Life is tough enough with a toddler. They morph before your eyes from being a beautiful tiny stationary baby into a crazy bombshell who is basically just a super noisy blur of energy! It’s exhausting to watch them; let alone feed, clothe, bathe, and chase them down for bedtime.
Oh, bedtime… what. a. chore.
Bedtime (or nap time) with a toddler takes on a whole new meaning. Their strong will can cause a butting of heads when it comes to when they will sleep, where, what book they will read, what jammies they will wear, how many glasses of water they will need… and on and on and on. Of course, one of the biggest hurdles of toddler sleep takes place when they graduate from crib to bed.
When you are ready to take the plunge and transfer your toddler to a “big kid” bed, here are a few tips to help you along the way:
- Tell them your plan, DO NOT make the new bed a surprise. Children rely on their routines and familiar things in their lives. When a big change is coming, it’s best to talk to them beforehand. Even if they don’t like the idea (or are simply not responsive) they are listening and will eventually get used to the idea. Build it up, make it exciting. This brings me to my next tip…
- Involve them in the decision-making of their new environment. Obviously, you are making most of the decisions here, but you can involve them in the small details. Things like,
‘Which sheets do you want for your new bed?’
‘Do you want your bed on this side of the room, or on the other side?’
‘Which end of the bed do you want to sleep on?’
Kids love (the feeling of) freedom of choice. Even if the options are pre-selected by you, they will still feel proud to make their own decisions.
- Put a baby gate in the doorway of their room. This sends a clear message that they need to stay in their room during the night/nap time. Also, it will provide peace of mind for you, as you don’t want your toddler roaming around half asleep in the middle of the night.
- Provide a distraction to keep them in bed longer. Our favorite distraction is to mount a long mirror on the wall next to the bed. Another alternative would be to decorate a poster board with stickers and pictures that they love. This will help to keep your little one in bed, even if they choose not to sleep.
- Temporarily remove toys from their room. In the beginning, the freedom to get in and out of bed is super novel. Especially when their toys are all over their room enticing them to play. Relocate these distractions to another space for a couple of weeks. We do, however, let our kids keep books in their rooms. This gives them an activity they can do quietly if they choose not to sleep.
- BONUS TIP – Invest in a white noise machine. We love this one. The calming noise will help little ones to calm down and rest. It is also super helpful for light sleepers, as it filters out a lot of noises outside of the bedroom and keeps parents from having to silently tiptoe around the house!
So there you have it!
I think the biggest lesson I’ve gained from doing this with my first two kids is that you cannot force them to sleep, but you can keep them on a routine. The best thing you can do is to create a relaxing, quiet environment that is free of distractions and encourage sleep as much as possible. If they choose not to sleep, then continue on the next day as you regularly would. Wake them up at their normal hour and proceed on with your day. This will only benefit you when nap time rolls around!
Unless you have an amazing sleeper, this transition will probably be a struggle. Try to be as patient and upbeat as you can! Kids pick up on your cues, so make sure you are positive about them growing up into ‘big kids’.
Believe me, Momma, you’re gonna make it!