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Parent Tips

Sleep-Training a Toddler: Methods and Tricks for Every Parent

A little girl sleeping on a bed with a pink blanket.

Experts tell us that toddlers need an average of 12 hours of sleep within a 24-hour period to support healthy growth and development. Even if a child usually sleeps through the night without waking up mommy or daddy, the most challenging part can be actually getting them to bed. The toddler years are when children begin to exercise their independence and test their freedom. This is why getting them to bed on time may present a real challenge. Getting toddlers settled in their own beds and staying in bed  at bedtime are some of the more common challenges that parents encounter. If you’re dealing with the same dilemma, don’t worry. We have summarized useful sleep-training methods for you here to help make sure your little one consistently gets his or her much needed sleep. 

Establish sleep boundaries

Sleep-training means helping your little one adopt healthy sleep habits. Because this incorporates discipline, it’s important to establish clear boundaries when it comes to bedtime. For instance, specific rules have to be established with regard to nap times or the evening bedtime schedule.  You also have to determine ahead of time how  wake-ups in the middle of the night waking will be handled, for example.

Do a rehearsal

If your toddler is having a difficult time adjusting to a fixed bedtime routine, it can be helpful to start with bedtime “rehearsals”. Let toddlers know what the routine is going to look like by doing a mini version of bedtime. Of course, you can skip the other steps like toothbrushing and changing into PJ’s, and go straight to practicing the getting-into-bed routine.

For instance, you can have your child practice by tucking your little one in with  his or her favorite stuffed toy while you read favorite bedtime stories. You can also squeeze in other creative or fun steps that will help young children look forward to bedtime. Take note that practicing your sleep-training method should be done much earlier in the day, not right before bedtime. 

Optimize your child’s daily schedule

One of the reasons why toddlers have difficulty falling asleep at the preferred time or staying in bed through the night is unhealthy sleep habits. For example, a toddler may take his or her nap too late in the afternoon, or your child may nap for too long. Take a close look at your child’s daily schedule and other daily activities that could be affecting his or her sleep routine. Make necessary adjustments if needed.

For instance, if you want to make sure your little one doesn’t get up too early in the morning, make sure you’re not beginning the bedtime routine too early in the evening. Also, try to schedule nap time accordingly so that it doesn’t result in less sleep during the night. 

Be firm with the bedtime routine

Now that your toddler is starting to become more familiar with the bedtime routine, it’s important that you stay firm about the expectations. Expect that there will be challenges along the way and that it may not be as smooth at the beginning. Toddlers are good at delaying bedtime, so there will be days when they will try to cause distractions or use their “stall tactics” with you when it’s time for bed.

Be sure to give a clear and consistent message that it’s time to lie down and go to sleep. The routine should have a definitive end and it’s imperative that you be firm about it. 

Offer rewards for progress

Young kids love when we show appreciation when they do something well. Let your child know how much you appreciate his or her bed time progress by offering a reward. It’s even more effective when young children can see their progress being tracked on a chart. Create a sleep-training chart and mark the days your child has able to stick to the routine. Once children have successfully completed an entire week demonstrating consistent behavior at bed time, you can offer  a reward  to recognize and further encourage this behavior. 

Remain calm and consistent

Difficult behaviors during bedtime may drain your patience, but it’s important to remain calm. Being consistent is also important. Try not to give in if your child attempts to break or bend the rules. Staying firm in your sleep-training methods is key to achieving success. 

If you’re struggling with getting your toddler to sleep at night, you’re not alone. Use these tips and tricks to help you and your toddler overcome common sleep difficulties.

For more parenting tips or if you’re looking for the best preschool for your child, visit ABC Academy


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