Encouraging a toddler to sleep alone in their own bed can be a challenge and learning experience for the child and for parents. You may want to keep your child close, even at night; however, there will come a time when your child should learn to sleeping alone.
When should a child start sleeping alone?
There is no exact age when because it largely depends on the parenting style, but the transition from crib to junior bed may be the time when children need learn to stay in their own bed. The tips below may be helpful.
7 Tips for Helping Your Child Learn to Sleep Alone
Set a Nightly Routine
Following a regular bedtime routine that helps children transition from the day’s activities is helpful to children. This can involve turning off the television at a specific time, putting away distracting toys or electronic devices, taking a bath, brushing teeth, reading a bedtime story or chatting about the day. A nightly routine sets up the ambiance and atmosphere for sleep and lowers stress levels. With consistency, your child will know this routine leads to bedtime.
Set up the Junior Bed Together
The transition to a junior bed is a big turning point. Consider involving your child in picking out the sheets, the pillows, and loveys they may want in their new bed!
Blankets, Bears, and Loveys
Does your child have a stuffed animal, blanket (lovey), or special doll that they love? I’ve seen the attachment to a soft toy or blanket start very early on, almost from birth, when a newborn discovers it in his or her crib. Over time, these precious items become an important part of the bedtime routine your child creates for him or herself.
Turning off the Lights
Turning off the lights is important, although a night light may be comforting to your child. Another thing you can do is slowly reduce your presence in your child’s room after turning off the lights. Try to keep the “good night” short but sweet with a kiss and perhaps a prayer. I’ve taught each of my grandchildren one of the key Hebrew prayers after lights were out. Now they ask for it and, even though they’re falling asleep, they know it in Hebrew!
Waking up at Night
What do you do when your child wakes up at night? Since you are training your child to sleep alone, it is best that you accompany him or her back to bed and tuck them in. Staying with your child should be kept to a few minutes if possible.
What to Do in the Morning
Did your child sleep the whole night in their own bed? If so, this is the time to offer positive reinforcement with a kiss, praise, or a small reward. On a recent sleepover, my grandson opened the door and with a big smile announced that he had slept the whole night in his bed! It’s a big event!
Consistency is Key
Everything will take time. Be patient and consistent as a parent.
Everyone Is Asleep But Me
Educator and author Diana Yacobi understands both the importance and the struggle of teaching little ones to sleep in their own bed. Diana’s own daughter, Lily, was telling her about how their toddler was waking up in the middle of the night, as most toddlers do. He had just transitioned from a crib to a junior-sized bed. He would appear in his parents’ room and request to sleep in their bed. A squirming child and parents who wake up often in the middle of deep sleep was not a good arrangement. Nobody got a good night’s rest.
Little Milan’s nighttime struggles inspired Diana and Lily to work together to write Everyone is Asleep But Me, a book that would help other parents as they worked to teach their little ones to sleep in their own beds. In this precious picture book, Sleepy Bear, by example, teaches children why it’s a good idea to go back to sleep in their own bed.
Diana Yacobi and her grandson Milan
Named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Indie Books of 2018
“I got this book as a present and I had no idea I would be given the gift of sleep as well. We’ve all been sleeping soundly since our little toddler has learned to sleep in her own bed.”
—Dinah Caldwell, Defiance, Ohio
– Wolf, Jennifer. “Fix Your Kids’ Bedtime Routine.” LiveAbout, February 18, 2017. https://www.liveabout.com/create-a-bedtime-routine-that-works-2997792
– Rock, Amanda. “How to Establish Bedtime Routines For Children.” verywell family, April 17, 2017. https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-to-establish-a-bedtime-routine-2765034
– Cettina, Teri. n.d. “How to Get Your Kid to Sleep in Her Own Bed.” Parenting.com. Accessed January 17, 2018. http://www.parenting.com/article/how-to-get-your-kid-to-sleep-in-her-own-bed.
– Stuhler, Katie. n.d. “How Do I Teach My Child to Sleep Alone?” Parents.com. Accessed January 17, 2018. https://www.parents.com/kids/sleep/tips/how-do-i-teach-my-child-to-sleep-alone/.
– Hollman, PhD, Laurie. 2017. “When Should Children Sleep in Their Own Beds?” HuffingtonPost, December 6. Accessed January 17, 2018. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurie-hollman-phd/when-should-children-slee_b_12662942.html.