It’s never easy when your 2 year old won’t stay in bed when transitioning from a crib. Learn how to keep your toddler in bed with these tips!
Walking him back over and over was supposed to work. At least that was what I heard to do. Instead of staying in bed, my 2 year old kept getting out of it over and over.
He’d start crying hysterically the second I left the room after saying goodnight. I’d put him back in bed, but he’d get out once again. He was so persistent that he’d get up immediately after I left the room. We repeated this “dance” for over two hours before I begrudgingly relented to our old sleep routines.
What do you do when your toddler keeps getting out of bed, sometimes even in the middle of the night?
This is especially tricky for those of us who are transitioning our kids from a crib into their own beds. Whereas they couldn’t escape the tall rails of a crib, now they can easily step out of their new bed each time they wake up.
What to do when your 2 year old won’t stay in bed
For any parent used to the routines of a baby sleeping in a crib, a 2 year old who won’t stay in bed can be a big change.
Your toddler might do amazingly well at bedtime, but when it’s time to close the door and say goodnight, she sits and cries at the door. Perhaps she’ll turn the lights on and take books and toys off the shelves within minutes of you leaving the room. She might even be going through separation anxiety.
Suddenly, the hours you had to yourself after her bedtime routine are now spent putting her back to bed repeatedly. Neither you nor your child are getting much sleep.
Don’t worry friend—these sleep problems won’t last forever. Check out a few of these tips below to get your 2 year old to stay in bed at nighttime:
1. Set expectations
This is an overlooked tactic but one that’s not only helpful but essential. During the daytime, set your expectations with her as far as what she should and shouldn’t do at night. Reiterate this during your bedtime routine so she remembers what you had talked about.
Hearing the “plan” out loud really can help them abide by the rules. After all, it can be a bit unfair to lay them out at night when she’s already upset or confused. By going over the plan ahead of time, she has more reason to stay in bed.
First, explain how her bed is different from her crib, and what you expect of her now that she has a big kid bed. “Your bed is different from the crib, don’t you think? See this part of the bed? This is so you can get out on your own instead of me carrying you out.”
Then, let her know what she should do once she’s tucked in. “We’ll dress in pajamas, read two bedtime stories, and sing our lullabies. After that, you’ll stay in your bed. You should only get out when I come to your room in the morning.”
With these boundaries in place, she’s more likely to follow through.
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2. Turn your child’s room into a “crib”
With the whole room at her fingertips, your child has more to explore, play, and yes, keep her out of bed than when she was in the crib. That’s why some parents find their kids pulling books and toys off the shelves and playing until the late hours of the night.
If your child is doing the same, treat her room like you did her crib. For instance:
- Remove toys and books that she can access
- Anchor the furniture to the walls
- Baby-proof sockets and wires
- Remove access to lights she can turn on
Keep a few items that she can sleep with, like her favorite stuffed animals. Otherwise, keep the room subdued, dark, and “boring.”
3. Keep interactions minimal
One reason toddlers keep getting out of bed is that they want more time with us. They realize that we’re still awake when they’re already tucked in bed and want in on the action.
To reinforce the idea that bedtime is for sleep, keep your interactions minimal each time she gets out of bed. If she gets out of the room, walk her back in with little fanfare or admonition. Don’t even make eye contact, and keep your words few and simple.
You might even want to keep the rest of the house subdued, even temporarily, so that she doesn’t think she’s missing out on anything while she’s in bed.
And to “fill her bucket,” spend plenty of quality time with her during the day when she is awake. That way, she knows that the time to hang out is during the day, and everyone sleeps at night.
4. Check in strategically
One way to keep your child in his room is to prevent her from leaving it in the first place. Rather than leaving the door ajar, close it so that he can’t open it to leave. Let him know that it’s time to sleep and that he should stay in bed and rest until morning.
Close the door and leave, even if he cries out for mommy or daddy. Then, if he’s still crying 10-15 minutes later, poke your head in the room to remind him that you’re still here but that it’s time to sleep. Repeat these check-ins every 10-15 minutes until he stops crying.
The most important part? Stay consistent. You can’t tell him that you’ll be in your room for the night, only to relent and stay in his until he falls asleep. Similarly, put your foot down when you say he can’t sleep in your bed like he usually did.
With consistency, he’ll learn that he can sleep in his bed all night instead of relying on old habits.
5. Use a baby monitor
Do you still have your baby monitor? This can come in handy once more as you help your 2 year old stay in bed without having to be in the room with her.
The moment you see even the slightest movement—removing the blanket, taking a step on the floor—go into the room to remind her to sleep. Your monitor might even have a way for you to speak into it so that she hears you. That way, you can “talk” to her without having to open the door.
Catch her early enough and she hopefully learns that she should stay in bed until the morning.
6. Set a time limit to stay in the room
If you don’t like the idea of leaving your child in her room, one compromise is to sit in her room, but within a set time limit. Let her know ahead of time that you can keep her company for 10 minutes.
So, after tucking her in bed and turning off the lights, sit in the corner and use the time to check your email or read. As soon as she starts getting out of bed, give her a gentle but firm, “Shh, stay in bed.” Then, once 10 minutes pass, you can then leave the room.
But as always, consistency is key. If you say you’ll only stay for 10 minutes, then you have to leave after 10 minutes, even if she’s upset. Otherwise, you’re going back on your word, and it’ll be harder for her to comply down the line.
With new freedoms come new challenges, don’t you think? Now that your 2 year old can get out of bed, she refuses to stay in it. Don’t worry—you now have a few strategies to keep her in her bed at night and regain your hours of sleep.
To start, set your expectations with her ahead of time so that she hears what she should (and shouldn’t) do out loud. Prevent her from playing all night by turning her room into a “crib” and removing distractions. Should you need to engage with her, keep your interactions minimal so she knows it’s time to sleep.
Close the door and check in every few minutes to remind her that you’re still here, but that it’s time to sleep. If you still have your baby monitor, use it to keep a close eye on her and stop her the minute she makes a move.
And if she insists that you stay in her room as she falls asleep, compromise and set a time limit of how long you’ll be with her.
Now you can have a good night’s sleep once again—all without walking her back to her room for two hours.
Get more tips:
- How to Get Through the 2 Year Old Sleep Regression
- 8 Easy Ways to Stop Toddler Bedtime Tantrums
- 9 Steps to a Smooth Crib to Toddler Bed Transition
- Consequences for Bedtime Battles that Work
- 2 Year Old Sleep Regression Solutions That Work
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