At some point as a toddler, children move up from a crib to a “big kid” bed (usually either a toddler or single bed). This can be an exciting milestone for your child, helping them move from being a baby to a toddler. However, instead of being contained in a crib, your child can now move around a lot more and even get in and out of bed on their own. This means that many toddlers will start getting themselves out of bed at bedtime and during the night.
Here are some techniques and tips that have helped me to teach my own kids to stay in bed all night long.
Use a Bedtime Routine
I am a firm believer in bedtime routines . Using a bedtime routine sets bedtime apart from the rest of the day and gives your child cues that it is time to be sleepy, stay in bed, and rest for the night. When we stick to our family’s bedtime routine, my toddler almost always stays in bed. If for some reason we skip the routine, then she’s much more likely to get out of bed. A bedtime routine shows them that it’s time to stay in bed.
Make Them Fall Asleep Alone
With my first daughter, I often breastfed her to sleep when she was a baby and then put her in bed. What I didn’t realize was that this was teaching her to rely on me to fall asleep. When she became a toddler, it was difficult to teach her to stay in bed alone and fall asleep on her own. When our second kid was born, we made sure that she always went to bed awake. She’s a toddler now and always falls asleep for the night on her own.
Children are likely to get out of bed if they are having difficulties falling asleep. Teaching them to go to sleep on their own makes them more likely to stay in bed. Also, if they fall asleep for the night on their own, they are more likely to re-settle themselves if they wake up during the night. If you rock your child to sleep (or lie down in bed with them, etc.), then they will probably need you to help them to go back to sleep. This means the little pitter-patter of tiny feet by your bed at midnight because your toddler’s woken up and wants you.
Teach Them To Self Soothe
Similarly to the last point, if your toddler is always calmed down by you, they’ll get out of bed and find you if they get upset or frustrated. If they have a method of self soothing it will be easier for them to put themselves back to sleep during the night (rather than getting out of bed).
Have a Good Bed Time Toy
It can help to have the right bedtime toy . Picking a good toy that is special for bedtime will help them to be calm, entertained, and confident in bed until they fall asleep. Good choices should be soft and cuddly. They may also respond well to a toy that plays soft music or lights up.
Finally, as a parent you need to be consistent. Always put them straight back in bed when they get out. It can help to be repetitive. For example, always say “good night” before putting them in bed and leaving the room. If they know that you sometimes give in and let them play, then they will keep getting out of bed.