When is the best time for getting a kid ready for bed? No, not bedtime, we mean getting them out of their crib and into a ‘big kid’ bed. That means no railings to keep the little ones in bed and no creeping into mummy and daddy’s bed either. Just a simple ‘goodnight’ and lights out. Probably a little too much to hope for after potty-training, but we sure can dream!
Some kids drop right off to sleep the moment their head touches the pillow, and lucky you if you have one of those gems. Usually it takes three bedtime stories, two glasses of water and a lot of pleading and begging before they will even consider closing their eyes. By that point, you probably would have fallen asleep on their bed while they have a party on yours. Here is one mum’s account on getting her kids to sleep independently…
Tracy Tristam, Honeykids content writer and mum of three says,
I was lucky with all three of my kids – they all spoke ridiculously early (and haven’t been quiet for a nanosecond since), so they verbally told me they wanted to go into a bed. They were all around 18 months to two years old when we made the transition. My eldest wanted to go into a bed so we could snuggle up for bedtime stories (he will not be happy I told you that!). My middle one was a super pink princess and asked for a bed with ‘hanging bits’ (canopy). And my youngest (who didn’t sleep through the night until he was 3.5 years old!) wanted a racing car bed, which I willingly got for him in the hope he would finally sleep. He didn’t. But there was more room for me in a Ferrari bed than in the cot during my nightly trips to his room! Read more about Tracy’s nightly trips in our article on sleep training.
So, what’s the big deal with transitioning kids to a bed? And why won’t they just sleep on their own? We talk to sleep experts, Louise Duncan from Petite Dreamers, and Zoe Chu from SG Supernanny, to find out why it’s so hard to get kids to catch some z’s once you make the transition from crib to bed.
Why do kids find it hard to sleep in their own bed?
One of the biggest reasons why you’re struggling to keep your little one in their own bed is because they might have been moved into it too soon. “Children under 2.5 years old just aren’t ready to handle the ‘responsibility’ and free-range of being put into a bed that doesn’t contain them,” notes Louise. “You may give them the instruction ‘stay in bed and go to sleep’, but it is likely that they will jump out of bed as soon as you leave the room to find you!”.
The best age to start? Between three and four years old as they are better able to understand the consequences of their actions. Zoe adds, “Any earlier and you will face an uphill battle of a toddler who will wake up multiple times during the night either crying, or climbing into bed with you.” Yikes!
Not every kid can make the natural transition from crib to bed immediately, but there are ways to ease them into it. Our trusty experts give you some tried-and-tested tips…
Tip #1 Get your child involved in picking their own bed
“Engaging your child in any activity will help them adjust to the situation,” says Louise. When kids get to pick what bed they’ll eventually sleep in, it will give them a sense of ownership and make them more comfortable with the idea of sleeping in a bed. However, Zoe warns not to get them too involved in the decision-making process as “toddlers like power and attention”. Don’t overwhelm them with too many options either, let them choose between two beds and bed linen options.
By the way, when choosing a bed for kids, parents should prioritise safety and comfort. “Safety always comes first. When I purchased a full-sized single bed for both my children, I made sure they had bed rails to keep them safely tucked in at night,” notes Louise. It’s also important to make sure the mattress fits the frame well and that the bedding is made from natural fibres, she adds.
Tip #2 Set rules and bedtime routines
“Children thrive on boundaries, routine and predictability. Make sure you have a set routine that you stick to every night,” says Lousie. “Your little ones might not be able to look at the time and think ‘it’s time for bed’ but they should be able to recognise it by keeping their bedtime routine constant.”
Having an early bedtime is essential as toddlers need 10 to 12 hours of sleep every night. And it must always be non negotiable. “If it takes hours to get your toddler to fall asleep only to have them wake up in the middle of the night, this is often because one of the parents is with the toddler when they fall asleep,” notes Zoe. The key is to make sure your toddler falls asleep when you’re not in the room. Zoe says this means leaving the room after the bedtime routine and allowing your little one to sleep without needing your patting, singing or presence.
Tip #3 Decide on the right time to sleep
Toddlers don’t always show the usual signs of sleepiness. In fact, they become hyperactive when overtired. According to Zoe, when toddlers become really tired they run on adrenaline which keeps them hyperalert. “I’m a stickler for a bedtime no later than 8pm. Anything later and you run the risk of your children being overtired,” says Louise. “Overtired children tend to have a restless sleep and wake up earlier.” We definitely don’t want an early wake-up call from a wired toddler that’s for sure!
Tip #4 Stick to your guns
“In my experience there tends to be a honeymoon period when moving your little one into a bed,” notes Louise. “But once the novelty wears off and they realise they can roam without restriction that’s when the trouble starts.” It’s at this point that you need to mean what you say. For example, if you tell your little one you’re going to close the door if they get out of bed, be sure to do that. Don’t negotiate! Remember, as the parent it is your job to ensure your child gets all the sleep they need and deserve.
Tip #5 Be patient
Change is not easy at first, but kids are very resilient and they are extremely adaptable. “Talk to them about the expectations, give them time to learn this new routine and to prepare themselves for the big move,” says Zoe. Get excited with them about the transition as well!
Expect some protest the first few nights, but rest assure that things will get better and they will embrace the new sleep environment. “If you give up halfway and allow them to sleep in their usual spot after a protest, this will only make things worse and delay the entire transition as your kid will learn that whining will get them what they want,” warns Zoe. So always stick to the plan, be consistent and everyone at home will finally get that much needed rest!
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