Helping Toddlers Fall Asleep

Battling the Bed Time Blues

“I’m not tired. I don’t feel well. My legs hurt. I’m hungry. I need to go poo poo.”  My little man is resisting going to sleep. Thankfully, he is still in a crib, which I fully intend to keep him in until he is 17. He does have an early bedtime and I know pushing it back a little bit might help, but I don’t want to go that route. Instead, I have played around with shortening his nap and teaching him how to fall asleep.

When I can’t fall asleep, I have strategies I use to help me: reading, scrolling Instagram, watching TV, and listening to a variety of apps including Headspace and Calm which are both excellent at helping you clear your mind. While my list of strategies is different for Keener, there are some overlapping themes:

  • You want to take the focus off not being tired
  • You want to enjoy what you are doing
  • You want to help yourself get closer to being tired and falling asleep

Therefore, I have taught him some strategies he can use when he claims, “I’m not tired.”

  1. You can sing songs. Keener, like all kids, loves music. He’s a real sucker for the classic nursery rhymes and kids songs. According to the Chicago Tribune, “Singing is a natural antidepressant,” which is helpful if he is feeling lonely or sad going to bed. Keener, If you aren’t feeling tired, you can sing songs. Any songs you want! I know you love singing Old McDonald, BINGO, and Twinkle Twinkle. What other songs could you sing tonight?  By previewing a few song choices, I am reminding Keener of the songs he knows and giving him a sense of control to choose the playlist of songs he wants to sing.
  2. You can list all of the people that love you.  Often when Keener is stalling at bedtime, he appears to be feeling lonely. I thought of this strategy to help him feel secure and loved. Of course, as a delay tactic, he will often ask, “Does Aunt Katie love me? Do the construction workers love me?” To which I respond Anyone that you can think of is someone that loves you. Think of all of the people you know from school, church, playdates, birthday parties – those are all people that love you and that should make your heart feel very happy!
  3. You can give baby a hug and talk to her. Keener sleeps with numerous friends in his crib. But baby is the queen. She gets a special spot up by him and her own blanket so she is nice and cozy. You can give baby a big hug and tell her about your day. She has been in your bed all day and doesn’t know about all of your cool adventures! Tell her about the friends you played with, what you ate for snack, and what you did at the playground. She wants to hear about your day! I purposefully highlight the areas that I know stand out to him — food and playing. This will elicit happy memories to again make him feel secure and calm in the moments leading up to sleep
  4. You can pray. There have been very few topics that have been more challenging to me than trying to explain God and religion to a two year old. While I definitely have not fully figured this one out, I typically explain, God is everywhere. He is in your heart. He is at church. He is all around. He is always there and you can talk to him and pray to him. You can tell him about all of the things that make your heart happy and you can also ask him to help anyone that needs help. He wants to hear from you.

My goals with all of these strategies are the following:

  • Give him something to do
  • Help him feel secure and loved
  • Have me leave his room on a positive note

I still have to remind Keener to use these strategies to help him fall asleep and practice them together before I leave his room. But I have found that by teaching him these strategies, he does use them more often than he doesn’t. What works for you? Please share in the comments below, any strategies that you use to help your toddler combat the bedtime blues.

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