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10 Ways To Give Your Toddler A Better Night's Sleep

Toddler Sleeping
Giving your body the sleep it needs is important at all ages. For a toddler that means sleeping between 12 to 14 hours per day. Trying to explain that to a toddler is nearly impossible though. As far as they're concerned more sleeping just means less play time. So what's a parent to do when bed time becomes battle time?

Fortunately there are a number of things you can do to try to tip the scales in your favor. Lets review 10 things that can help make going to bed easier for you and your child.

Share Story Time

Reading aloud to your children is beneficial on multiple levels. RIF stresses that reading builds vocabulary, expands listening skills, fosters imagination and is just plain fun. Perhaps most importantly is that reading encourages children to read on their own. Just keep in mind that a child's age should dictate the types of books you read from and consequently focus on certain aspects of learning. If you read age inappropriate books you might find your child is less engaged and not advancing as fast as they could be.

When it comes to sleep time reading can help your child shift their attention away from their day. You also get the benefit of them being still and slowing down their pace which will allow them to realize they're tired. We usually read three books to our children. If you're just starting out just try reading one book and work your way up to whatever works for you both. On a rare occasion we're lucky enough to have one of our kids pass out on the very first book. When you're a tired parent that's an awesome thing to have happen!

Music/Sound Machine

If you have a busy house, a lot of exterior noise or a bedroom that's adjacent to a shared bathroom you might want to consider a music/sound machine. There are so many shapes sizes, colors and features available in today's machines you have a lot of options. The music/sound machine will help drown out those abrupt loud noises that would otherwise wake your sleeping child.

Regardless of the machine you chose make sure that you position it a safe distance from your child's head and make sure the volume level isn't too loud. The AAP has done studies in the past where they found noise machines were too loud at certain distances. If you think the machine you purchased is too loud even with the sound level lowered try placing some packing tape over a portion of the speaker port.

Night Light

The dark can be a scary place, especially for little kids. It's the place where the monsters dwell and kids disappear without a trace. If your child is uneasy about the dark, as most are, then giving them a night light can help keep the dark monsters away. The more comfortable your child is the easier it will be for them to fall asleep.

There are a couple things you should avoid if you get a night light. Don't get a night light that's too bright. I've seen some nigh lights that give off enough light you can see every detail of the room as plain as day. The point of a night light is to just give off enough light so you can get your bearings and identify the large objects in the room. If the light is too bright it might become a sleep hindrance instead of a sleep aid.

Another thing you should consider is placement of the night light. We would recommend you don't position it in the room so that it shinning directly on your child face while they're sleeping. Try to position it near the foot of the bed or on the other side of a nightstand this way their face is shielded from direct light.

Don't Oversleep

On average toddlers need between 12 - 14 hours per day of sleep, including nap times. Eventually that twice a day nap time should turn into a single nap time. That might seem like a lot of sleep but their bodies are going through a tremendous amount of growth and the time that they spend awake is usually scattered with high energy activity. Not enough sleep could have a detrimental affect on your toddler but sleeping too much can also be problematic. If your toddler is spending too much time sleeping or napping too close to bed time getting them to settle down and go to sleep will turn into a serious test of your patience.

What we found worked best for our toddlers was to try to prevent any naps after 4 PM with a bed time between 7 - 8 PM. If the kids ever napped beyond that 4 PM cutoff time we learned the hard way that getting them to bed was going to be a challenge. If you're having trouble getting your toddler to bed start making mental notes that correlate time/duration of naps and the difficulty in getting your toddler to bed. You'll likely find that there's a certain time/duration that works best for your toddler and you.

Foster Sleep Independence

When you have your firstborn it's very hard to resist the urge to give into their wants. One thing kids often want is to have Mom or Dad there with them in their bedroom as they slowly but surely head off to dreamland. The problem with giving into that want is that you're creating a sleep dependency. On top of that if they wake up in the middle of the night they're more likely to seek out Mom and Dad instead of just falling back to sleep on their own.

If you can foster sleep independence with your child. That way they'll be more comfortable on their own as they fall asleep and throughout the night. If we could start parenting over we probably would have made a better effort at fostering this with our kids. We started putting our firstborn son to bed and at the age of 6 he still wanted Mom & Dad there when he fell asleep.

Limit Screen Time

Have you ever had a worry that kept you awake at night? Falling asleep is about slowing down your body and mind. If either your body or mind are running wild it's hard to fall sleep and sometimes harder to stay asleep. If your kids are exposed to too much screen time, especially right before bed, it might be making your job of getting them to bed harder. On top of that it could be having adverse health affects on your child due to lost sleep.

A Global Pediatric Health study showed that "There was a significant relationship between average hours of sleep and technology use before bedtime. Children who watched television at bedtime were recorded to get 30 minutes less of sleep than those who did not watch television at bedtime. Children who used their phone at bedtime reported approximately 1 hour less of sleep than those who did not. Also, children who played video games at bedtime reported 30 minutes less sleep than those who did not, and were more likely to have trouble staying asleep. Children who used a computer at bedtime were reported to have approximately 60 minutes less sleep than those who did not and were more likely to have trouble falling asleep."

Have A Sleep Buddy

Little kids generally don't like to be alone, it's a little scary for them. Having a sleeping buddy can help reduce the feeling of being alone. Their sleeping buddy could be a stuffed animal or just a small blanket that they can snuggle up with. Experiment with the two to see what sleeping buddy your child is more drawn to.

Unfortunately our two kids really never latched onto either of those ideas. We have dozens of stuffed animals in impeccable condition simply because the kids never really played with them. The animals just sat in their rooms like pieces of furniture. I guess the stuffed animals just couldn't compete with Mom and Dad. Eat your heart out Mr. and Mrs. Teddy Bear!

Manage Body Temperature

Have you ever tried to fall asleep in a room that was either way too hot or way too cold? Yeah, it's not easy. The same rule applies to your children. If their bedroom temperature is at an uncomfortable level it's going to become a focus of attention and cause them to not relax. Do what you can to make their room temperature more comfortable. If it's the winter be time and you're trying to warm a room with a space heater be very careful with it's placement and seek out ones with built-in safety measures like auto-shutoff when tipped over.

According to the National Fire Protection Association "Space heaters are the type of equipment most often involved in home heating equipment fires, figuring in just over two of every five fires (43%)." We aren't highlighting that fact to turn parents off from space heaters but rather to stress the importance of using them safely per the manufacturer's instructions.

Managing body temperature isn't just about the air temperature. Make sure the kids are wearing weather appropriate sleepwear. Our 3 year old daughter would love to wear her new winter pajamas but doing that in late summer when the AC is still in use is just not practical. Wear light fabrics that leave more skin exposed when its hot and wear heavier fabrics that provide full skin coverage when it's cold.

Focus On Tomorrow

Kids live in the here and now. Whenever they want something it's always an emergency and they want it like yesterday. When it's time for them to go to bed it's easy for our kids to get drawn to a favorite toy or game and use that as a stall tactic to delay bed time. Instead of letting them fall into the here and now mindset talk about something fun that they can do tomorrow. Emphasize that tomorrow wont come unless they go to sleep today. Creating some anticipation for them may make them more willing to go to sleep so they can do tomorrow's activity.

Make A Routine

If the schedule around bed time varies every day kids wont know what's expected of them next. They'll just be bouncing around from one thing to the next. The best thing you can do is establish a routine and then stick to it. This way kids know exactly what has to be done first and every step thereafter.

For our two kids bedtime routine includes: potty time, shower time, pajama time, toothbrush time, story time and finally bedtime. Even with a routine it can be a little change to move from one step to the next. Kids love to play so any chance they get to have a little fun along the way they seize the opportunity.
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