Many parents find that the toddler years become a struggle when bedtime arrives each day. The toddler will cry and beg to stay up later. Many toddlers will refuse to stay in their rooms and it will become a battle just to have them lay down and fall asleep. Often parents begin to dread bedtime each night because they know that the battle will begin and it will often take two hours to get their toddler to sleep.
Here are ten steps to build up good sleep patterns for your toddlers so you do not have to deal with a difficult situation at bedtime.
1) Toddlers crave routine. They truly like things to remain the same each and every day. This gives them a deep sense of security. In order to form this behavior which will lead to good sleep patterns you need to begin when your child is a baby. Lay your baby down at the same time each night. Lay with your baby until he or she falls asleep in the dark. Make sleep a relaxing and happy time for your baby so that when your little one becomes a toddler sleep does not represent something bad because there has never been anything negative associated with it during the childs short life.
2) Begin to unwind with your toddler two hours before bed. Do not let your toddler run around wildly in the evening. My babies know that when evening time comes its a time to quietly play, watch television as a family, and relax. This feeling of peacefulness helps prepare them for bed. I also always give my children a bath in the two hours that precedes bed. I believe this also helps to relax them and prepare them for a good nights sleep. Many parents are under the assumption that if they wear their children out before bedtime they will fall asleep faster and sleep better but this is not true. A tired toddler is difficult and often impossible to get to fall asleep. If a child is all wired from running and playing they do not want to fall asleep and bedtime becomes a nightmare.
3) In the last thirty minutes before bedtime do something fun with your child. When I was little my mother would read a book to me in bed. I now do this for my children. Every night its a different book. They both get excited and we head in to bed together. I lay with them and read the story they want to hear. Its a fun and relaxing time. I speak in a soft voice and I gently read. This behavior will inspire your children to adore books as they grow older, too.
4) Once I am done reading the book my little ones know that its time for lights out. This is non negotiable. I turn the lights out and I lay beside my little ones until they fall asleep. This normally occurs in less then ten minutes with no problem.
5) You need to always have a set bedtime and no matter what do not veer away from this bedtime. Your child will ask if he or she can stay up later because all children ask but the answer needs to always be, “No”. If your child thinks they can negotiate then they will know that bedtime is not written in stone and this will make problems arise over time. So do not give in on bedtime. Always have a set bedtime no matter what. Also always try to be home at bedtime. You should not be out with your children passed bedtime unless there is no other option. Children should know that when bedtime rolls around they are always home and safely tucked in.
6) I do not let my children drink caffeine before bed and I do not let them have sugary snacks right before bed.
7) I do not let my children watch television in bed. Many parents will lay their children down and turn a movie on for them to watch. I have seen the effects of this behavior firsthand. The child will not fall asleep and will end up watching television until all hours of the night as they progress from the toddler years. This destructive behavior can even be more pronounced in the teenage years when a child will watch television all night long and then be late for school the next morning.
8) I let my children choose one beloved toy to take to bed. This is normally a doll or a stuffed animal. They seem to enjoy being able to take a special toy to bed and I think it gives them a good experience when its time to head in to bed to be able to take a toy of their choice with them.
9) When the days stay light longer during the summertime I always make sure that the blinds are drawn at bedtime and that no sunshine shines into the bedroom. When children see the sun still shining they don’t want to go to bed but here in the Pacific Northwest the sun does not set in the height of summer until ten pm.
10) Always have a glass of water on hand in case your child wants a sip of water before bed or during the night. Children will often ask for water in order to delay sleep or as an excuse to get up repeatedly.
These ten steps will help you put your toddler to bed with ease.