Whether your little one is still in a crib or just moving into a “big kid” bed, at some point, you’re going to need to teach her how to go asleep alone, stay in bed all night, and wake up at a healthy time. As you likely know, it’s no easy feat. There are tons of great books on sleep training, but if you’re looking to add some new tricks to your training routine, today we have 10 genius tips for teaching your toddler to sleep.
Choose the Right Time.
First things first: choose the right time, both in terms of the date and the clock. It can take 2-4 weeks to sleep train your child and you don’t want any disruptions. So, if grandma’s coming for a visit or you’re going on vacation or you’re expecting a baby, hold off on sleep training.
As far as the clock is concerned, make sure you’re choosing a bedtime that syncs with your child’s internal clock. A study from the University of Colorado, Boulder took a look at toddlers’ sleep and they confirmed that some children who have a hard time with bedtime every night might actually be going to bed too early for their internal clock. About two hours before we go to sleep each night, levels of a hormone called melatonin start to rise. These hormones tell your body that it’s time to slow down and ease into sleep.
The study found that most toddlers’ melatonin levels started rising at about 7:40 p.m., which was about 30 minutes before their parents put them to bed. These children then fell asleep about 30 minutes after laying down, which is normal. But, some of the children in the study had unique circadian rhythms, and their melatonin levels didn’t kick in until a little later. When those kids were put to bed before their melatonin had started to rise, they laid in bed for an hour before they fell asleep. This hour of not being able to sleep frustrates kids (as it would with you!) and can lead to your child having sleep issues in the future due to that nightly struggle.
Create a New Big Kid Bedtime Routine.
Doing the same things in the same order every night is the number one way to get kids to sleep better. The same things every night at the same time trains your child to go into sleep mode. You might already have one, but now is a good time to “update it” and let your child help decide what it will be (during the day, don’t wait until bedtime). Have your child as involved as possible, as it will help him take ownership of this new responsibility and ‘big kid’ status.
We think tea-time is a nice addition to a bedtime routine. Making tea is a great way to calm down. You can light a candle, enjoy your tea, talk about your day together, read a book. Whatever you do, the warm liquid is naturally calming. And, with the right recipe, you can even mix up a batch of tea with extra snooze-inducing effects. Click through for DIY sleepy time tea recipes.
Moving a little slower and using a quieter voice sends a cue to your child that it’s time to wind down. Also, kids reflect our energy, so by calming yourself down, your child will more easily calm down, too.
If your child starts fussing, speak calmly and quietly and as little as possible. Your child wants your attention (even if you’re upset) and wants you to interact with them. They’re testing boundaries and putting off bedtime. Engaging in the power struggle will only reinforce the behavior. And don’t ever give in. If you give in to her request once, you’ll hear it again and again.
Try The Sleep Lady Shuffle.
The Sleep Lady Shuffle is a proven way to help kids sleep. In a nutshell, over the span of maybe a few weeks, you’ll go from sitting next to your child as she goes to sleep, to sitting a few feet away, to sitting next to the door, to sitting in the hallway, to not being visible at all. Learn more here.
Use a “Free Pass.”
Here’s a video from Dr. Greene about a simple trick that he used on his own kids that worked wonders!
Do the Silent Return.
If your little one gets out of bed, don’t interact with him at all. Take his hand (don’t look him in the eye), lead him back to bed, and tuck him in without a word. This reinforces that the day is done and there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
Empower Your Child to Self-Soothe.
Self-soothing is perhaps the most important skill your child needs to learn in order to sleep well. Not only do you want your child to be able to fall asleep on his own, if he wakes during the night, you want him to be able to stay in bed and get himself back to sleep. Cloud b makes a variety of products that empower your child to self-soothe. Here are just 2 examples:
- Charley the Chameleon: Charley illuminates with rainbow lights that can be set to flash quickly, slowly transition from one color to another, or stay lit solidly for a gentle nightlight option. He also plays two different soothing sound options to help children relax: rainforest noises and tropical tunes! Plus, unlike ordinary night lights and white noise machines, Charley the Chameleon is entirely plush, so your child can cuddle with him – creating a mesmerizing, multi-sensory relaxation experience with soothing sights, sounds, and touch.
- Glow Cuddles Bear & Bunny: A Family Choice Awards winner, these plush companions combine the senses of sight and touch to help deliver the sleepiest slumber. With just a little hug, the touch-activated bear and bushy-tailed bunny give off a soothing glow, as well as the calming rhythm of a heartbeat to help pacify even the fussiest child into a peaceful sleep.
Try a Sleep Trainer.
Every parent dreams of it at one point or another – that their kids would go to sleep at the push of a button. And that they’d stay in bed. And that they wouldn’t wake up at the crack of dawn. Sleep training products can help deliver that dream. That’s why we developed our Stay Asleep Buddies!
Here’s how they work:
Stay Asleep Buddies are interactive, plush pals who teach children when to sleep and when to wake. Using gentle melodies and glowing lights, children quickly learn to distinguish between bedtime and playtime – meaning more sleep time for both of you! Plus, the Stay Asleep Buddies are easily programmable for a full night’s rest or a much-needed nap. Functioning as a sleep trainer, nightlight and sound soother all in one, Stay Asleep Buddies are the perfect solution for developing healthy sleep routines.
Simply set the sleep timer to the number of sleep hours desired (1-12) and with the press of a button, your child’s sleep routine begins. A bedtime lullaby and calming amber nightlight will lull your little one off to the land of nod and automatically turn off after 45 minutes to create a quiet, dark environment for deeper sleep (as recommended by pediatricians). Even better, if your child wakes up during the night, or needs reassurance that they are still supposed to be in bed, a motion sensor inside the Stay Asleep Buddies will reactivate the lullaby and nightlight features. No more bouncing out of bed a bazillion times a night! When the timer reaches the end of the countdown, the green wake-up LEDs will illuminate and a “Happy Wake-Up” tune will play letting your child know that it’s okay to get up. Green means go! (And go and go and go – as tiny tots do!)
It’s a multifunctional product that uses proven techniques for helping establish healthy sleep routines and promote better sleep. Plus, it’s a super cute, plush pal for your child – making it an even more effective tool for easing bedtime anxiety, empowering children to self-soothe, and understanding when to wake up.
Use an Award System.
Kids thrive on praise. A little positive reinforcement can go a very long way when it comes to your child’s sleep routines. So, while your child’s favorite thing to say might be “no,” you can pave the way to “yes” by trying our printable awards that encourage better sleep habits. In a nutshell, you’ll be awarding ribbons every time your child cooperates and after a certain amount are earned, he’ll receive the Super Sleeper Certificate of Achievement (and a prize if you’d like). Click the link above to learn how use this plan.
Keep at It.
As we mentioned before, it’s going to take 2-4 weeks. Have patience – you’ll get there!
Finally, if sleep training is a never-ending struggle, there may be an underlying issue that needs medical attention. About 69 percent of children 10 and under experience some type of sleep problem – some more benign than others – but it’s definitely something to explore. From sleep apnea to restless leg syndrome, there are many things beyond your child’s control that could be preventing a good night’s sleep. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Do you have other tips for teaching toddlers to sleep? Please share them in the comments to help other mamas and papas get more zzzzzz’s!