Toddler Sleep Tips
A few weeks ago I had a friend ask me how I keep Cristian in his bed all night until an appropriate time in the morning. So I shared with her, a couple of the things that I’ve put in place to help Cristian with this.
I will start by saying that this is what works for us, every child is different and responds differently to the things you introduce. This is not sponsored; I chose these products because they work for us. There is no miracle or one solution for every child, however there are things that you can try that can improve behaviours. The following tips may encourage your child to stay in bed all night or settle off to sleep alone.
1. GROCLOCK: We introduced this to Cristian when he was still in his cot. I believe he was about 18 months old. If you haven’t seen them before, I highly recommend that you look into them. There are many different types of Sleep Training clocks on the market, so you can choose one that will work best for your child. We made a huge deal about this when we introduced it so that he would be excited about it. It basically has stars on when they sleep and then the sun comes up when it’s time to wake; you set their wake up time to what works for you and your child. This is also a great night light as you can adjust the brightness of the stars. When Cristian goes to bed he says goodnight to the sun and we put his stars on. Then in the morning he knows he must wait for the sun to come up before he can start his day. Of course now that he is toilet trained at night, he does come in our room earlier to use the toilet but then we encourage him to go back to his room and rest or read books until his sun comes up. I’d say he does this around 90% of the time.
Children want to succeed and enjoy celebrating their wins, so we always celebrate when he waits for his sun. However, we don’t punish him if he doesn’t wait, we discuss the reason for waiting and the fact that he needs enough rest to grow and have enough energy for his big day.
2. COMFORTER/ TRANSITIONAL OBJECT: Cristian has had his Mickey Monkey since he was about two months old. In the beginning, I would ‘wear’ the monkey in my clothes to make it smell like me. I would lay it (away from Cristian to be SIDS safe) in the cot with him as well as have it in the car and pram. He very quickly became attached to it and still to this day, it gives him lots of comfort and helps him settle off to sleep. This is a sleep cue for Cristian, as he only has him at bedtime.
Once again, there are many different kinds of comforters, dolls and blankies out there. Sofia, for example, didn’t take to her comforter. She never really cuddled it or looked for it. We then introduced the Lulla Doll and this was a big hit for her. So I guess what I’m saying is, find an object that your child takes to. You may need to try different ones before you find the one that works.
3. GROANYWHERE BLINDS: These are a blackout blind that suctions to the windows. Although we have good blinds, the light still enters the room, especially on those nice summer days. We have had these since day one. This means that the room is dark and therefore Cristian is less likely to wake earlier. This is also useful if your kids go to bed early at night and it is still daylight outside.
Children need a dark room to produce melatonin, this is the hormone that promotes sleep. It also allows your child to be less stimulated by the things in their room, meaning they are more able to switch off. I have always found this helpful, even when both kids were babies.
4. STICKER REWARD CHART: Now this may be the teacher in me, and I know not everyone believes in sticker charts or rewards, but these have worked for Cristian in many ways. We used it initially for toilet training. However, we have now introduced it for sleep. Although he’d sleep soundly through the night, he began waking earlier and earlier, wanting to start the day. This meant that he was rather tired and grumpy by the afternoon. So out came the chart. Before we start a chart, we discuss what his reward will be. For his current chart he is working towards getting a mini golf set for outside. Obviously we discuss the rewards and ‘guide’ his choice. If he waits for his sun (even if he’s come out for the toilet of course) he gets a sticker. We do not take stickers away as punishment as I believe this doesn’t achieve anything but disappointment for the child.
This is something that will get him into the routine of waiting for his sun, and when we feel he is achieving this most days, we will stop the charts. I find reward charts are a great way for children to visually see their achievements and be able to reach a goal.
5. BEDTIME ROUTINE: We are not overly routine people. Both kids kind of fell into their own routine when they were little. However, our night time bed routine has pretty much been something we’ve done from a young age with both. This routine allows the kids to begin to wind down and know that bedtime is ahead. It doesn’t need to be fancy and lengthy! Just something to give them the right cues. Bedtime routines will obviously be dependent on your child/children’s age.
With Cristian we start by telling him 5 minutes before it’s pj time. This gives him the clue to begin packing up and understanding that bedtime is approaching. We then put his pjs on, this may sometimes be earlier if he’s had a bath. After this we will sometimes do a quiet activity such as reading on the couch or playing with felt boards. Then it is time to brush his teeth and one last toilet trip before bed. We always encourage him to go to the toilet, this has been helpful in night training. We then go to his room for Mickey and a story in bed. This is a special time. We lay with him and read a book, and also discuss the story or sometimes we chat about his day. Then it’s one last cuddle before we turn his Groclock to the stars and lights out.
It is an innate instinct that children have to want to succeed and want to be ‘good’. Although there are times that it feels like the child is intentionally doing the wrong thing to bother us, they are just testing boundaries and trying different things. We are there to guide them and encourage them to do things differently and do what is best for them.
If you choose to introduce these items or routines, or anything else, make sure you stick it out for a good week at least. It may take some time for your child to get used to it and change their habits. Sometimes we expect children to take to new things quickly or want them to miraculously change behaviours, but we need to give them time to adjust and to learn. If we chop and change routines or items they will only be left confused and less likely to achieve the desired change. Consistency is key but it is also important to be flexible, because not every day is the same.
Just remember, children are human too. We can’t expect them to do things perfectly 100% of the time. They will have bad nights or weeks where they need you more, and that needs to be ok too. They rely on us to be their safety and security and it is important for them to know they are always welcomed when they need comfort. You know your child best, trust your instinct and do only what you and your child feel comfortable with.