Mrs Mojo
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Toddler sleep pitfalls and how to get out of them


  • Explain to your toddler the importance of sleep and set clear boundaries as to when they should be in bed and out of bed and stick to them

  • You can try putting them back to bed, saying you’ll be back in five minutes, giving extra cuddles and gradually withdrawing from their room, or them from your bed

  • Invest in a clock that shows your toddler when it is morning

  • Look at their room from their perspective and do what you can to show them that the monsters aren’t there

  • Give lots of attention and cuddles to help your toddler through any transition period

Once I’d got over my three kids not sleeping as babies I thought my life would be better and that I could sleep as much as I wanted to.

Boy, was I wrong! canstockphoto11144144

Toddlers come with their own sleep problems and if they continue to carry on with them, then they’re much harder to control.

Some of the things your toddler may do includes not wanting to go to bed, continually getting out of bed, coming into your bed at night, being afraid of the dark, of monsters and other imaginary beings, waking up at 5am or earlier and not wanting to go back to sleep – to name but a few. Then, of course there are the illnesses, periods of change such as a sibling arriving, starting nursery and going on holiday.

The good news is that you can take steps to change their behaviour and enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep.

Here are some tips to help:

  • If your child wants to exert their indepedence and not want to go to bed when they normally do it’s important to look at what’s going on in their life at that stage. My two boys both did this as they started nursery, so I realised that they wanted some extra attention from me. I stayed strong and stuck to the bedtime routine and I gave into a few requests for extra water, a trip to the loo or an extra cuddle, but when I said ‘this is the last time’ or ‘this is the last one’ I stuck to my guns. I made sure I gave each of them quality time and lots of cuddles before leaving. If they got out of bed after this I took them back to their bed, tucked them in and said ‘it’s bedtime, night night’ and I kissed them, then left the room. If they got out of bed after this, I took them back to bed and didn’t say anything, I just left. Supernanny: How to Get the Best from Your Children describes this technique in great detail.
  • Another method to try if your toddler keeps on getting back out of bed is to be boring! This ensures that you are not rewarding them with attention for getting out of bed. Again, take them back to bed and if they want a little chat then say something like ‘let’s have a lovely long chat in the morning when we’ve had our sleep’, kiss them and leave. My two always wanted extra cuddles at 3am and I tucked them in, gave them a kiss and said ‘when it’s morning and we’ve had our sleep, let’s have a big big cuddle’
  • The Contented Toddler Years suggests saying ‘you’ll be back in a minute’ or ‘I’ve forgot to put the dishwasher on’ etc. Walk away and then on your return if they’ve stayed in bed, give them a kiss and say how clever they are. Alternatively, she suggests that you can just stay away and hope that they’ve fallen asleep – again do what works for you and your family. I preferred to go back to my children as promised as I didn’t want to lie to them, or say something I didn’t then follow through on
  • If your child wants to sleep in your bed, you have to be firm and keep on taking them back to their bed and repeating this until they get the message that they don’t sleep in your bed. Explain to them why you need your sleep and if they sleep in their bed for a full night give them a star on their reward chart the following morning, or make a big fuss of them being really big and clever.
  • Another trick to try if your child wants to sleep in your bed, or if they want you to sleep in their room is the gradual withdrawal technique. For example, if they want you in their bed, start off cuddling them as normal, then hold just their hand the next night, then sleep away from them on a bed on the floor(or sitting in a chair), then sleep in separate rooms.
  • Some toddlers say they’re afraid of the dark, monsters, dinosaurs or anything similar. The first thing to do is to look at their room from their eyes. Is there anything that looks a bit scary, are there too many shadows? Ask them to show you what they’re scared of and then explain what it is, or make up other less scary things it could be. I used to tell my boys that that the reason they have teddy bears is for cuddles when mummy and daddy need to sleep, and that teddy bears keep them safe in the night. Use nightlights where needed. We got a great owl nightlight that could be carried easily by our little one and it automatically switched off after 20 minutes Light My Way Night Light and a ladybird star projector night light (you can buy other animals) that helps relax them into sleep and also automatically switches off after 45 minutes Ladybird LED star projector night light .
  • Another tip to try if they are scared is to say that you’re going to spray some monster spray to scare them away, or you’re off to go and tell the monsters to go away. You then leave it five minutes or so and go back and tell them that everything is OK.
  • If your toddler is one of those that likes to wake up at 5am and not go back to sleep, then you can try the method for when they get out of bed at night time – keep on putting them back to bed, telling them that it’s not time to get up yet. Keep on repeating it and be boring
  • We invested in a clock that shows when it is morning by turning green – you choose the time you want to be morning. Onaroo Teach Me Time! Talking Alarm Clock, Sleep Trainer and Nightlight This worked wonders and if our children got out of bed before the clock was green, we took them back to bed, tucked them in and said ‘we’ll have lots of cuddles when the clock is green’ You can also get the Gro-Clock that has a story to go with it Gro-Clock Sleep Trainer
  • If this doesn’t work, then have toys in your toddlers room for them to play with and explain that mummy and daddy need more sleep. Another idea to try if you’re creative and have spare time each day is to set a treasure hunt around the house for your early riser, which leads to your room!
  • For periods of change I found that giving lots of attention during the day helps your child stay secure. Talk to them about what’s going on and give them cuddles both day and night to help them through the change. You then have to get back on track at night time once they’re over this, but keep on giving them attention during the day
  • Finally, explaining to your child why we sleep and why we need it helps them understand things. I told my children that we sleep to get energy which means we can play and have lots of fun the next day. If we don’t sleep then we’re too tired to play and can get poorly and upset. I also explained that if mummy and daddy get their sleep then we can be happy and have fun, rather than grumpy and sad
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1 reply
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