Toddlers. We love them. They are active, sweet and special and they amaze us and melt our heart on an hourly basis. But, WOW, some of them love to test us and fight sleep. Especially when it becomes so frustrating to get your toddler get to bed and stay in bed.
While there are many toddlers out there that go to sleep happily and you don’t hear from them until morning, there are many other toddlers who like to try and negotiate, stall or delay (like the best lawyer in town). Since I know that there are many Sleep Baby Love readers who are struggling with their toddler’s bedtime process, here are help create a solid bedtime process to help your toddlers go to bed and STAY asleep.
Tip 1: Teach your child what is expected of them:
As parents we sometimes expect a lot from our children. So much, that we forget that a couple/few short years ago, they were just a tiny little newborn that you were rocking to sleep. We have to set our expectations that as much as we would like LOVE for our kids to oblige to everything we do and say, they are just young kids whose minds run a mile a minute. By knowing that going through a bedtime routine isn’t always fun or easy for some toddlers – we can help make it easier and more fun by thinking about things from a child’s perspective.
Tip 2: Make your bedtime routine fun:
Try having fun throughout the bedtime process:
- Sing silly songs while brushing teeth.
- Have a race to get into pajamas.
- Play a fun game as part of your bedtime routine (I Spy, Rhyme words, Simon Says).
- Be careful not to rile your toddler up before bedtime, but do things that will help them enjoy the bedtime process.
Tip 3: Eliminate the power struggle:
You are the parent and you set the rules and the time that your toddler goes to sleep. But, giving options and picking battles to eliminate a full on power struggle will make your bedtime routine much more enjoyable (for both you). Provide options throughout the bedtime process to help empower your child:
- Would you like to wear these pajamas or these?
- Would you like to brush your teeth before or after bath?
- Would you like to pick your books or should I?
Tip 4: Set Sleep Rules:
Does your toddler really know what it means to go to sleep? Ask them. I’d love to hear the different responses. Assuming your toddler is out of a crib and transitioned to a big bed – your child’s big room allows them a lot of freedom and of course some would choose to play vs. going to sleep. If you are struggling on a nightly basis to get your child to sleep, get back to basics. Have a family meeting and explain the rules of sleep and how sleep works:
“You lay in your bed, shut your eyes and go to sleep.” (yes that simply).
Explain in your child’s language the benefits of sleep and how it helps them grow big and strong and spend more time (playing at the park, running fast, etc.).
Tip #5: Offer Rewards for Following the Sleep Rules:
Use a sticker chart to help reward your toddler for following the sleep rules. Have they stayed in their bed the whole night? Could they earn a shiny sticker? Get your child invested in the process by having them help make the chart (or pick out an online printable). Include them in shopping and picking out the stickers.
Sometimes rewards can be short lived for your child…. like the shiny sticker or star loses the allure pretty quickly. This way go ahead and just focus on giving the reward of a ton of positive praise. The attention is a better solution for many children.
Tip #6: Blame Somebody Else:
Going to sleep is not always your toddler’s favorite subject and if your child is still resistant to the act of going to sleep, I give you permission from this point on to blame me, Sleep Susie. Tell them that you have a friend that is going to help you follow your sleep rules. This will help you not look like the bad guy and hopefully your child wants to do what Sleep Susie says.
Share your success:
So who’s ready to make some changes to help set the framework for your toddler’s sleep? Make sure that you share your success with me – I love to hear a good story on how implementing changes can help your toddler sleep better at night (without the battles). Feel free to say “hi” if you made it all the way to the end of this article – you would make my day. There is a lot to talk about regarding toddler sleep, so this will be the first of many toddler related posts. Get ready!