A toddlers life motto is 'I can't be tamed' and for a mother we are the wild lion beast half the time trying to tame our little wildlings. If there is one thing you can tame I am going to let you know that sleep is something we can definitely master! There is a few things that might have to come into place first but let me ask you are you currently experiencing difficulty with your toddler’s sleeping patterns?
From about 12 months onwards, your little one (and the rest of the family for that matter) will generally be sleeping better. Patterns will begin to form and the first year of ups and downs come to a grounding balance. It feels well nice...
However even toddlers can still come along and throw a spanner in the consistency routine and even with all of the great stimulation, your tot is receiving and all the curiosity and excitement they are discovering for themselves - sleep is the last thing on their To-do list for the day at times.
Their mission - is to resist you and now they have the power to do that with strength, force and sound! They will resist you the entire way. We know sleep is crucial but they still kind of don't and thats where it comes back to us teaching them again.
I am not named The Sleep Teacher just for fun, its because I truly believe that sleep is a taught behaviour and something we may have to continue to teach over and over until they have the hang of it. Think of it like a child learning to ride their bike. The child may have to practice the skill over and over until they have the hang of it and even once they master it they may sometimes forget and that is where we need to show them again the right way.
Toddlers between the ages of 1-3 years require 12 hours of sleep daily. This includes between 1 ½ and 2 ½ nap time as well.
Our Top Tips for Creating Effective Toddler Sleeping Patterns + Habits -
- Even if your tot is sufficiently tired between 9 am, and 10 am to have a lie-down, they still need 2 naps.
- Most toddlers will resist and cut out their AM nap between the ages of 15-18 months.
- The afternoon nap will be dropped approximately between the ages of 2.5- year 4 years.
- The all-important afternoon nap time is dependant on the needs of your child. It can last between 45-90 minutes, and your child should then be awake no later than 2:30 pm.
- Some bedtime snacks have been known to stimulate better sleep. Just a small snack that is low in sugar, but with a good carb content such as yogurt is a great option.
- Daytime activities that can aid your tot to have a better night’s sleep are jumping on a trampoline, swimming lessons, park plays, and other curricular activities that have them burn active energy.
- Keep a regular time to go to bed will help your little one establish a routine.
- Occurrences and events that seem insignificant to us as adults are relative and your toddler might experience it totally differently such as allergies, colds, etc.
- Combat an early morning riser and frequent wake-ups, by not encouraging an overtired toddler to go to bed between 4-5 hours after the lunchtime nap should’ve ended. You can read more about early risers and combating them here.
- If you have a happy toddler that can stay awake until lunchtime, it is a safe time to drop 1 nap.
- Sleeping suits, and, or bags are crucial at this age and should be used until they can effectively pull up their own bedcovers.
- Toddlers benefit from a good winddown routine between 20-30 minutes before bedtime.
- Try to limit your tot from engaging with electronics for more than 2 hours a day.
Read our article on separation anxiety - this can be one of the reasons why your toddler is reluctant to go to bed.
- When your child has experienced a nightmare - in addition to calming them, try to keep them in bed if possible.
- Even though the AM nap might only be as short as 15 minutes, it will get them through the 12:30 pm - 1 pm nap during lunchtime. Don’t deter them from indulging in this 15-minute power nap, as your little one needs it to balance out their day. However, it is essential not to let them sleep longer than this, as they will resist the uber-important lunchtime nap.
- Don’t let them sleep too long during the morning nap. The chances are that your toddler might not want to sleep for the remainder of the day, but will become cranky and sleepy as early as 5 pm in the evening, which is not ideal!
- Do your best not to move your little one to a bigger bed, unless they are at least 3 years of age. The only exception to this rule should be when it becomes a safety issue, and you have a cot-climber on your hands. Unfortunately, they don’t possess control over their impulse urges, and once they realise they can climb out, an ex-good sleeper can turn into a not-so-good sleeper.
- Don’t indulge your tot in activities that are too stimulating before bed, this will make the bedtime process harder, and they will become overtired as a result thereof.
Little ones are stimulated by factors such as food, light, and social interaction, try to avoid this when they wake up very early, and pretend like it is still night time by treating it as such. Our early riser article can provide some insight into this as well but I promise you that you got this!
If you have tried everything, and it is still not working for you, then refer to our complete comprehensive sleep programs specialised to age groups or consider a one on one consult for a more unique circumstance.