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 20 toddler sleep training secrets.
#1 – Make it Special
Toddlers don’t naturally know how to go to sleep on their own – they need to be taught. Sometimes it’s challenging because toddlers don’t want to go to bed for fear they’ll miss out on something or because they simply don’t want to be away from you. Whatever the emotional obstacles are, turn things around by changing your child’s perspective on the process. This is a big deal, and a big transition for your toddler. Make it special by having him help you pick out new sheets, blankets, even the bed itself if you’d like. This may also be a good opportunity to redecorate his room if you’ve been thinking about it. Have your child as involved as possible, as it will help empower him and enjoy this new ‘big kid’ status.
#2 – Watch for Signs of Sleepiness
Maybe your sleep training efforts aren’t working because you’re not working with your child’s inner clock. Step back from your routine, ignore the clock, and simply watch for yawning or just generally looking sleepy. Observe your child both at night and around your usual daytime nap times. Maybe you’ll see that they just aren’t tired and you need to adjust things by 30 minutes. If they go to bed a half hour later, but fall asleep faster, you might ease a lot of frustration from everyone’s lives.
#3 – Unplug
It’s getting ever more challenging in our hyper-connected world, but the lights and sounds from TVs, computers, iPads, etc stimulate the brain. Even if your toddler isn’t using a device or watching the TV, if there’s one being used nearby, the lights and sounds can still be sending cues to your child’s brain to stay awake. Shut everything down at least an hour before bed to create a calming environment.
#4 – Eat Sleep Snacks
Many foods are natural sleep inducers. According to Shweta Kate, Diet Consultant, “milk is the best natural sleep inducer. A warm glass of milk will help you to sleep better.” She says, “milk contains amino acid tryptophan which has a sedating effect. Also, it has calcium that helps your brain use that tryptophan. Almonds contain muscle relaxing magnesium and tryptophan which secretes serotonin (feel good neurotransmitter) which helps you for better sleep.”
#5 – Avoid Sleep Obstructing Snacks
Just like some foods are natural sleep-inducers, others can keep sleep at bay. Here are some of the worst offenders.
- Chocolate. This sweet treat (especially the dark variety) is a sneaky source of caffeine.
- Ice Cream. Some studies have found that eating high-sugar foods before bed can lead to nightmares, so have your desserts long before bedtime.
- Celery. These simple stalks are a healthy snack for the afternoon, but celery before bed can lead to late night bathroom needs. (It’s a natural diuretic.)
- Broccoli, Cabbage & Cauliflower. Again, great for an afternoon snack, but not so much before bed. Why? The high fiber content promotes gas.
- Pasta. Most pastas have a high glycemic index, which means they’ll play with your blood-sugar levels, potentially delaying sleep and causing night-waking.
- Cereal. A quick bowl of cereal might seem like the perfect, easy bedtime snack, but cereals often contain high amounts of sugar and refined carbs. Both of these offenders put your blood-sugar levels on a roller coaster ride making it more difficult to sleep soundly.
- Red Meat. Protein is difficult for your body to digest and will keep your insides working hard long after you’ve laid down. Ideally, your inner systems should be quiet and calm to achieve a nice, deep sleep.
- Pizza. Similar to red meat, heavy and greasy food is difficult to digest and keeps you from finding peaceful slumber.
#6 – Enjoy a Cup of Tea
Making tea is a great way to calm down and a lovely addition to a bedtime routine. 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.
#7 – Slow Things Down
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.
#8 – Dim the Lights
Turning off bright lights sends a signal to the brain that it’s time to start winding down. Cloud b’s Tranquil Turtle is perfect for creating a calming atmosphere that your child will psychologically recognize as sleepy time.
#9 – Focus on the Clock
Time is elusive to a toddler, but the clock can be your best friend for better bedtimes. Figure out exactly how much time your bedtime routine takes and begin at the same time every night. Let your child know when the clock says it’s 15 minutes until it’s pajama time. And when the clock says tea time is over. And when the clock says it’s bedtime. There’s something undeniable about what a clock says – so you should get less of a fight. Plus, then the clock’s the bad guy, not you.
#10 – Get Crafty
Crafts and bedtime aren’t two ideas that typically go hand-in-hand, but if you choose the right crafts, they can actually make your nighttime ritual more memorable, enjoyable, and effective. Perhaps each of you makes a colorful cut-out heart for the other. You kiss yours and put it under your child’s pillow and she can do likewise for you. Maybe each night you each make a star and write a wish on it and you can tape them to your child’s ceiling. Whatever you choose, keep it very simple and very sleep-focused.
#11 – Try Aromatherapy
For babies and children, incorporating aromatherapy into their sleep routine has enormous (can’t emphasize this enough) benefits including their ability to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer. Research shows that aromatherapy with lavender can promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. In folklore, linen bags were filled with lavender flowers and placed under the pillow to help people fall asleep. Today, this anecdotal remedy for sleepless nights has been validated by clinical studies proving the benefits of lavender in aiding a sound and restful night’s sleep.
#12 – Leave a Little Bit of You Behind
This is especially useful for toddlers who don’t like to sleep alone. Give your child something that makes her feel closer to you (something that smells like you will work best). Maybe she could sleep in one of your t-shirts or use your pillow for the night.
#13 – Look to Lullabies
There’s something instantly soothing about traditional lullabies – and it’s no accident. These sweet melodies are sleep-inducing because they’re written to be simple, repetitious and naturally calming. And, they don’t just work on babies. According to a study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, adults with sleep problems reported a 35% improvement after listening to 45 minutes of soothing music before bedtime. Make lullabies a part of your bedtime routine for classic calming impacts.
#14 – Teach 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.
#15 – 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.
#16 – Use Positive Reinforcement
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. Click the link above to learn how use this plan.
#17 – Don’t Give In – Ever
Consistency is vital with sleep training, so whether your child’s whining for an extra 5 minutes or begging you to lay down with him for just a minute or demanding an extra glass of water – don’t budge on your routine. Doing so will only encourage your child to try these things again and again and again. 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.
TIPS FOR EARLY RISERS
#18 – Use 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.
#19 – Equip Your Child to Entertain Himself
After your toddler falls asleep each night, place a box of toys next to his bed. Use different toys each time so it’s always something surprising and new. Include a snack and a sippy cup of water to tide him over until breakfast. Tell your child prior to bedtime that when he wakes up, he can play quietly with the toys and enjoy the snack.
#20 – Identify Any Underlying Sleep Problems
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 toddler sleep training tricks? Please share them in the comments to help other mamas get more zzzzzz’s!
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