Often we move toddlers into a big kid bed once they’re dangerously close to climbing out of their cribs (or they’ve already managed it!). That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re totally ready for the freedom that a bed brings though, and suddenly you may find yourself with a nightly game of “Put That Toddler Back To Bed!”
Toddlers are learning to be independent humans while struggling with things like nightmares, teething, and round two of separation anxiety (that we thought we were done with back when they were still crawling)! And how do they learn to be independent? By pushing your buttons, of course! Testing boundaries is exactly how toddlers develop independence and learn about consequences. Add all those things together, and you’ve got the recipe for a very difficult bedtime. If you’re struggling with keeping your sweet Houdini in his big boy bed, or if you can’t get through the night without bringing your little one into your own bed, don’t worry! I have some great tips that can help you manage toddler sleep!
Creating a safe sleep environment is a great way to encourage your little kid to stay put at bedtime. You want to make sure that there is nothing she can get into, and nothing that will keep her distracted from sleeping (so all of those awesome toys might need to be put out of sight for a while!). Having a dark room and using white noise helps to keep a toddler asleep, but the biggest thing is creating a space that your 2 or 3-year-old feels safe in. Let your toddler help pick out her sheets, use a bedtime buddy that she can hug and sleep with, and always come back to check on her when you say you will. Building trust is a huge part of getting our smart cookies to stay in bed – they need to know that their space is safe and comforting for them, and that you’ll be there to check on them if they need it.
BEDTIME IS THE BEST TIME
Developing good sleep habits always start with bedtime! One of the best ways to make bedtime smoother is to create a bedtime routine. With toddlers, this is a great way to get them involved! Let your little guy pick which part of the routine comes next, or use a sticker chart like My Starry Chart to encourage independence as well as following a bedtime routine. Using a sticker chart can help you to set boundaries and expectations while rewarding your kids in a fun way for working on their sleep skills! The thing about rewards is that they don’t need to be anything fancy – you can let your toddler choose which park to go to the next day, what to make for a snack, or have a stash of small toys for when they get enough stars at the end of the week. To use a rewards system, talk to your toddler the next morning about how he did with sleeping in their own bed. If he stayed in bed, he gets a reward or a sticker! If not, that’s OK, we can try again tonight!
STICK WITH IT
Teaching your toddler to sleep in her own bed takes time and patience. It is not a one-night fix, and it’s going to get frustrating. Remember that this is a new skill for your toddler, and it’s going to take some practice. So dig deep, Mama, and stick with it. Being consistent is the key to any changes in routine. To make this easier for yourself, talk to your toddler! Tell her all about how she’s a big girl now and it’s time to sleep in her own bed. Make this transition as positive as possible – show her the sticker chart you’re going to use, talk about the rewards, and layout how bedtime is going to look. Talk about it all day! When it comes to bedtime, work through your routine together, and remind your toddler that she’s going to stay in her own bed like a big kid tonight. If she does get up, you need to be all business and get her back to bed quickly with little to no fuss. If you need to use consequences (like leaving the room) make sure they are consequences that you can act on right now – taking away treats for tomorrow isn’t going to have enough impact since a toddler’s sense of time isn’t great. Most importantly, be honest! If you say you’re going to check on your kiddo in 3 minutes, set a timer and come back in 3 minutes! If your toddler knows you’re going to come back when you say you will, she will trust that her bed is a safe place and that she’s OK to settle down to sleep.
Toddler bedtime can be tough, Mama. But if you create a safe space, make a plan and stick with it, you’ll have an independent sleeper and extra space in your bed!
If you’re struggling with bedtime, reach out to a Mama Coach in your area who can help build a custom sleep plan for you and your toddler! If you want to get your very own My Starry Chart, a 3-in-1 kid’s educational calendar, healthy habits routine chart and skill-building game, use promo code Mamacoach10 to get 10% off!