According to the National Sleep Foundation, the required amount of sleep for toddlers during a 24-hour period is between 11-14 hours. However, for many parents, getting their toddlers to sleep through the night can be a difficult challenge, but one that is not uncommon.
In their early years, children can experience a variety of sleep problems including regular awakenings, bedtime accidents and frequent nightmares. Additionally, separation anxiety can also make toddlers reluctant to go to bed or remain in their bed for the duration of the night, making for an uncomfortable night for both parent and child.
If you’re finding it tough to get your little one to sleep, we’ve got some great tips to help you ensure they get a restful night:
Maintain a Bedtime Routine
If your toddler has no scheduled bedtime routine, this could be one of the main reasons why they are struggling to sleep through the night. Children respond well to predictability; consequently, putting your toddler to bed in the same way, at the same time every evening will create a familiar routine that they will learn to associate with bedtime. A fun way to do this is to make a visual ‘bedtime checklist’ consisting of pictures of the different elements of the routine, e.g. pyjamas, a toothbrush, a book etc. As you go through the routine, let your child tick off these elements to help make bedtime more enjoyable.
Ensure the Room is Dark and Quiet
Fearing darkness is a common phobia for many toddlers; however, it is a well-known fact that whatever their age, humans sleep better in the dark. As such, although you may feel the need to keep a light on or leave the door ajar, if you can, try and get your child used to darkness from as early as possible by switching off every light source in and outside their bedroom at bedtime. Similarly, if your toddler wakes up during the night, fight the urge to turn on the lights and keep the lighting low while comforting them in a calm and soothing voice. If you’re finding that your toddler simply refuses to settle without some form of light, consider investing in a small night light that you can leave on at bedtime and switch off once they’re asleep.
Don’t Let Bad Habits Lie
Lying down with your child, rocking them to sleep or giving them a bottle at bedtime are bad habits to get in to. Not only will your toddler become dependent on these things to go to sleep, but if they wake up in the night, they will then expect the same treatment again to fall back to sleep. Instead, try giving your child a quick but reassuring bedtime cuddle or encourage them to sleep with an object that they feel secure with, such as a blanket or a soft toy, that they can keep with them throughout the night.
Limit their Screen time
As lovely as it is to have a cuddle with your toddler during the evening in front of their favourite film or cartoon, too much screen time before bed could make it challenging to get your child to sleep. Instead, save television watching for the daytime and treat your little one to a bedtime story. Not only is this a great way to enhance your toddler’s imagination but, by making it part of the bedtime routine, you’ll both have something to look forward to at the end of the day.
Be Firm but Fair
Finally, ensure your child knows the limits when it comes to bedtime by setting the rules early on and following through with the consequences when they are broken. For example, if your toddler repeatedly gets out of bed for one reason or another on a regular basis, verbalise your expectations clearly when putting them to bed initially. Then, if they continue to disregard your wishes, follow through with the penalties by being firm but fair.
Here at St Peter’s, we know how challenging getting toddlers into a routine can be, especially at bedtime. However, by following these tips, getting your little one to sleep should be made that little bit easier, meaning you can both relish a restful night. Additionally, attending our private toddler group, South Devon, is a great way ensure your child has a fun-filled but busy day, so when it comes to bedtime, they’re ready for a good night’s sleep.