Need tips on getting toddler to sleep in own bed? Check out these 6 tips to get your child to sleep—and stay—in his own bed the whole night.
After months of sleep deprivation, your toddler finally proved that he could sleep a solid 11 to 12 hours straight.
But just when you thought he’d sleep through the night from now until forever, you’re faced with a new problem: He’s refusing to sleep in his bed.
Right on cue, he creeps into your bed, too afraid to sleep in his own. Other times, he refuses to sleep in his room to begin with, and puts up a fight come bedtime. Even though you’re long past the infant stage, you’re left wondering whether you’ll ever get a solid night of sleep again.
Getting toddler to sleep in own bed
Rest assured, friend, you’re not alone.
My toddler also wanted nothing to do with sleeping in his room, much less his bed. He’d cry once I closed the door to leave, and I’d wonder if this would ever end. Would I always have to sleep on the floor next to his bed every night from now on?
It was in those moments when I knew something had to change. That he had to learn not only to sleep in his bed, but to feel calm and confident in doing so. If anything, I focused on changing how I responded to his behavior rather than trying to change it.
Thankfully, it worked. He went from frantically pounding on the door to leave the room, to happily sleeping in his own bed. And as you’ll see, it’s not just a matter of “forcing” this sleeping arrangement on him, but learning the cause of his behavior to begin with.
Take a look at several strategies you can try to get your toddler to sleep in his own bed:
1. Tame your toddler’s fears
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Kids may not want to sleep in their rooms because of fear that keeps them from feeling safe and comfortable.
My son was afraid of the dark after we installed curtains that keeps his room pitch black. In Nick’s case, his daughter was afraid of monsters lurking in her room.
Help address these nighttime fears while being sensitive to your child’s feelings. Install a night light. Move plants around that might be casting scary shadows. Offer a special lovey or stuffed animal that your child can sleep with.
No matter how silly or inconvenient their fears are to us adults, they’re real for our kids. Don’t say “it’s okay” and dismiss their fears. Instead, acknowledge them as real and help your kids find ways to cope with their emotions.
2. Consider any transitions or changes in your child’s life
My son’s refusal to sleep in his room coincided with transitioning him into a toddler bed. No longer safe within the confines of his crib, he now faced with the wider world of his room.
For safety reasons (he was climbing out of his crib), we had to move him to a bed. But we also had to ensure he felt okay sleeping in this new environment.
Maybe a new baby in the family is competing for your attention and prompts your child to be near you. Or maybe he’s starting school, or has a new child care provider, or has moved to a new home.
Dig into potential insecurities your child might feel so you can address them. You may find that another reason is keeping her from her bed.
3. Offer comfort items and gestures
Temporary comforts like sleeping in their room or offering a special toy might help. Since my son felt scared of staying alone in his room, we offered a few days of sleeping on the floor next to his bed. Then once he was fine with this arrangement, we would only go in when he would call for us.
We lessened our presence until all he needed was for one of us to pop our heads in and reassure him we’re still here. Now he sleeps fine in his room without us having to sleep in there or bring him into our bed.
4. Give your child a head’s up
Before placing her in her room and closing the door, give your child plenty of prep so she knows what to expect.
Starting that afternoon, explain that you’ll be doing things different now. Lay down exactly what will happen: “After bath time, we’ll go to your room, read four books and sing songs. Then we’ll turn off the lights, turn on your night light, kiss good night and close the door.”
She might still feel scared, but at least she’ll know what to expect rather than feel surprised.
5. Find something enjoyable about her bed and room
Encourage your child to sleep in his own bed by making it fun. Find something he loves and tie it to his sleeping experience.
For instance, we demystified our son’s toddler bed by wrapping a bed sheet over the rails, making a canopy he called a “house.” Suddenly the bed was a fun place to be in.
And reinforce the idea that his bed and room is a safe place to be. You might want to get new sheets or a night light to reassure him and make the room feel comfortable and fun.
6. Pick a method that works for you and be consistent
Sometimes the most difficult part about instilling change lies in our own inconsistencies. One night you encourage your toddler to sleep in his room only to concede to his endless cries the next. You’re sending mixed messages that will only prolong your end goal.
Instead, hold your ground. Don’t change the expectations: “Okay, just for tonight.” Decide on what you want to do and stick with it, perhaps giving it a week to settle in. Follow through consistently with your word so he takes you seriously. Don’t let him sleep in your bed or you in his, even if he protests.
For instance, when my son was finally ready to sleep in his own room alone, we did check-ins every few minutes until he fell asleep. The first few nights, he fell asleep near the door, then on the rug, until finally he slept in his bed the whole night.
When your child is crying for nights on end or is wailing to come sleep in your bed instead, consider what you want. If your goal is to get him to sleep in his own bed, keep that in mind when you’re about to get mad or bend the rules. Consistency, a positive experience and showing empathy will get you the sleep you need.
Bonus tip #1: Fess up
We focus so much on our kids when they don’t sleep in their own beds that we forget the role we’ve played in making this happen. Your child has grown used to sleeping in your bed. Transitioning him into his own bed and room is a hard ask when this is all he’s experienced for a long time.
Instead, fess up to the role you played. Explain to your child how you’ve been allowing him to sleep in your bed, which hasn’t been helping anyone get the sleep they need. Let him know you’re going to make changes as well so that everyone can rest well at night.
This simple admission of your own “mistakes” makes you and your child a team—on the same side and gearing toward the same goal. You’re in this together.
Bonus tip #2: Congratulate your child the next morning
This is all difficult for our kids, no matter how easy sleeping in their beds may seem to us. The next morning, congratulate your child for doing his best (yes, even if he woke up several times or whined and complained).
This is a big step for him, and the best approach is to show empathy and patience, no matter how tired we may feel. Point out a few ways you were proud of him, and continue to encourage and believe that he can sleep independently in his own bed.
I also recommend reading the book A Bed of Your Own by Mij Kelly with your child, perfect for kids struggling to sleep alone in their beds:
Getting your toddler to sleep in his own bed is absolutely possible. Start by finding and discussing any fears he might have about sleeping in a bed, as well as any major changes he could be going through. Offer comforts, from permanent ones like a lovey or temporary ones like sleeping in his room for a few nights.
Set your expectations, including what you should both do come bedtime. Create a positive sleeping environment, from new sheets to white noise. Be consistent with the method you choose—being fickle will only send mixed messages.
Fess up to the habits you’ve allowed to happen up to this point, and let him know you’ll do a better job in helping him sleep independently. And finally, congratulate him the following morning, even if he cried the night before. This is a huge step for him, and one that needs to be acknowledged and thanked.
No more sleepless night, friend! Now you can get your toddler to sleep in his own bed—without spending the night camped on the floor next to him.
p.s. Does your toddler wake up cranky for naps? My guide, No Cranky Naps, gives you the exact tips, strategies, and mindset shifts to finally turn those cranky naps around. Want to see if it can work for you? Download a preview chapter, at no cost to you. You’ll also get my newsletter, which parents say they LOVE:
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Get more tips:
- Getting Your Child to Stay in Bed All Night: 7 Crucial Tips You Need to Know
- How to End Bedtime Battles and Get Your Child to Finally Sleep
- Top Children’s Books about Bedtime
- How to End Your Child’s Nighttime Fears
- How to Get Through the 2 Year Old Sleep Regression
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