How to Get Your Toddler to Stay in Bed

One of the most challenging behavior problems I’ve faced recently with my 3-year-old is her constantly getting out of bed during nap time and bedtime. She suddenly realized that she could get out of bed on her own whenever she wanted, and she started to do it. So not only is going up and down the stairs constantly for 1 - 2 hours to get her back into bed frustrating, the fact that she is roaming around the house can be potentially dangerous.

Switching from a crib to a toddler bed can be challenging for any parent. Not only is it a big transition for you and your toddler, it also allows your child to easily climb out of bed to play. This can be a problem when you need your child to stay in bed for nap time or bedtime. Here are some ways to encourage your child to stay in bed.

Have a Bedtime Routine
Toddlers thrive on routine. A consistent bedtime routine will help your toddler understand when it’s time to settle in and go to sleep. Make their routine simple and short (15-30 minutes) and not too stimulating (no tickle fights before bed!). And make sure to consistently do the same thing each night for it to become routine for your toddler.

Assess the Schedule
Sometimes toddlers will get out of bed every few minutes simply because their not tired. So take a look at your child’s schedule—is bedtime too early? If your toddler is still taking afternoon naps, then perhaps bedtime shouldn’t be before 7 or 8 pm.

However, the reverse is also true—sometimes toddlers are sleepless at night because they’re overtired. If your toddler is no longer taking naps, you should consider an earlier bedtime—aim for 7 p.m. or so.

Put All Toys Away
Often times, toddlers will get out out of their beds because they see something that looks like more fun. To encourage your toddler to stay in bed, you might want to put all off the toys away. Not only should the toys be out of sight, you may want to put them some place where they’re out of reach so they’re inaccessible to your toddler. After your toddler gets used to sleeping in their new bed, you can put the toys out again.

Use a Baby Gate
Another great way to get your toddler to stay in bed is to block the door with a baby gate. Although your child will still be able to roam around the room, they won’t be able to leave the room to explore the rest of the house. Since you’ve already put the toys out of reach, your toddler will quickly be ready to get back to bed.

Wear Them Out
The more energy your toddler has, the harder it’s going to be for them to relax and stay in bed. To get your child to stay in bed, have them wear themselves out and use up all that energy first. Bring them to the park or let them run around your backyard for a little. After letting your toddler run off all their energy, help them calm down with a bath or a story so they’ll be ready to pass out for the night.

Update their Bedding
If you want your toddler to stay in bed, you may want to get them excited about their bed. You can do this by making a big production about needing to buy big boy or big girl sheets or blankets for their new bed. Bring your child to the store with you and let them pick out their new bedding. Your toddler will so happy to sleep with their new bedding.

Implement a Sticker Reward System
It’s incredible what a toddler will do a sticker! You can have a sticker chart for positive reinforcement. You can reward your child with a sticker of they cooperate during the bedtime routine and then another sticker at breakfast if your child stayed in bed all night.
Do Not Respond
It’s usually obvious when there’s a reason your toddler gets out of bed (they’re thirsty, they had a bad dream, etc.). But when they come out quietly from their room and start peeking around the corner at you, they’re generally just avoiding going to sleep. The best approach is to take their hand and quietly walk them back to bed. Tuck them back in and don’t say anything until you are done getting them in bed and then just say a simple but firm good night. Don’t make this fun or you’ll find them right out of bed again—boring and uneventful is key.

Transitioning a toddler to a new bed can be challenging, but with time and patience, your child will be able to stay in bed.

What tips do you have for getting your toddler to stay in bed?

Hello, I’m Kelly, a regular contributor on this blog. I live in Pennsylvania with my loving husband and our five beautiful children. I have a background in early childhood education, but I am currently homeschooling my kids. From pregnancy to postpartum to toddler life, I love sharing advice with other moms who are having a challenging time with this crazy but wonderful role of motherhood.

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