Setting toddler sleep boundaries can feel really daunting; especially if you previously had an amazing sleeper, and they are regressing…
Or if you have been co-sleeping with a child and realize they are just too big and need their own space.
Or if the things you have always done to get them back to sleep just aren’t working anymore like nursing, rocking, or snuggles.
Before we jump into any steps or goals, I just have to say that the key ingredient to ANY sleep boundary is CONSISTENCY. Your level of success will directly reflect your level of consistency. This is pretty much all or nothing, especially with this age group… You know, you give a toddler an inch and they will take 25,000 miles.
So here we go, let’s talk about 10 toddler sleep boundaries, how to set them, and why they work.
Toddlers fake us out a lot. They make us think they need a later bedtime. They make us think they are done napping. They make us think they are ready to hang- they aren’t ready to hang… Promise.
So be sure your toddler is on an age appropriate schedule with one nap a day. Around the age of 2.5, toddlers make us think they are done napping- they most likely are not. Keep offering that rest time, and they will more than likely sleep.
6-7:30am Wake for the Day
Bedtime, flexible based on nap quality- usually around 4-4.5 hours after nap ends.
2.) Keep the crib.
You’ve heard it from me a million times. KEEP THE CRIB. If you transitioned out of the crib and it’s a disaster- bring it back. Seriously, I have had families bring the crib back after 8 MONTHS and it was all they needed to get sleep back on track.
Keep the crib until AT LEAST 3 years of age- if not later. If they start climbing out- set boundaries, throw on a sleep sack, and turn the high wall of the crib out.
Most of the biggest sleep regressions in toddlers come from taking away the crib too early- just say no….
3.) Prep for any and all transitions.
When you are ready to transition to that big kid bed- prep them for it. Let them help pick out their new sheets. Make it fun! And before the big day of sleeping in their new bed for the first time, make sure the below boundaries are in place.
4.) SLEEP RULES.
Make a sleep rules chart for your toddler to decorate. The sleep rules should be simple, to the point, and easy to remember. Go over them every night before bed.
Hadley’s Sleep Rules
1- Stay in Bed
2- Be Quiet
3- Go to sleep
4- Stay in bed until clock turns green
5.) FAMILY MEETING.
If you’re wanting to implement any changes to your toddler’s sleep, especially if you are considering sleep training, then it’s best to start with a family meeting. This meeting should have ALL of the family involved. Toddlers love having cheerleaders, and it’s important that everyone is on the same page.
During this meeting, you will talk to your toddler about the changes that will be made, show them their sleep rules, and if you are introducing a toddler clock, let them look at that too! They want to be in control and know all the things.
6.) TODDLER CLOCK.
Choose a toddler clock that you love or have seen others use- we like Mella from Little Hippo. Set it and sleep by it. If the clock is on then the clock should be followed.
7.) LOGICAL CONSEQUENCES.
It is important for toddlers to know that their behavior affects things. So if you set up sleep rules and they are not followed? There should be some sort of logical consequence. Make sure the consequence fits the bill, usually missing out on a show is a good incentive.
8.) OFFER CHOICES.
Bedtime battles and stalling are huge with toddlers.
So offer them choices, but make them small and simple. Try limiting to 2 different things.
Would you like to wear these PJs or these PJs?
We only have time for 2 stories, go pick them out- quick!
You can have 2 buddies in bed with you- which ones would you like?
I’m also a big fan of putting an ending to story time- ‘This is our last story, do you understand?’ And
waiting for them to acknowledge.
Too much control can overwhelm toddlers, so letting them choose but also giving them boundaries makes them feel calm.
9.) FOOD & DRINK.
It is up to you whether you offer a small water bottle in your child’s crib or next to their bed. But all other food and drink should stay out of their bedroom. Be sure to remind them at dinner that this is their last food of the day, so be sure to fill up!
10.) BE CONSISTENT.
I think it’s worth mentioning it again… Consistency, especially with this age group, will make or break your progress. If they see that they have control of the situation, it makes them feel out of control and they run with the freedom. Our children thrive on structure and security because it shows them the parameters they can move freely within, so consistency with these boundaries will help them see that!
There is much MUCH more I could say about toddler sleep, but I will save that for another blog…. Let’s start with this for now!
I also LOVE working with toddlers, so if you want to really dive in to your specific situation, you know where to find me!