You’ve made it through your baby’s first year of life and hopefully you’re not too exhausted! Now that your little one is a toddler, you’re most likely noticing their own personality shining through more and more and that they seem to be growing and learning at lighting speed. This age can be really fun for parents, but it can also be a time where battles begin and boundaries are pushed.
A common struggle many parents have at this stage involves sleep – both nap-time and bedtime. Unfortunately, when your little one isn’t getting the sleep they need, it can be tough on everyone. If you’ve found yourself battling new sleep challenges with your busy toddler, then keep reading! We’ve rounded up the most popular toddler sleep questions and have answered them below.
Solving Toddler Sleep Challenges
Children are considered to be toddlers between 12 and 36 months of age. That’s quite a long time, which explains why toddler sleep challenges are a top concern among parents. This period really denotes your little one moving away from the baby phase and seeking out their own independence. But remember, you’re still the parent, which means you are still the bedtime boss! Let’s take a look at challenges you may encounter when it comes to sleep and your toddler.
- My two-year-old has stopped napping. Is she really ready to drop it?
Naps can end as early as two years of age, but more typically they stop altogether between three to four years of age. If your child is fighting a nap, it’s still a good idea to keep at least an hour of quiet time as long as possible, preferably until your child enters full day, every day school. Quiet time is great way to recharge and it’s some good down time for parents too. Fill a special “quiet time” box with books, puzzles, and toys. It’s doesn’t have to be expensive, Target will do the trick! When it’s quiet time, have your child choose something from the quiet time box that she can play with in her room. You may be surprised at how often she may end up falling asleep, even if it’s only for a short nap.
- How and when do I transition my toddler from a crib to bed?
Transitioning your child from crib to bed can be a scary time for parents. Suddenly, your child is free to escape and roam around. If she’s not climbing out and you can leave her in her crib until at least 3 years of age, I recommend you do so. At this age, children are better able to understand your sleep rules.
When you do make the move, you have to have a plan. Before night one, sit down with your partner and develop a plan for when things pop up during the process. This will help you be consistent and set limits, both of which will support a successful transition.
- What do I do when my toddler has a nightmare?
A child can experience bad dreams because of TV shows they watch, books you read, or conversations they overhear. If your child is more sensitive and has a bigger imagination, they can be more prone to nightmares. The important thing is to offer a lot of comfort and reassurance. Hug her and cuddle her, and tell her everything is going to be okay. Keep the comforting confined to her room, so that she knows her sleep environment is a safe space.
- My toddler keeps coming out of his room. How do I keep him in there?
It might be time to incorporate some tricks of the sleep trade. Positive sleep props like a toddler clock, can visually cue toddlers that its bedtime and they need to stay in their room. It also shows when it’s okay to either come out of the room in the morning or when a parent will come to start the day.
A bedtime routine chart helps organize the time before bed and positively prepares your child for sleep. Make it fun and create a chart that has all the go-to excuses at bedtime. Setting limits can be the toughest to implement, but necessary. Limits really help in your journey towards good sleep habits and need to be established early on. If your child does come out of their room, lead them back again every time, with little to no engagement. You may have to do this over and over again throughout the night, but provided you remain consistent in setting the boundaries, after a few nights they’ll get the message.
Alanna McGinn is Founder and Certified Sleep Consultant of Good Night Sleep Site, a global sleep consulting practice. She serves on the faculty of The Family Sleep Institute and is host of the ‘This Girl Loves Sleep’ Podcast. She and her husband, Mike, live in Toronto, Canada with their 3 children (1+twins!) You can follow her expert advice in national publications like Macleans, Prevention Magazine, Today’s Parent, and Huffington Post. Alanna strives in helping families (baby to adults) and corporations overcome their sleep challenges and have happy well-rested smiles in the morning. You can find out more about Alanna McGinn and how to work with a Good Night Sleep Consultant at goodnightsleepsite.com and follow Alanna and all her sleep tips on Instagram.