How to help your toddler go to sleep + stay asleep (so you can get rest, too)

Everyone will be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when you overcome your toddler’s sleep challenges

How to help your toddler go to sleep + stay asleep (so you can get rest, too)

If you are parenting a toddler, you are my hero. From potty training to tantrum managing, and learning your child's little personality, life is nothing short of an adventure.

You might be enjoying sleep as a part of your life again, and now you can finally experience the wonder and excitement of your sweet little one—or you’re wondering why your two-year-old still isn't sleeping through the night. Either way, sleep regression doesn't only apply to newborn babies—it very well can be a challenge you face throughout the years of toddlerhood.

But listen, Mama, before you buy a bigger coffee machine, know that there are many tools and tricks that will help you conquer this new sleep stage.


Here are five toddler sleep h abits to expect and how to handle them:

1. Your toddler won't stay in bed. Toddlers love to be on the go, and bedtime is no exception. If your child is constantly getting out of bed after being put down, there are a few things you can try.

  • Set the expectation for how often she is allowed to come out of the room. Some experts recommend giving your child a "pass" once or twice at bedtime, so she knows if she needs something that is the limit, and beyond that, she needs to stay in her room until morning.
  • Similarly, a red/green/yellow light clock brings some excitement and curiosity to bedtime. The clock will show red when it is time to stay in the room and green when she can get up for the day!
  • You may need to consistently guide her back to bed. Even if it means you put her back in bed 35 times in a night, after enough consistency and communication, she will start to understand boundaries.

2. Your child is becoming noticeably tired earlier than normal. This stage of life is often very transitional, and many toddlers are dropping from two naps to one, or dropping the daytime nap altogether. Daytime and nighttime sleep go hand-in-hand, so anytime there is a shift in one, there will be a shift in the other. The best thing you can do in this situation is to move up bedtime so she doesn't become overtired, and give plenty of wind-down time prior to when it's time to go to bed.

3. Your toddler's sleep habits are changing due to a shift in your family dynamic. Whether you are bringing home a new baby or moving into a new house, your toddler can likely feel the effects. Often this will cause a disruption in sleep and she might experience early morning wake-ups or trouble sleeping through the night suddenly. If this is happening, it is best to give her some extra comfort, and keep your routine as consistent as possible. Stability and some extra TLC will help her handle her emotions and still get the sleep she needs. Remember that in this case, any changes in her sleep habits more than likely will resolve once she feels more settled.

4. Nightmares are waking her up in the middle of the night. This is very common once children are at the age where their imaginations develop, they are starting to explore the world, and they are stimulated throughout the day. The best way to help your child through a stage of nightmares is to keep her feeling safe. Introducing or encouraging a lovey, or even a picture of you in her room to grab ahold of when she feels scared, is a great way to do that. You can try talking about it the next day to see if there is anything specific that is triggering nightmares, but if not, just remember to provide her with the comfort she needs and then help her back to sleep.

5. Bedtime becomes a constant struggle. Bedtime isn't always the happiest of times for you and your child. Children can experience a range of emotions including fear, separation and anger, often leading to a tantrum around going to sleep. It is so important in this case not to treat this as an opportunity for discipline, but rather to teach and enforce boundaries. The best way to do this is to communicate the bedtime routine as much as possible to your child. You can say something like, "We want to be fully rested tonight, so that we have a lot of time to play at the birthday party tomorrow," or, "Remember when I said we could go to the pool tomorrow? We won't be able to do that unless all of us get the rest we need tonight, so let's make sure that happens." Wind-down time is also very helpful in this case, as being overtired can contribute to exisitng feelings around sleep.

The more you can promote and encourage sleep, the better chance your child has to learn healthy sleep habits that will stick.

In This Article

    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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    A love letter from your baby.


    I can't see past you right now, I'm so small and everything's a little blurry.

    All I see is you.

    When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I'm here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren't lonely for me.

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