The move from a cot to a toddler or “big kid” bed is huge. It’s a day of independence for both parent and child. Because now, your little one is free to come and go from their bed as they choose. No more standing at the railing of the cot and hollering for mum or dad to come get them. They can get out all by themselves.
This of course presents a challenge too. Now that the little one can get out of bed on their own, they’re likely to test the waters. If your child is particularly independent or stubborn, you’re in for a fun time!
Here’s how to help your toddler sleep, and stay, in their own bed.
#1 Make it a big deal. Sleeping in their own bed means they’re growing up. Tell them that. Help them feel the pride associated with this big step. And then tell them the rules and responsibility that comes with this step. What do you expect from them?
For example, can they get out of bed before six in the morning? No? Okay. How will they know when they can get out of bed? What about going to the bathroom? Clearly explain the rules so your child knows what to expect.
#2 Create a routine. Bedtime routines work well for adults and children. They help us fall to sleep and stay asleep. And they help our minds and bodies know what to expect. By creating a bedtime routine that includes a potty stop, you’re helping to ensure your child sleeps well and stays in bed.
#3 Don’t get in the bed with them. This sets a precedent and tells your child that you’re willing to sleep with them. Unless you want to do this every night all night long, don’t get into bed with them.
#4 Stick to your guns. This is incredibly important. If bedtime is eight o’clock and little Susie pokes her head out at nine o’clock, don’t let her come downstairs and watch television with you. Usher her back to her bed. When she pokes her head out at nine thirty, repeat the procedure.
For most children, this need to usher them back to bed several times a night only happens for a few nights - as long as you’re consistent each and every time. Don’t have any emotional reaction to their behaviour, even though you may be exhausted, frustrated and angry. Simply escort them back to bed.
Some children are a bit more of a challenge and you may have to repeat this for weeks until they get the picture - until they realise that mum or dad isn’t going to bend on this rule: Get in bed, stay in bed, I love you, goodnight.
Children are naturally going to test the limits. This is particularly true when they receive a new freedom. Establish rules, explain them clearly and then stick to them. Your beautiful child will be sleeping in, and staying in, their own bed in no time.