When it comes to the bedtime routine of a toddler who has just made the transition from crib to toddler bed, it’s not usually getting your child to fall asleep that isn’t easy. It’s getting your toddler to stay in their new big kid bed.
Once they can leave their bed and get out the bedroom door, it feels like the sleep training you put all that work into when they were an infant has gone out the window.
If you’re looking for a bedtime routine for your toddler that will make your child’s sleep last through the night in their bed calmly, then this article is for you.
If you’re tired, and your alarm clock has now become your toddler as they refuse to stay in bed, opt instead to climb into your bed, where they thrash around all night like an intoxicated octopus searching for its car keys, then this article is for you.
Read on as we guide you through some ideas on how to keep toddler in bed, stay asleep through the night, and develop sleep routines that will help the entire family get some rest that lasts longer than one or two hours at a time.
From baby to toddler
Sleep problems such as sleep regression occur at various stages of your child’s development.
At 18 months, for example, many toddlers experience a significant bout with separation anxiety. They tend to wake up, realize that mommy isn’t in the room with them, and come out of the toddler bed searching for you.
For many of us as parents, we don’t have the same bedtime routine as our toddlers, so it seems that we just put our heads down on the pillow for the night when we hear the dreaded sound of our child’s bedroom door opening and them coming in to get a snuggle.
Regressions occur for all kids. These tend to coincide with developmental milestones for infants, toddlers, and children.
For an eighteen-month-old, they are starting to look for you and want your presence close by, even when they enjoy the independent play.
This behavior doesn’t end at bedtime, which is why you can’t get your little one to stay in bed willingly in a room by themselves.
How to keep toddler in bed or in their room
There are a lot of tricks and tips to keep your toddler in their room and their bed.
Not every trick works for every child, but for a tired parent who wants nothing more than their kid to stay in bed, these suggestions and ideas are worth a shot.
Remember to try your best to stay calm, no matter how frustrated or tired you get.
Sleeping solo is a brand new experience for a child. Your panic and frustration will carry over to your little one and make the experience more challenging.
1. Get a toddler alarm clock
You may think an alarm clock is just for those who have to get up and out of bed at a specific time.
A toddler alarm clock, however, can be a lifesaver once you have spent the time necessary to teach your child how to use it.
These devices focus less on time because a toddler has no concept of time. Instead, these clocks notify them of when it’s okay to get up and out of bed for the new day.
The clock works by changing colors, playing a tune or song, or lighting up whenever you set it.
When your child wakes up in the middle of the night, they can glance at the clock and see that it’s not yet time to get out of bed.
This can solve bedtime problems for the older toddler who wants to be a big boy or girl and use a clock-like mommy or daddy.
2. Install a baby gate
The baby gate is one of the significant innovations for parents with toddlers who can entertain themselves but tend to wander the house or invade your room in search of you when they wake up after bed.
Placing a sturdy baby gate in their doorway can keep your toddler corralled in their bedroom at night.
This way, you can keep your toddler safe in their room and work on teaching them that when they wake up before it’s time to get out of bed and start the day, they have to stay in their room.
3. Bring back the baby monitor
You may think that just because your toddler has started sleeping in their own room and their own bed, you don’t have a use for that monitor anymore.
However, this gadget can still prove very useful.
Setting up your baby monitor so you can check in on your child at night when they wake up can be a great way to help you get your kiddo to sleep through the night.
If your child needs to scream their lungs out, which may send you running to check their safety, you can simply check the video monitor from your device and be sure that they are okay and don’t need you to come to your room.
Other parents simply feel better continuing to use the monitor to check in on their toddler after bedtime without going to their room and making a fuss.
4. Drop down to one nap per day
Depending upon your toddler’s age, you may find it necessary to cut nap time down to just one nap a day in the early afternoon.
A tired child will sleep better, regardless of the setting, and is less likely to get out of bed or leave their room.
If you’re unsure that your child is ready, look up sleep requirements for a child that matches the specific age of your toddler.
A quick site search on a legitimate website should tell you whether you are ready to cut naptime.
How to get a toddler to sleep in their bed
If you’ve transitioned from crib to toddler or twin bed, and you want your child to sleep throughout the night in their room after bedtime, then you may want to check out the following tips:
1. Start slowly but surely
If you were room-sharing up until your toddler turned one or so and then moved them to their room, take time to transition from crib to regular bed.
Switching from crib to bed is easiest if you have a convertible crib that breaks into a toddler bed.
Start with the crib assembled in the room until your child gets used to this new space all night.
Some parents try to rush this transition and lose a lot of sleep.
Look for cues from your toddler that they are in distress.
If nothing else you are trying is working, there’s a chance they aren’t ready to be in a regular bed yet.
2. Make it fun
Just about every child enjoys a sticker chart. It’s fun and easy for your child to see positive reinforcement when displaying good bedtime habits.
Enthusiasm is also a clear signal that your toddler is ready to be in bed all night.
If they can understand the cause and effect that goes with this chart, they are likely kids who are developed enough to sleep till morning in bed.
Each night at bedtime, remind them that if they stay in bed till morning, they will get a sticker on their chart.
You can set the goal for anything you want, but try not to make it one that is too far into the future.
The system loses efficacy if children don’t see a return on their good habits in enough time.
The reward can be anything. A park day on the weekend. A trip to the zoo. Ice cream for dessert.
If it’s something that your child wants, it creates incentive, and toddler sleep can be a reality rather than a distant hope.
Place the chart on their wall, the refrigerator door, or anywhere they can keep track of it and see their progress.
3. Check-in regularly
Toddler sleep is more achievable if they know that they aren’t alone.
You can help soothe separation anxiety by promising to check in with your children each night at intervals.
A stressed and sleepy child still awake may need someone in the family (usually the mom) to come to the room and check-in.
Remember that this is not a time for play but one routine that needs to go the same way each time to work optimally. Kids thrive with routine.
Simply stick your head through the door, and if your child or children are still awake, take a few moments to talk to them quietly and calmly and remind them that they need to be asleep so that they can have fun and play the following day.
Assure them that mom is here and will see them bright and early the next day. Then calmly close the door and don’t return until it’s time for the next check-in.
You can start to cut these visits down until, eventually, the door stays closed and your children are sleeping all night.
4. Stay silent
Supposed your child can’t lay in bed alone for any amount of time and continues to pop up like a jack-in-the-box throughout the night wherever you are. Playing, talking, reading, or doing anything other than leading them back to bed can delay progress by weeks.
Stay quiet and simply lead your child back to their room. Point to their bed, and wait for your toddler to go back to bed.
While you can’t expect this to work immediately, eventually, your child will catch on that waking up and roaming the house isn’t going to get them any extra playtime.
Sleep training toddlers and older children
If you’re a mom at the end of her rope, afraid that the light at the end of the tunnel is never coming, take a deep breath.
Routine is the key to sleeping and waking appropriately for everyone.
If you find one method isn’t working, wait and try it again later.
Some toddlers simply aren’t quite ready yet. Stick with a routine that involves putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, reading a bedtime story, and then going to bed.
You can win this battle, and it’s a battle worth fighting for.
For you and your child to get that much needed rest, stick with it. You’re not being mean. You’re not traumatizing your child.
You’re simply helping your toddler develop healthy habits and routines that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.