simple bedtime snack with or without a small serving of milk.
7. Granola Bar
Whether you prefer store bought or homemade, a granola bar or snack bar can be a nice source of calming complex carbohydrates to satisfy the kids hunger.
8. Hard-cooked Egg
If you have a few hard-cooked eggs on hand, you can serve one up as a protein-packed snack. This is also a great example of a bedtime snack with a food that the kids might like fine, but would probably never request at snack time on their own—so you know they’re actually hungry if they want it!
9. Mini Bagel and Cream Cheese
With complex carbohydrates and protein, this simple kids snack is great anytime of the day, but is particularly comforting right before bed.
10. Peanut Butter Toast
A simple slice of toast, sliced into sticks or cubed for easy toddler chewing, is a healthy snack to serve before bed. Top with nut or seed butter and jam like Chia Jam.
11. Whole Grain Crackers and Cheese
A few crackers and a slice of cheese is a simple snack to offer right before bed.
12. Whole Grain Muffin
If you have a batch of muffins in the fridge or freezer, you can offer one (or half of one) as a bedtime snack. Easy and yummy!
How do I know if I my child is hungry or just stalling bedtime?
There’s no magic way to know that, which is why I recommend not making the bedtime snack options too exciting. This reduces the chances that the kids will use that as a stalling tactic and also avoids the potential of them skipping their dinner to hold out for their favorite snack. So keep any bedtime snack simple, fairly boring, and not their favorite food and you can at least have a pretty good idea of whether your child is hungry or not. They may still try to stall bedtime though!
Can melatonin help with toddler sleep?
On nights when my middle kiddo had a random late nap or is otherwise having a hard time settling down, we turn to what we call “sleep vitamins”, or gummies with melatonin as part of our bedtime routine. It was originally recommended to me by a friend, so I did some research and found that this supplement has been found to be helpful in occasionally helping kids get a good night of sleep.
It’s not meant to be used regularly, but it’s proven to be a helpful tool in our nighttime tool kit for those sporadic rough nights. We like the Sleep Berry gummies from Joyspring. (They also make a liquid version. You can take 25% off your order with the code YTF25 here.)
TIP: Read more on melatonin and kids from the American Academy of Pediatrics here and as with all supplements, talk to your pediatrician before using with your kids.
Best Tips for Kids Bedtime Snacks
- Keep the food simple and straight forward and not their favorite food to help you know if the child is actually hungry.
- If there’s regularly more than 90 minutes between dinner and bedtime, it’s possible your child will need a snack before bed.
- Choose 1 or 2 options for bedtime snacks in your house so you know exactly what to offer if the subject comes up—and you can avoid a lengthy negotiation of which foods the kids can have.
- Try “you can have a banana or be hungry for breakfast”. (Obviously insert whichever food you are using if it’s not a banana!)
- Include 2 food groups if your child is regularly really hungry by bedtime, including protein and/or fat to keep those bellies full.
- Consider a sleep supplement to help with occasional toddler sleep troubles as part of your bedtime routine. Check in with your pediatrician for more info on whether it’s a good option for your family.
Choose one of these healthy bedtime snacks to offer a simple, yet nourishing snack to end the day. (Nutrition info will vary based on which snack you choose.)
- Choose one bedtime snack or choose two and let the child pick.
- Serve without distractions, then brush teeth and continue with the bedtime routine.
Keep the food simple and straight forward and not their favorite food to help you know if the child is actually hungry.
If there’s regularly more than 90 minutes between dinner and bedtime, it’s possible your child will need a snack before bed.
Choose 1 or 2 options for bedtime snacks in your house so you know exactly what to offer if the subject comes up—and you can avoid a lengthy negotiation of which foods the kids can have.
Try “you can have a banana or be hungry for breakfast”. (Obviously insert whichever food you are using if it’s not a banana!)
Include 2 food groups if your child is regularly really hungry by bedtime, including protein and/or fat to keep those bellies full.
I’d love to know how you use bedtime snacks in your house, so please comment below to add to the conversation!