Parenting children one to three years old can be challenging at times, especially at bedtime. Making the transition from crib to toddler bed intensifies the challenge. If you are going through intense struggles getting your toddler to go to bed peaceably, there are certain things that can help guide you in this.
As your family grows you will learn that every child is different. Some will be laid back and easier to manage, while others may be high-spirited, extremely active and more difficult to settle down at bedtime. Some children can usually cry themselves to sleep as their bodies naturally produce serotonin (a calming hormone), but a high-spirited child's level of cortisol and other stress hormones will only increase as they become more anxious and frustrated actually working themselves into a fit.
The average toddler needs between 11 to 13 hours of sleep each night. When they don't have enough sleep other problems will surface, such as:
Behavior ~ trouble complying, becoming overactive
Mood ~ increased irritability, whiny, cranky
Brain Function ~ shortened attention span, memory, and problem solving skills
Social Behavior ~ trouble getting along with other family members
As your toddler gets older, nap times should become more limited until a nap is no longer needed. Too much nap time will result in having trouble sleeping at night, but no nap, especially when your toddler is very young, will produce the results listed above.
Set the Stage
A regular structured routine is best for your toddler. Try to set a strict nap time, a reasonable bedtime, and an awake time in the morning seven days a week. If weekend schedules vary, try to keep the difference within an hour.
Your child's room:
should be darkened using blinds or shades on the windows (especially in the summer)
kept cooler in temperature between 68 and 72 degrees
quiet (a sound machine or soothing music can be helpful)
Make sure that your child gets plenty of exercise and stimulating activities throughout the day. After dinner start notching activities down to a minimum by turning off the television or stereo getting your child prepared and relaxed for bedtime.
A daily bedtime routine that takes approximately 30-60 minutes every night helps to ensure that your child will fall asleep and stay that way through the night. Try to head off all of their possible questions, such as one last trip to the potty, a final drink of water, or kiss the puppy good night.
Possible bedtime routines could include:
10-15 minute warning to give them time to clean up toys or finish what they were doing
Reading time helps them to relax and sleep better
Cuddle, hugs, kisses, good night time, and prayers
Once all of these things are done, that should be it. Make sure that they know that this is not playtime or talking time, but time to go to sleep. Assure your child that you will keep them company until they fall asleep.
It is now your time as a parent to get up and walk away. Stay close by doing quiet activities such as folding laundry, working near computer, paying the bills, looking over your mail, or reading a book. As long as you are within visual range, your child will be comfortable knowing you're near. In doing these things you are building security in your child along with an emotional connection to you that helps them learn to fall asleep on their own. Kids bed time can be a fun ritual after all.
What rituals have you found that work for a successful kids bed time? Plase do share! We'd love to hear from you!