So, you’ve gone through the baby and toddler stages and now they are a pre-schooler but your child isn’t sleeping great?!
Does your child need you to stay with them to fall asleep?
Get out of bed 1000 times a night?
You’ve been co-sleeping but now not for you?
This all perfectly normal and you are not alone but there are things you can go to gently help your child at bedtime and through the night.
This is general advice so take what is relevant for your family. If you would like personalised advice and support for your child, get in touch with me I offer a pre-school package that offers this. More information on sleep support page.
Talk to your child, any concerns? any worries? Worry jars can help but don’t do this at bedtime – earlier in the day talk about their concerns, write them down and put in a jar.
If you are going to change what you were previously doing, for example sleeping in your bed and now not going to do that tell you = tell your child this isn’t going to happen anymore. “No more coming into mummy’s bed”
Be consistent and follow through, if you say something then do it. Children are super smart and know how to push the boundaries.
Set realistic boundaries and tell your child. Write them down and use photos to help them understand
Have bedtime rules poster: Get child involved in making the poster. Put pictures of them lying in bed or take photos so they can see what you expect them to do.
3 simple rules – 1) stay in bed
2) be quiet
3) close your eyes
Everyone should know the rules, grandparents, preschool, nursery etc
Be simple with the poster don’t use the words ‘don’t’ ie: don’t get out of bed – child doesn’t even hear the word ‘don’t’ all they hear is get out of bed.
Don’t say go to sleep this causes anxiety with toddlers and it’s an abstract concept – too broad for them to understand.
Talk to them about consequences “if you get out of bed mummy or daddy will bring you straight back to bed, no talking.”
You must FOLLOW through with this. Consistency is key if you say you have a drink downstairs before bed and no drinks in bed you must follow through with this if you give in just once they’ll keep asking.
May need to give instant rewards. If putting PJ’s on is usually a battle then when puts PJ’s on give instant praise and sticker on their chart don’t put sticker on their PJ’s as it may fall off then you’ll be hunting for it in their bed!
Choose their favourite character. Doesn’t have to be stickers could be temporary tatoo’s, fake flowers, pretend jewels whatever child is into and age appropriate.
Only use rewards for 3 weeks.
Don’t take stickers away – don’t use as a threat or punishment.
Don’t go on about it all day and nag about it. Don’t use it as bribery.
Role play out with a doll or teddy what bedtime should be like.
Read doll a story put into bed. Explain to doll the bedtime rules let your child tell the doll the rules.
Show them the sticker this is what you get if you stay in bed. Leave the room. Involve child as much as possible. You and toddler wait outside and say to child shh is dolly being quiet? Wow that’s great well done dolly.
Silent return – no talking – no begging – no noises – no shouting – no threats – completely quiet
Go over rules in bed explain simply what will happen.
First return – you can say remember you need to stay in bed, be quiet and close your eyes.
Intervene as soon as you hear child get out of bed
If your child want you to you can stay with them until they fall asleep, floor beds can work well. When child is ready you can wean off this and move gradually away or reduce time you stay with your child.
You can try mummy will come and sit with you for 15 minutes (set a timer so they know when it sounds the time is up) then leave. You can decrease the time of this this every few nights.
Make bespoke bedtime book – photos of your child at each stage of bedtime routine – helps them understand what is expected of them
Look into using essential oils
Look at their nutrition, is there anything they are eating at bedtime which is interfering with their digestion, fruit esp berries or bananas after dinner can cause this with some children, have they eaten enough?
Guided meditation at bedtime, through a CD, no blue lights in room. Christiane Kerr and Jason Stephenson are good ones to try
If they need a nightlight red light is best as it doesn’t block melatonin
Have photos of loved ones around bedroom
Allow them something of yours to keep under their pillow
Consistent meal times and bedtime
Turn off screens 2 hours before bedtime
Allow 1-2 hours between dinner and bedtime
Lots of parent - child time
After dinner allow for physical time something fun, star jumps, running on the spot, small obstacle course
Have a bedtime basket or box and child’s responsibility to fill it with everything they need for bed
15 minutes before bedtime routine, start Wind down routine. Dim the lights have everything calm, quiet activities – puzzle, look at bespoke bedtime book
Once upstairs and started bedtime routine avoid coming back downstairs
Predictable bedtime routine, including going to the toilet before bed
Don’t rush bedtime, if you know your child takes a long time to fall asleep and wants you to stay with them, then eat something go to the toilet yourself before you start bedtime
Do you have more than 1 child or can’t stay with child until they fall asleep?
If you can’t or don't want to stay with your child until they fall asleep you can try different settling strategies at bedtime such as; kissing game, ribbon trick, ticket system
If you are a two parent family get child used to the method on nights when both parents are present or ask a friend to help if you have more than one child. Be prepared they can take a while to work.
Kiss goodnight, promise to return in a few minutes with a kiss
Return almost immediately and kiss them (don’t leave the room)
Take a few steps to the door then immediately return give them a kiss
Promise to return and give them a kiss – put some clothes away then return give them a kiss (don’t leave the room)
As long as child stays in bed keep returning and giving them kisses
Do something outside their room then come back and give them a kiss
If child get’s out of bed gently say “get back into bed and I’ll give you a kiss”
Keep returning frequently to give them a kiss until they are asleep
Oops I forgot/pop outs:
Lie or sit next to child, then after a few minutes say I just need to ……..
Return after a few seconds
The after a few minutes say I just forgot to …………
Come back a minute later
Repeat process making time gone slightly longer each time
You go and choose ribbon together needs to be around 5 meters.
At bedtime give child one end of ribbon and you hold other end
At child’s pace you gradually move away from bed and out of the room whilst always holding the end of the ribbon
Once they are asleep always remove the ribbon!
Involve child to make tickets or tokens
Explain they are get out of bed tokens
If child gets out of bed they have to give parent 1 token
Take child back to bed and stay with them or rub their back until they are calm or fall asleep
If child runs out of tokens then take them back to bed stay with them but not for as long as before
Give child more tokens that what you think they’ll need. Unused tokens can be exchanged for trip to the park, swimming, or if buying a toy something with small parts that you can add to each time
If child has no tokens left in the morning, just gently explain “that’s ok we try again tonight, let’s see if you can save some tokens for tomorrow. “
don’t tell them off or use as punishment.
Reduce number of tokens as child gets used to it
Good luck with it all, let me know how you get on and join my closed Facebook group Trust Tracey sleep advice and support group