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Toddler Bedtime Trouble: 7 Tips for Parents

Many parents find their toddler's bedtime to be the hardest part of the day. Children this age often resist going to sleep, especially if they have older siblings who are still awake. The good news is that there are ways you can try to help make bedtime go more smoothly.

Use these tips to help your toddler develop good sleep habits:

1. Set up a quiet routine before bedtime to help your child understand that it will soon be time to go to sleep. Use this time to read them a story, put on quiet music, or give them a bath. It may be tempting to play with your child before bed. However, active play may make your child too excited to sleep.

2. Be consistent. Make bedtime the same time every night. This helps your child know what to expect and helps them establish healthy sleep patterns.

3. Let your child take a favorite thing to bed each night. It's OK to let your child sleep with a teddy bear, special blanket or favorite toy at this age. This often helps children fall asleep, especially if they wake up during the night. Make sure the object is safe and doesn't have any choking hazards like buttons or loose ribbons. Stuffing or pellets inside stuffed toys can also be dangerous.

4. Make sure your child is comfortable. Take care of child’s needs before bedtime so they don’t use them as reasons to avoid going to sleep. They may want a drink of water, a light left on, or the door left slightly open.

5. Do not let your child sleep in the same bed with you. This can make it harder for them to fall asleep when they are alone.

6. Avoid returning to your child's room when they call out. Instead, try the following:

  • Make sure they are safe and well before bedtime. If they are safe and well, there is no need to go into their room while they sort out how to get themselves back to sleep.

  • Keep in mind that children's main goal is to get you to appear. So if you appear for any reason, even just for "checking," they will expect you to come each time they call out.

7. Give it time. Helping your child develop good sleep habits can be a challenge, and it is normal to get upset when a child keeps you awake at night. Try to be understanding. A negative response by a parent can sometimes make a sleep problem worse. Keep in mind that children need the time and opportunity to find out how go back to sleep on their own when they wake up during the night.

More information

Last Updated
Adapted from Sleeping Well: Tips for Parents of Babies and Young Children (Copyright © 2022 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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