When your toddler won't stay in bed, it can affect the sleep of every member in the household. Worst of all, this habit of hopping out of their slumber space can happen when they are in their crib, during a transition to their big kid bed, and even months after that successful move.
If you're wondering how to keep your toddler in bed without a nightmare fight, we have some simple solutions that will get everyone back to their normal sleep schedules.
How to Keep Toddlers in Bed
First and foremost, when your toddler keeps getting out of bed, consider the potential causes. Some of the main issues that trigger this action include a lack of stimulation during the day, curiosity or a fear of missing out, a lack of a routine, and getting too much or too little sleep.
Sleep regressions can also cause a toddler to suddenly start struggling to staying in bed. By making these simple changes, you can help to keep your toddler in bed so that you can get a good night's rest.
1. Assess Their Current Sleep Schedule
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, this is the amount of sleep your toddler needs based on their age:
|Amount of Sleep Hours
|Toddlers (1 - 2 years old)
|11 - 14 hours (including naps)
|Preschoolers (3 - 5 years old)
|10 - 13 hours (including naps)
If your child is getting less sleep than they require, they could be producing more cortisol than normal. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for helping us wake in the morning. Too much of this hormone can cause insomnia. In other words, try to make sure that your child's sleep hours add up to expert recommendations. If they don't, try adjusting their sleep windows to help them get the rest they need.
Similarly, there is such a thing as too much sleep. If you are letting your child sleep until all hours of the morning and or nap for long hours in the afternoon, they are most likely not going to go to sleep at bedtime. Aim to be like Goldilocks and have them get just the right amount of sleep!
It takes a minimum of two weeks to adjust a person's sleep schedule, so don't expect immediate changes. However, after about a month, parents should see a big difference.
2. Start a Consistent Bedtime Routine
Kids thrive on routines! For the parents who want an easy solution for keeping their toddler in bed, simply create a bedtime routine that works best for your family.
Did you know that watching television or playing on your phone right before you go to sleep can inhibit your melatonin production, which impacts sleep? If your toddler won't stay in bed, it may be because their quiet hour watching Cocomelon threw off their circadiun rhythm. Consider turning off all blue light devices and dimming your house lights an hour before bedtime to help them get in a sleepier state.
3. Create a Calming Sleeping Environment
Just like when they were an infant, you want your toddler's sleeping space to be cool, dark, and quiet. Simple ways to do this include:
- Lowering the thermostat level
- Putting a noise machine or fan in their room
- Turning off the lights
- Investing in blackout curtains
Sometimes the reason why your toddler won't stay in bed is because they are afraid of the dark. A nightlight can help them to feel safe while they sleep alone.
4. Remove Distractions From Their Sleeping Space
If your child's room is filled with toys, can you really blame them for gravitating back to the fun? By removing distractions from your child's room, you give them no choice but to count sheep and try to go to sleep.
For our family, we purchased open fabric toy bins that live in his closet. When it's time for play, we grab the bin we want and have a ball, but when it's time for bed, we put all of the fun away for another day.
We also limited his stuffed animals — only his babies (lovies) are allowed to sleep with him. He also gets to pick three short books to read once we leave the room, but that is the only available stimulation. These aren't the only ways to do it — but you get the idea. Minimizing distractions in a way that works for your family can help your child stay in their bed and get a good night's sleep.
5. Install a Baby Gate at Their Door
For those toddlers who can't help but wander, consider installing a baby gate at their door. This gives them the freedom to see that nothing exciting is going on outside their room, but also prevents curiosity from getting the best of them. After a while of waiting to see if anything happens in the hall, your toddler will probably get bored and retreat back to their bed.
If you're nighttime potty training when these sleep issues are occurring, consider putting the baby gate in your hallway and placing a training potty, toilet paper, and hand wipes in the hallway. This can keep them on track on their potty training journey, but limit their access to the remainder of your home.
6. Give Them Proper Stimulation During the Day
This is probably the biggest and best solution on the list, which is why we saved it for last. If you sit on the sofa all day watching television, are you tired at bedtime? NO! The same goes for your child! By keeping your toddler's body and mind active throughout the day, you will wear them out, making it so much easier for them to drift off into dreamland!
Consider Other Reasons Why Your Toddler Won't Stay in Bed
If none of the above solutions work, then consider other reasons why your toddler may be getting out of bed. These can include sleep regressions, illnesses, and nightmares. As a parent, it's our job to look at the big picture and think about the possible causes for our toddlers seemingly sporadic behavior. If you have concerns or can't seem a solution to your toddler's sleep problems, talk to your pediatrician to see if there might be something you are missing.