Today on Bristol Mum is a guest post from Sarah Cummings from The Sleep Advisor who offers her tried and tested tips on how to help get your toddler to sleep!
When they’re babies, sometimes all it takes is a cuddle and some milk. When they’re a little older, a bedtime story can suffice. But when they’re toddlers, newly on their feet and having just found their voice, getting them to sleep can be a whole lot harder.
In all fairness, can we really blame them? They’ve just had the loveliest afternoon with Mummy and Daddy, they sense a really nice evening is about to be had downstairs…and yet they’re being sent to bed ALONE?! Emmm, no thank you! Frankly, they’d prefer to continue running around, chattering about this and that and keeping said parents’ attention for as long as they can.
Sometimes it’s nigh on impossible to get your toddler to sleep. But here are 4 activities you can try to make it that little bit easier.
1. The wind-down
Enjoy a nice family dinner together, free from the stimulation of TV. After dinner, let them play inside for up to an hour before slowly starting the migration upstairs. This helps if you’ve created a peaceful atmosphere downstairs first, with dim lights and gentle voices to help them wind down.
The top indoor activities I’d recommend pre-bedtime are:
Making a fort
Making a scrap-book
These are all fairly tame, peaceful activities that won’t overstimulate your toddler before it’s time to go upstairs.
Personally, I’d avoid getting children too over-excited with outdoor activities in the evening. I’ve done this before, thinking that a good run around the garden would wear my 2-year-old out; instead, she got all hyped up and wouldn’t settle down until waaaay past her bedtime (and mine!) Also, I’d recommend keeping the TV off just as you bring your toddler upstairs.
Don’t make a big deal out of any goodbyes they have to make; instead, simply tell them to kiss Daddy goodnight and quietly bring them out of the room. That way, they don’t feel like they’re missing out!
2. The bathtime
It works for adults, so why not for kids?! Of course, splishy splashy time can get them hyper during the bath itself – but when they’re all scrubbed clean and patted dry, they’ll start to relax more and become sleepier. The great thing about having a bath as part of their evening routine is that soon your toddler will associate bathtime with bedtime. So when they do have a bath, they’ll understand that bedtime isn’t far away. (Of course, this can work against you but still, it’s worth a try!)
3. The ‘story corner’
Before you bring your toddler to bed, set up a ‘story corner’ in their room; to act as a little sanctuary of calm before it’s time to go to sleep.
Make sure to dim the lights before you bring them in, choosing a nightlight or bedside lamp over the harsh overhead light. Play some relaxing music to lure them closer to slumber and settle on your favourite comfy chair while you read them a bedtime story. If you have the imagination to make one up yourself, more power to you – just remember to avoid any topics that could be perceived as scary!
Another activity you could do at this stage is a guided relaxation; it may not be for everyone but it is a useful technique for over-stimulated kids. Once ‘story corner’ has closed for the evening, it’s time for bed.
4. The rewards club
Ok, ok – this one might sound like bribery. But hey, if it works, it works! Plus, it’s a pre-bedtime activity that kids will look forward to, one that will actually make them want to go to bed. Bonus.
How it works: Make a sticker chart, with a space for each day of the week. If your child manages to be in their pajamas with their teeth brushed by a given time, they get a sticker. Then, if they’re asleep by a set time, they get another sticker the next morning. Woohoo! 2 stickers can be cashed in for a treat, like pancakes for breakfast. And who’d say no to pancakes?!
These 4 activities should get your toddler into a much sleepier, less active, state to begin with. But to ensure they sleep soundly afterwards, you’ll want to make their beds as comfortable as possible, too. Anything from having the right sleeping gear for their head to making sure they aren’t too warm under a thick blanket can make a huge difference.
So choose the right activities, create the best environment you can and your toddler will be having those sweet dreams sooner. Nighty night.
For more advice and support please do visit https://www.sleepadvisor.org/.