4 Ways to Decrease Bedtime Struggles in Toddlers and Preschoolers

Many preschool children fight bedtime and naptime because they're afraid they will miss out on something. It can be difficult to decide whether your child truly isn't tired or is just trying to stall bedtime, but monitoring behavior is a good way to tell if he or she is getting enough sleep. Children who seem tired and fussy during the day probably need more sleep. By one year of age, most children sleep about 14 hours a day. By age four, children sleep an average of 12 hours, and by age eight, the number drops to about nine hours. Remember, though, that your child is unique, and that with a regular routine and your support, your child will get the right amount of sleep without a lot of bedtime or naptime hassles.

  • Set a regular bedtime, but don't be too strict. Make your child's bedroom an inviting place to be. Include some of your child's favorite things to create an atmosphere of comfort and security. During the hour or so before bedtime, keep your child's environment quiet and relaxing.
  • Establish a bedtime routine. Help your children take a bath, brush their teeth, put on their pajamas and perform other small rituals, like kissing their stuffed animals goodnight. Reading books or quietly talking about the day are also good ways to help children unwind and feel ready to go to sleep. Be aware that your child may learn to put off bedtime with endless glasses of water, snacks, trips to the bathroom, extra stories and countless questions. Be firm and clear while keeping routines simple.
  • Pick your battles. Consider allowing your child to choose two or three toys to take to bed. By doing this, you limit the number of toys in bed while avoiding problems by giving your child choices. Make sure toys that are chosen are safe to sleep with. If your child doesn't go to sleep right away, require him or her to stay in bed for one hour doing something quiet, such as looking at books or listening to soft music. During the day, reading stories with your child in a quiet, cozy way may promote nap taking. You can also differentiate naptime from bedtime. Have a special stuffed toy just for naps, allow your child to take a nap in a different room or use a special blanket only for naps.
  • Make your child feel safe. A night light or bedroom door left open may help create a relaxed and secure atmosphere while falling asleep, especially if your child is afraid of the dark. These measures may also help children who need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. To prevent children from forming the habit of sleeping in your bed for comfort, compromise by allowing them into your bed in the morning for snuggle time or laying with them until they fall asleep at night, then either moving them to their bed or returning to your own bed, allowing them to make a pallet on the floor beside your bed or planning weekend campouts in the living room together.


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