I get this question all of the time. “My 3 year old keeps coming out of their bed, how can I keep them in there”, or “ I have to sit with my little one until they fall asleep but this can take hours”. It can be a really frustrating process so here are my top tips to help tackle this issue.
TOO SOON -
Firstly I recommend not making the move too early. So if your little one is still in a cot I recommend keeping them there till as close to 3 years of age as you safely can. For some the transition is smooth, they don’t have any issues no matter the age their little one was during the transition. For many though, moving their LO from a cot to a bed has been their undoing. This is often because many parents make the move around 2. This is such a primary time for your child to be pushing boundaries but also not the best time for their understanding of action/consequence. So if you take the physical boundary away be sure they have the level of understanding for communicated boundaries.
BREAKING THE CYCLE –
If your little one is in a bed I firstly recommend using a stamp chart. So on the chart is a list of their activities leading into bed.
Bath - Drink – Brush teeth – Toilet – Bed. They pop a stamp or a sticker next to each activity straight after doing it.
This will help you remain on track and really helps cause less push back during the bedtime routine. It is also a great point of reference once your little one is in bed and begins to request “one more drink” “one more book”, you can show them they have already done the above. Little ones who have sleep issues at this age are often running the show, they’ve become in charge of bedtime. This can bring with it overwhelm, so this chart can really help disrupt the normal cycle, it will keep your little one distracted and give them a sense of control whilst still maintaining a good routine.
This is so important when it comes to little ones and their bedtime. Often we are so ready to call it a day, we appease their requests just to get our kids to bed. The problem is the more they get, the more they want. It doesn’t take them long to work out when the best time is to push boundaries, before you know it bedtime becomes a series of requests and demands - leading to a lengthy, drawn out process. More importantly when it comes to boundaries it is really important to keep them in a positive and confident manner. The more frustrated you become the closer your little one thinks they are to getting what they want, chances are they are right too.
Keep bedtime positive and remove the pressure of sleep. Adding pressure and emotion to the act of your little one falling asleep will only create negative association with bedtime. Use phrases such as lie quietly for example.
ESSENTIAL TO MAKING CHANGE –
Make sure you aren’t an audience to a performance, it is one thing you having to be in the room, it is a totally different story when you’re there for 2 hours watching your toddler muck around and put on a show. Create a currency, “lying quietly or Mummy will leave the room” for example. So the first step is to reduce the time that you’re in the room, the way to do that is to make sure your little one is lying quietly not performing. It is really important to have a great plan and be consistent. I also recommend starting from the beginning of the night, make sure everyone is on board and plan ahead.
I receive many questions and calls for help with toddler’s sleep, many parents are under the assumption they’ve left it too late or their little one is just a bad sleeper. It doesn’t have to be the case and it’s never too late. Making good sleep a priority for your toddler is essential. It has the ability to impact their behaviour, development, skill acquisition, mood, physical and emotional well - being. If you are having issues with your little ones sleep let’s make changes to truly give them the best start to life.
Tara Mitchell – The Gentle Sleep Specialist