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Life is tough enough with a toddler. They morph before your eyes from being a beautiful tiny stationary baby into an active and rambunctious little one, who needs constant attention to make sure they’re safe as well as fed, clothed, bathed and put to bed at the right time each day!
Why Bedtime is a Chore for Parents
Bedtime with a toddler is an adorable, but emotional roller coaster. I have to remind myself that it’s best for their mental and physical development as they grow older because the transition from crib to bed can be difficult at first!
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.
How to Transition your Child to Sleep in a “Big Kid” Bed
When you are ready to take the plunge and transfer your toddler from a crib to a 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!
Parent Tips to Help Transition your Toddler
Remember as a parent not to stress too much over this transition. Toddlers are not used to the freedom of an open sided bed, and they will likely have a hard time learning the concept of lying still. Don’t get frustrated if they don’t want to sleep at all in their new bed or wake up right away when you lay them down. It may take weeks before they realize that this place is for sleeping.
Also, don’t forget to provide positive reinforcement for good behavior. Tell them how proud you are that they can stay in their own bed and how much it helps mom and dad.
Lastly, remember to take a nap yourself if you need! This time is trying for everyone and it’s easy for us parents to put their needs last during this transition, but we all need some R&R too!
My Lessons Learned
The biggest lesson I’ve learned with my first two kids is that you cannot force them to sleep, but you can keep them on a routine. The best thing would be for me to create a relaxing, quiet environment free of distractions and encourage sleep as much as possible. If they choose not to sleep then continue it the next day like normal waking them up early in their regular hour time period which will only benefit us 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’.
You can do this! The sooner you get your kid in bed, the sooner he or she will be off to the dream land that we all desire. Try to make it fun and persevere!
Believe me, Momma, you’re gonna make it!