As infants grow into toddlers and soon become preschoolers, they quickly grow more independent. Some of their newfound independence is fantastic! It’s heart-warming to see young toddlers make their own decisions, help pack their own backpacks, or even help set the table for dinner.
On the other hand, some of their independence can seem overwhelming. One such example is when your young child begins choosing their own bedtime – and their choice never seems to be to go to bed early.
For starters, the younger a child, the more sleep they require. A three year old needs approximately 12 hours of sleep, while a two year old needs about 13 hours, a nine month old needs closer to 14 hours, and a newborn needs up to 18 hours!
Other times, independence in young children means learning when they have control and often becoming stressed when they learn they do not have control. Not having control over their bedtime could possibly lead to a struggle.
Here are some ways to help manage your child’s bedtime:
Children want to make choices for themselves, so let them choose when to go to bed, but give them a reason to get there early. A simple idea like a sticker chart can help motivate a child to get to bed.
Tighten the Routine
Young children thrive on routines, so consistency with their bedtime routine can help get them to sleep. This can mean always getting them in bed by a certain time or following the same sequence of events before going to bed. If they know they have to brush their teeth and listen to you read them a story before bed, when that routine is interrupted they may have a hard time adjusting.
In the same vein as tightening the routine, make the transition to bed easier. Children can become stressed out when they are forced to transition from activities too hastily or without warning. This means if a child is too pumped up from running around, going to bed may be tough. Try having quiet time, like reading together or quietly chatting before bed rather than a high-energy activity. Even watching television before bed can over-stimulate a young child.
Sometimes it takes some time for children to fall asleep. Give them a chance to have some quiet time if they can’t fall asleep. Don’t just let them get their hands on a screen. Studies find that children with access to electronics in their bedrooms get less sleep. Creating a screen-free zone in the bedroom allows children to get the sleep they need.
Communicate to your child about sleep, but not how you would think. Instead of making sleep seem like a task children must complete, teach children about it. According to studies, young children are much more likely to get to bed when they know why it’s important to sleep. You can also get creative and talk to them about dreams – if you get them excited about sharing their dreams, they’ll be more excited to have dreams!
Share your child’s bedtime routine with us!