Many of our little vibrant toddlers resist bedtime. They hate leaving the thrill of running, climbing and playing. Around 18 months they start to go through a very independent phase, where “No!” is their favorite word. And the tired-er they get, the more rigid, hyper and irritable.
They say a third of all toddlers plus half of preschoolers regularly stall at bedtime…and many downright fight it. So the chances are big your precious little one is one of them!
It’s totally natural for toddlers to refuse to sleep at bedtime (and naps!). But this was just the moment you saw yourself crashing on the couch with a cup of thee and take a moment to unwind.
So, if you’re trying to figure out how to get your toddler to sleep, then use the tips below:
1. Define bedtime
Set a goal. Get into a routine with a goal bedtime that’s the same each and every night, even on weekends.
Not only will it help you as the parent, but it will also set the expectation for your child. Younger toddlers won’t necessarily have a concept of time, but they’ll feel it. Their internal clock is always ticking.
Tip: If you’re attempting to shift a very late bedtime earlier, try moving it forward by just 5 to 15 minutes at a time until you reach your goal.
2. Wind down and create quality time
Once you set bedtime, create a whole routine around it. You may want to start helping your child relax about 30 minutes before lights out. During this winding-down time, dim the lights and give your child a warm bath.
After changing into PJs and brushing teeth, read a favorite book, tell a story, or sing a song. This is also a good moment to talk with your child attentively and listen to his experiences of that day. Quality time can be created in even as little as 3 minutes and it helps your little one to feel seen. Then it’s lights off, a quick kiss, and goodnight.
3. Provide comfort
Part of the nighttime routine may also be choosing a lovey that your child sleeps with, something to provide comfort when you leave the room.
If your child is afraid of the dark, you might consider looking for a dim night light.
5. Set limits and communicate
Even the best routines are useless if you respond to your child’s demands. “Just one more story, I’m thirsty!” Does that sound familiar? This last request can be hard to resist. Whatever the case may be, try setting a limit. You may want to create the expectation that you read one story, give one goodnight kiss, and then tuck your little one in to sleep.
Limits also apply to when your child gets out of bed. If your child is constantly leaving their room, consider giving them a “bedtime pass” of something like that. Tell them they’re allowed just one extra glass of water or one extra kiss — but it’s one-and-done. Doing so may help them feel that they have some control over situation. Talk with your kid about going to sleep, preferably before bedtime (maybe even in the morning) so they know what you expect of him at bedtime. Let him repeat the ‘rules’ in his own words so you know he understands what will happen.
6. Check the sleep space
Is your child’s room too warm or cold? Too bright or dark? Too noisy or quiet? Your toddler may have trouble sleeping because they’re uncomfortable or overstimulated in some way.
The best sleep environment is cool, dark, and quiet. Take a look around and see if there are any possible issues. If outdoor light is pouring in from the windows, try blackout curtains. If you can hear lots of noise, try a white noise machine to drown it out. If it’s too hot or cold, try a fan or turn up the heat.
7. Look at daytime sleep
Your child may need some modification to their napping schedule. If they seem overtired at the end of the day, consider prioritizing naps so you get closer to their daily sleep needs. If your child doesn’t seem tired enough at bedtime, consider shortening naps or eliminate them.
Regardless, make sure the nap is early enough in the day that your child has a long enough wake window before bedtime. And if your tot seems to need rest but will not nap during the day, consider offering quiet time in his room instead.
8. BE CONSISTENT
(Yes in capitals)
No matter what you choose to do, stick with it. Even if your new plan doesn’t seem to be working, try it for at least for a few nights. You’re working to create a predictable rhythm and an expectation. It can take some time for your child’s habits to shift in response.
If your tactics still aren’t making any change after a week, then you can reevaluate.
The bottom line
Bedtime resistance is natural and nothing to worry about. But helping your child create good sleep hygiene is something that will benefit them for the rest of their life.
If your toddler’s bedtime is not the only thing you are dealing with and you could use some more advice about your child’s sleep habits, don’t hesitate to contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org . Happy to talk to you!