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Getting your toddler to sleep

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As your child grows and changes, they might need to be settled down in different ways. It may be that they’re now more aware of what’s going on around them, and might not want to be left alone. And when they learn how to get out of bed themselves, they might keep getting up again and again.

You might have tried them before, but here are some things you can do to try and get your toddler settled at night.

Top tips from parents

Tip #1: Bedtime routine

Tip #1: Bedtime routine

Tip #1: Bedtime routine

Young children actually need to practise going to sleep, and that’s where a bedtime pattern works so well. Follow your bath with a story, some gentle play like colouring-in or a jigsaw, and a cuddle, and your child will soon learn that sleep is to follow.

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Tip #2: Make it clear

Try to always say goodnight firmly and as if you really mean it. If your child gets out of bed, take them straight back, and tell them you’ll come back to check on them. Just remember to do just that so they know you’re following through!

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Tip #3: Cosy room

Tip #3: Cosy room

Tip #3: Cosy room

"Closing the curtains in his room and just having a wee light on helps my kid know it is time to settle down."

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Tip #4: Review naps

As your toddler gets older their sleeping habits can change. Maybe that two hour nap in the afternoon is now stopping them from going to sleep at night. Why not bring their afternoon nap forward or even reduce it to one hour? It might be trial and error till you find the right balance.

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Tip #5: Make bed fun

Tip #5: Make bed fun

Tip #5: Make bed fun

Try taking your child shopping to pick out their own bedding for their ‘big boy or big girl bed’. When the time comes, it might make their bed seem more appealing, and bedtime a little easier.

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Tip #6: Stay relaxed

Children can often tell if you’re stressed. If they know you’re trying to rush their bedtime routine for whatever reason, they can start to play up. We know it’s easier said than done, but keep calm as much you can.

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Tip #7: Calm them down

Tip #7: Calm them down

Tip #7: Calm them down

It’s good to try and calm them down before putting them in their bed. A cuddle and listening to a song or bedtime story together will get them in the mood for sleep. It’s also a great way to spend time getting closer to your child.

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Tip #8: Tire them out

“I always find that my son settles and sleeps better if he's played outside. So we always try and do something outside every day, even if it’s just a short walk to the corner shop.”

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Tip #9: Being active

Tip #9: Being active

Tip #9: Being active

Jumping and running about together during the day can help improve your child’s sleep at night.

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Tip #10: Change the routine

You’ll probably find your child’s pattern changes as they get older. Playing with siblings, or with you after tea, and before bathtime, can help get rid of some of their extra energy.

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Tip #11: Safety first

Tip #11: Safety first

Tip #11: Safety first

It can be so easy to fall asleep with toddlers on sofas or armchairs, but this can be really dangerous. Try and think carefully about your toddler’s safety for every sleep.

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Tip #12: More cuddles

"My daughter was being clingy during the day and even worse at bedtime. I worked out she wanted more cuddles and attention during the day and she became easier to deal with day and night."

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What the professionals say

“Children need to practise going to sleep and will benefit from a bedtime routine. Give them a bath or a story, and have them in bed and being cuddled within 20-30 minutes. Any longer, and they’ll have forgotten why they put their PJs on!”

Margaret Duncan, Sure Start health visitor, Dundee.

More information

Ready Steady Toddler has lots of information on helping your toddler sleep and getting them into a good routine. If you think your baby’s not settling at night because of a health issue, contact your GP or health visitor for help.

This article was created as part of 

Last updated: 8 Nov, 2018


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