Often we see toddler sleep regressions happen to even the best of sleepers. When clients contact me regarding the toddler sleep strike happening at home, I first make sure sleep basics are being promoted. Are all the pieces of the toddler sleep puzzle in place?
Ask yourself the following questions. Is your child generally well-rested? Still taking a nap, followed by an age-appropriate bedtime? Are you practicing a consistent and calming bedtime routine with your little one and making sure nightly limits and boundaries are being set?
Something to keep in mind:
- Preschoolers up to Grade 2 need 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night. We want to aim for an earlier bedtime, therefore start your bedtime routine early enough so that you’re able to have a relaxed routine and you’re not rushing through everything. I always recommend starting at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Children thrive on consistency. Choose your bedtime activities and stick to it for the most part. Bath, pj’s, brushing teeth, drink, potty, and reading a book are all things you can include to help cue your child that bedtime is coming.
When all else fails and the toddler sleep strike continues, we may have to pull out the big guns and incorporating some positive sleep tools or my tricks of the “sleep” trade could be the solution.
A toddler clocks work well in that it allows your child to visually see that it’s bedtime and wake time. They’ll understand without you having to tell them that they need to still stay in bed or that it’s not time to wake up yet. Perfect for those bedtime escapee’s and early risers!
When introducing a toddler clock try the following:
- Make it fun! Wrap it up and give it as a gift, or have your toddler pick it out at the store. There are many on the market. Choose one the one that your child would respond to best. Make it an exciting addition to their routine.
- Communicate how it works. If they understand the concept of the clock, they’ll be more likely to follow the bedtime rules before heading under the covers. When introducing it with my daughter, the first few nights we would sit together in excited anticipation of it turning on. She loved the build up and the time together.
- In the morning when it’s time to get up, go in their room and if they’ve patiently waited, then praise, praise, praise!
BEDTIME ROUTINE CHART
I’m not a huge fan of the reward charts and stickers, but I do love me a good bedtime routine chart. If your child is known to pull out every excuse in the book and prolonging their bedtime routine until midnight, a visual chart of each step of their bedtime routine is the way to go. And why not get creative with it? I created the fun chart above for my daughter and the bedtime door hangers below for the twins.
QUIET TIME BOX
Your nap strike solution! The longer your little one can stay in their room or in their bed, the better chance they have of falling asleep. When you are struggling with their nap, head to the dollar store and fill a Quiet Time Box full of books, puzzles, colouring and activity books, figurines, etc. At the start of each nap, they are allowed to choose one toy from the box and play with it quietly in their room. At the end of the nap, they can put it back in the box. Next day, rinse and repeat.
Everyone deserves a pass every now and then. Creating a bedtime pass for your little one sets boundaries at night. This pass gives your toddler or preschooler a “get out of bed once free” card to be used throughout the night, and this system actually lessens the times of wakings and cry-outs throughout the night. This is a great tool to use – even up to the age of 10 years old.
TAKE NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS
Sometimes we have to help our little ones stay in their room by adding a gate or childproof doorknob. Safety is key and we want to make sure you are safety-proofing their room and installing certified safe gates or handles. Containing them in their rooms until the sleep rules are established is no different than when they were contained in their cribs.
Don’t just tell your child that they need to sleep. Explain to them why they need to sleep. Why is sleep important for them? How do they feel when they’ve had a good night of sleep? How do mom and dad feel when they have slept through the night? Praise and communicate when they have let you sleep through the night. They want to please us and will continue to try and do so when they see how proud you are of them.
DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH A TODDLER
The minute you open up negotiations, you’ve handed over your control, and good luck getting that back. Who’s training whom here??
This brings me to my concluding rant: A streaming service recently launched 5-minute “bedtime” videos that parents can use to “negotiate” bedtime with their child. In other words when your child screams, yells, and fights you about not going to bed, parents can now give up, turn complete control over to the child, stick them in front of a brightly lit screen (don’t even get me started on that one) and then cross their fingers that their kid won’t ask for 5 more minutes, because then what are you going to do?
Don’t give up mom and dad! Fight the fight and take that control back – minus the TV. Use the above tools to help you get there – it takes time and consistency but you can end a toddler sleep strike and get your little on back on track.
Alanna McGinn is a Certified Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site – a Global Pediatric and Family Sleep Team. She provides free child and family sleep support through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She invites you to join her sleep community as she works towards Good Night Sleep Site’s mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips, subscribe to our newsletter and visit Good Night Sleep Site.