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Toddlers & Preschoolers
Last Reviewed September 2014

Sleep

Getting Your Toddler to Sleep

Getting your toddler to sleep

You may notice changes in your child when it comes to bedtime. Unlike babies, toddlers want to make their own decisions about everything, especially about naps and bedtimes.

Toddlers need about 10 to 12 hours of sleep. Here are some important things to know about toddlers:

  • They want to be independent and do things on their own
  • They become frustrated easily
  • They need routines and may not like changes in these routines
  • They like to have you nearby them

Learn more about getting your toddler to sleep at night.

Sleeping through the night is a skill that babies and toddlers learn over time, so be patient.

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How much sleep does my child need?

  • A 1 year old sleeps about 14 hours a day (including daytime naps)
  • A 2 year old sleeps about 11 to 12 hours at night with a 1 to 2 hour daytime nap
  • A 3 year old sleeps about 12 hours at night but may not nap
  • Some children stop taking naps earlier and others continue napping until age 5

Can I share a bed with my child?

Sharing your bed with your child is a personal decision. If your child sleeps in your bed, there are a few very important safety tips to consider.

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Bedtime sleep routines

If you are having struggles at bedtime, try adding a bedtime routine for your child, which may include:

  • Reminding your child 10 minutes before bedtime,
  • Brushing teeth,
  • Choosing pyjamas, and
  • Having quiet time.

When your toddler participates in a bedtime routine consistently, over time, this will help to ease the struggles of getting your child to bed.

It takes time and practice for babies and young children to learn how to fall asleep and stay asleep. You can help teach them these skills by creating and following regular bedtime routines and habits. A daily routine helps your child feel sleepy when it’s time for bed. These routines include regular times for:

    • Waking up
    • Meals
    • Naps
    • Activity

Some benefits of following a sleep routine include:

  • Helping your child learn how to soothe herself and fall back asleep in the middle of the night
  • Helping your child feel safe by knowing that you are there for her which can make it easier to fall asleep

The bedtime routine helps calm your child down and lets him spend some quality time with you before falling asleep. A bedtime routine can include:

    • Bath time
    • Story time
    • Cuddling
    • Tucking in and then turning out the lights

Let your child make some choices about bedtime because this might make her cooperate when you try to put her to sleep. Some ideas of simple choices are:

    • Lights off completely or night-light on
    • Choice of pyjamas
    • Choice of story

A transitional object like a teddy bear or blanket can help some children fall asleep. Avoid letting your child fall asleep with a cup or bottle in her mouth.

Help your child to develop his own sleep associations by keeping his surroundings the same. Perform the bedtime routine in his room and put him to sleep in the same room each night. Then, say goodnight and leave while your child is awake.

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Bedtime do’s and don’t’s

Do:

  • Continue to help your child by spending time with him performing the bedtime routine even though he may be able to perform most bedtime tasks himself
  • Keep your interactions with her child brief if your child wakes up in the middle of the night. Give her time to make herself comfortable and go back to sleep.

Don’t:

  • Worry about when she falls asleep, as long as she is quiet and in bed
  • Go into the room or tell her to go to sleep
  • Reward him for waking by automatically giving a feeding or bringing him to your bed

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Transitioning to a toddler bed

Your child may be ready for a ”big boy bed” if he is 3 feet tall or has started to climb. Most children are ready to move to a toddler bed between 18-24 months, but some may be ready earlier or even later.

Moving to a new bed is a milestone in their development that can be a very stressful time and it’s important be patient during this time.

These tips will help make the transition smoother:

  • Avoid moving your toddler to a new bed during a stressful time such as moving to a new home, toilet learning, starting at a new daycare etc.
  • Allow your child to pick out the toddler bed and bedding, if possible
  • Talk positively about the transition—start the conversation by talking about family or friends that already have “big boy beds”; read books about others making the transition
  • Keep the same routine as if your child was still sleeping in his crib
  • Place the new bed in the same spot as the old crib—this helps to minimize change
  • Try having your child sleep on the new mattress on the floor for a few nights if he seems afraid of his new bed
  • If you have another baby on the way, let your child know the new baby will need to sleep in the crib—big brother or sister will sleep in a bed now
  • Have your child take naps in his new bed, to help with the transition at bedtime
  • Praise your child if he sleeps in his new bed (e.g. I’m so proud of you for sleeping through the night in your new bed.)
  • Comfort your child if he is upset with the new sleeping arrangement—let your child know you’re close by if he needs anything
  • Try sitting in a chair beside your child’s bed the first few nights he is trying to fall asleep in his new bed. Gradually move your chair farther away, so that you’re eventually no longer in your child’s room

If your child is refusing to try the new bed, it’s okay to try again in a couple months as long as he’s still safe being in his crib and cannot climb out of his crib.

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For more information:

Region of Peel - Public Health
905-799-7700
Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
to speak with a Public Health Nurse

Caledon residents call free of charge at 905-584-2216


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Revised: Thursday October 02 2014

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