How can we get our toddler to stay in bed? Tips & Tricks

Toddler-Stay-in-BedYou bought a new bed for your kid and are all excited to try it! It’s the first time you put him to bed, kiss him goodnight, and you start walking away from the bed, and he’s already out of his bed and running ahead of you! Once you recover from your shock of finding him there and put him back to bed, you realize this process may continue for a really long time until you become frustrated and start pulling your hair out. Fear not! Here are some tips & tricks you could use to help him stay in his bed and for you to have a peaceful good night’s sleep.

We moved our boy to his new Toddler bed when he was 16 months old and within 3 days, he was settled beautifully into it!

We were using the Pack n’ Play before and though he was not climbing out of it or over the height and weight limits, we moved him as we thought it would help him be more comfortable in a new Toddler bed with a nice mattress and all the works.

It was also 8 weeks to go for his baby sister’s arrival, and we wanted to give him enough time to adjust to the bed and not feel left out when the baby was here. He was used to sleeping in his crib in a corner in our bedroom, and we wanted to move his toddler bed into his room across the hall. These 8 weeks would give him ample time for the transition.

Before you start putting him in the toddler bed:

  • Play soft music from mobile.
  • Invest in a good night lamp that projects the moon and stars on the ceiling (with slowly transitioning colors maybe ) to keep them interested in staying in bed and looking up.
  • Use bedsheets with their favorite characters on them – cars, princesses, dragons, dinosaurs, superheroes, etc.
  • Start off by preparing them for the night… Show them the bed and say things like.. “Oh my, Kris is growing up to be a really big boy! He is going to be sleeping in a big boy bed today. Do you see the bed? Do you like it? Do you like all the characters on it? Look, here’s an Airplane on your sheet!”
  • Before the actual bedtime allow them to play around on the bed and familiarize themselves with it, so they are not scared to go near it when the time comes.

Why do they get out of the bed :

  • The most common reason is: they now know they can. They suddenly realize that there are no bars to stop them from climbing out, and they want to test their new-found freedom.
  • They are toddlers. They want to challenge everything they are asked to do, not to be insolent or make fun of you, but to test their own limits and see what they can get away with.
  • They may be scared that there are no walls on the bed, and they would fall from it.

If they get out of bed (and they WILL!):

As soon as you put them in bed and step away, they may just come running back to you asking to jump in your bed. You may be okay the first few times, but it gets annoying after that. Here are some tips to help you and the little one through this process.

The key here is to be CONSISTENT (Repeat, Repeat, Repeat!) and be PATIENT (don’t lose your cool!). Be GENTLE but FIRM

  • The first time they get out of bed, pick them up (or make them walk) and take them back to the bed. Tell them that the bed is a really nice place and nothing to be afraid of.
  • Ask them what the problem is, and if they able to communicate, really listen to them and try to understand what part of this they are really afraid of.
  • If they say they are scared of the dark, you can have a small night lamp next to the bed or buy a lamp that projects stars and the moon or their favorite character onto the ceiling to give them company.
  • If they are scared that they would fall off, show them the guard rails and explain to them how they would protect him from falling.
  • You can also fold a comforter into half/quarter and place it next to their bed. Show them that if they fall, the comforter will cushion their fall and it wouldn’t hurt them.
  • If they are just having fun and playing by getting out of bed, be gentle but firm and put them back to bed immediately. Remind them that it’s bedtime, lead them back to bed, give them a kiss and a cuddle, and leave the bedroom.
  • The second time, do the same but use a firmer voice and make the kiss and cuddle brief.
  • Just use simple commands like.. “please go back to bed, it’s bedtime”. Do not encourage any dialogue.
  • The third and any subsequent times, say nothing at all as you lead him back to bed, tuck him in, and leave the room. This is the hard part, and it’s very tempting to give a cuddle. Insist on them sleeping on the bed.
  • Both parents need to be on the same page – do not let the kid go to the other parent if one of them is trying to be firm with him.

If it doesn’t work:

The biggest challenge in training your kid to do anything is to know when to be strict and when to soften up and give up for another time.

  • If your toddler is bawling his eyes out every time you put him to bed and you can see he is clearly upset, let it go and do not force him to go back to bed.
  • If he seems to be having fun getting out of bed (and not upset or scared), be firm in telling him to go back to his own bed. Trust your instinct.
  • If you find that you’ve made the switch too soon and your toddler is upset, don’t give up right away. Encourage your child to try out the bed. If he’s still distraught after a few days, bring the crib back.
  • If your great sleeper all of a sudden takes a long time to fall asleep at night, gets out of bed many times (even after 1 week of training), or wanders around the house, he’s probably not ready for his own bed.
  • Just be sure you don’t present the reappearance of the crib as a step backward in development or a punishment. Be encouraging and supportive of your kid’s feelings!
  • Meanwhile, you may work on a “Reward Chart” for your kid – which gives him a reward (make sure you are not bribing him!) every time he accomplishes a task. I found this great page on ideas and how to do positively reinforce good behavior and habits in your child using attention and praise.

Here are some more useful resources elsewhere on the web:

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