Toddlers have inquisitive little minds and seem to really know how to keep us (adults) on our toes. This is oh so NORMAL! Toddlers are exploring their world and learning about cause and effect. As toddlers grow and change, they learn that what they say or do matters and impacts how others respond to them. Every day, I am amazed at the things that my 2.5 year old daughter knows/says/remembers/thinks about and does. So, how does this relate to toddler sleep? Many of the parents I work with come to me looking for help with their toddlers sleep habits. Often, through discussions with parents, I find that testing behaviors that impact their toddlers sleep also carries over into eating behaviors, transitions, sharing, sibling dynamics and more. Addressing sleep concerns is one piece of the puzzle, and parents often find that responding in similar ways in other areas of their lives can be helpful for their relationship with their child. So, if you are the parent, grandparent or caregiver of a toddler, who is having some difficulties with sleep, here are some tools for navigating three common themes that often arise:
- Sleep Stalling Strategies: When bedtime gets later and later: Consistency in bedtime routine is key. An appropriate bedtime for a two/three/four year old should be no longer than 15 minutes, 20 max. Take a look at your current routine if you have one. Are you now reading seventeen books, singing songs, getting drink of water… a snack… another drink of water… searching for a beloved stuffed animal, changing PJs three times, etc, etc, if so, it is time to scale back. 8:00pm should be the time that your young child is in bed for the night (This can range, but 8:00 is a good cutoff point for littles). So, take a look at your current routine and choose what needs to stay and what can be cut out. Bath, PJS, 2 books 1 song and time for bed is a good example. Be confident and consistent in implementing your routine, and stick with it for best results!
- Making the Move: When your little one transitions from crib to toddler/twin bed: “My child has always been a great sleeper, until we switched to a toddler bed” Ahhh… of course! FREEDOM! When your child realizes that he can suddenly get out of his bed or room (after being cooped up in the crib for his entire life) it only makes sense that he will want to explore this newfound freedom. Choose a sleep training method that you are comfortable with and practice this new routine for at least 10 days to 2 weeks. Again, consistency is key. Your toddler actually wants YOU to set the limits, even if at times, it seems quite the opposite.
- Nap Negotiations: When there are too many things to do and napping isn’t on the list: The age range for when kids drop names completely can be anywhere from 18 months to 6 years! On average, most kids are developmentally ready to stop naps somewhere between 3 and 4 years, depending on individual sleep needs and night time sleep. Either way, afternoon downtime is key (for everyone, adults too if possible!) If your child is refusing naps either consistently or every once and a while, set the ground rules. Every day that you are home, there is an expectation for an afternoon rest time in the bedroom. Parents and caregivers set the tone and routine, and children have the option to nap or just rest/relax. Many clients have success implementing nap/rest time with the “okay to wake clock” to help keep that lovely afternoon down time in place. Check the clocks out on amazon if you don’t have one already!
Toddlers are going through many developmental changes and are often on what seems to be an emotional rollercoaster. They are testing the limits to see what happens. No one thrives when adults and toddlers become engaged in back and forth power struggles, and the relationship can become strained on both ends. It can affect sleep, mood, behavior, the list goes on and on. You can make a powerful shift in the relationship that you have with your little one by shifting your perspective and the manner in which you address these often tough and exhausting behaviors. If any of these scenarios sounds familiar and you are ready to make some changes, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I offer free 15 minute consultations to learn about your little one’s sleep habits, share how I can help and see if we are a good fit 🙂