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How do I get my toddlers to go to sleep?

We know toddlers are no easy feat. Here are our tips for how to get your toddler to sleep in their own bed.

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Dear Is This Normal,

My toddlers just turned 2 & 3 and are now both in toddler beds. How do I get them to lay down and go to sleep vs. running around their room for 2-3 hours?

Signed,

Running Amuck

Dear Running,

Ah, the crib-to-bed transition sure is a wild phase. I remember those days…and not exactly fondly! Toddlers are, shall we say, lacking in some areas that make transitions like these go smoothly; namely, logic, reason, and common sense. So this adjustment period is completely and totally normal (we’ve all been there, I promise). BUT, I hate to be bearer of bad news: there is no magical switch to flip to make it stop. All is not lost, though! Let’s talk about some ways to ease the adjustment and make bedtime a little more calm and a little less Animal House.

You’ve probably heard this before, but having a solid bedtime routine is clutch. Toddlers can have a hard time transitioning from one activity to another, so getting them into a regular, predictable routine can be super helpful. The best part is you get to tailor their routine to suit their needs! There is no right or wrong answer here. Keep in mind that it should be soothing and quiet and give them a chance to wind down and prepare for bed; a warm bath, bedtime stories, and quiet cuddles with each of them are all good options. And definitely let your toddlers have a say in what their nighttime routine looks like! Within reason, of course. They may be into parkour before bed, but that’s gonna be a hard pass.

Now, the routine is the easy part—you probably already have one in place! The hard part comes next: setting boundaries and expectations. Toddlers be like, ‘Boundaries? I don’t know her’. And again, this is not a magic switch or a quick fix; setting and enforcing boundaries and reinforcing your expectations is an ongoing process (I hear it eases up when they turn like, 32). So rather than expecting them to stay in their own beds all night and fall asleep immediately, it might be time to readjust those expectations to align more closely with the current transitional period. If they get up to play with toys, maybe give them each the option of taking two toys to bed with them, with the understanding that they have to stay in bed to play with them for a bit. Or consider purchasing one of those toddler clocks that change color when it’s ok to get out of bed, and adjust the timer to give them some free range room time after lights out; explain that they can play until the clock turns red, and then it’s time to get into bed. If they feel like they’re still getting something out of this new deal, it’ll make them more likely to go along with it. 

The good news is they will eventually start to understand how this whole bedtime thing works—it may just take some time and trial and error! You’ll probably come into their room on a few mornings to find them in the wrong bed, or asleep on the floor, or wearing different jammies than you dressed them in the night before. It’s a slow process, but they’ll get there. In the meantime, tighten up their nighttime routine, set some boundaries and expectations, and (just in case) make sure their room is baby-proofed and free range kid-friendly. 

Rein ‘Em In,

Is This Normal

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