Toddler sleep habits can be challenging and often it’s difficult to get toddlers to go to sleep and stay asleep. Last year we struggled with transitioning E from his baby bedtime routine to his toddler routine, but I’m glad to say we’ve figured it out. E has easily been going to bed for the past several months and we’ve all adjusted to his toddler sleep patterns. I’ve been getting questions about his bedtime routine on Instagram, so I wanted to talk about it today.
We start by having E pick up all his toys in the main living areas. We help as long as he’s working at cleaning up too. If he refuses we simply say, “looks like these toys are going to time out, since they’re being left out of your room” (read more of my key parenting phrases here). Usually he will pick up his toys when we say that phrase, but if he doesn’t we simply put them in the top shelf of our closet after he has gone to bed.
Wildkin step stool (c/o)
Next we help E brush his teeth and change into pajamas. Sometimes he refuses to put on his pajamas, so we’ve decided to let him sleep in anything he wants except his clothes from the day. He loves to choose his PJs, so he usually changes easily. If he’s too tired or fights getting into his pajamas, we pull his clothes off him from that day and say “I guess you’ve decided to sleep in your underwear tonight”. This approach puts an end to any protests he has about getting changed and the responsibility of choosing what he sleeps in is all his.
Then we let him choose a book to read. He usually tries to stall bedtime during this, so I’ve started saying “You have ten seconds to choose a book, or you’ll have to tuck yourself in”. I mentally count slowly to ten and if he hasn’t chosen a book, I walk out of the room. I’ve only had to walk out twice. He’s learned it’s much more fun to choose a book quickly and be read too than have mom walk out of the room.
Wildkin Comforter Set (c/o)
We read a book, say prayers, and tuck him in. Sometimes he’ll go to sleep immediately. Other times he gets out of bed right away. If he does I’ll say “Are you not tired enough to sleep? You can play for fifteen minutes quietly in your room if you’re not tired enough yet”. Then I’ll leave him to play. After fifteen minutes, I’ll return to his room turn off the lights and tuck him in. I use the button on the light to turn it off, so he can’t turn it back on. Usually he will stay in bed after that.
It took us weeks of being consistent with our routine for him to get in the rhythm with his toddler sleep training. We did run into a few struggles with him coming out of his room, but after going through my stack of parenting books I found an idea that helped me peacefully keep him in his room.
If he comes out of his room when he is supposed to be playing quietly, we gently carry him back to his room and say “I guess you’ve decided to go to bed now”. We tuck him in again, turn off the light using the pull string on the fan, and leave the room. If he comes out a third time, we carry him back to his room and say “Now you need to stay in your room”. I should mention we always ask him why he’s coming out. If it’s that he needs something, we do what he needs and take him back to his room.
There are a few ways to make sure toddlers stay in there rooms. One way is to lay in bed with him until he falls asleep, another is to wedge a rag between the door and the door frame so he can’t open it, a third is to flip around the door handle, so the lock is on the outside. I learned the rag and lock trick from Parenting with Love and Logic, which works well. However, if I have to lock the door, I always stay near it and watch him on the baby camera to make sure he is okay. I go back in immediately if anything looks or sounds unusual.
He has always pulled on the door for a few seconds and pouts. When he does this I say from outside the door “It’s bedtime and I have tucked you in three times. Now you need to get in your bed and go to sleep yourself. I love you and I will see you tomorrow morning”. He’s always gotten into his bed and gone to sleep. I open the door as soon as he is asleep.
A few weeks after sticking to these steps every single night, he now goes straight to bed when we tuck him in the first time. I rarely have to tuck him in more than once. Now our sweet little toddler goes to sleep easily and peacefully.
Giveaway closed: Wildkin has generously offered to giveaway a fun clock that is sure to please any toddler. Congratulations to Gloria H. , the winner of the giveaway!
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What tips do you have to create a healthy toddler sleep routine?