Saturday, April 6, 2013

How to Get a Toddler To Stay in Bed

Cribs are little mini baby jails with bars.  So establishing a consistent bedtime routine and getting an infant to "stay" in bed is relatively easy.  But, sooner or later, when they learn to climb out of the crib or it becomes time to transfer them to a real bed, problems can begin.  Having a strategic plan in place before hand will help (or you can always "back-fill" if you need to).  Here are some strategies other parents have experimented with.

First and foremost - have a consistent and predictable bedtime routine that happens at the same time every night. Children need routine.  It feels safe.  Be sure this includes a slow winding down of energetic activity. Good sleep hygiene is a gift you are giving your child that will pay handsome dividends for them later in life. (For Love and Logic info click here.)
  1. Include lots of choice in the pre-bedtime routine to meet control needs. (Examples: Do you want to brush your teeth in mommy's bathroom or yours? Covers up or down? Night light on or off? )
  2. Before the big day, start talking about what it means to sleep in a "big-girl" or  "big-boy" bed. "You get blankets and pillows and can get up by yourself if you have to go to the bathroom." or  "When you are big enough to stay in bed at bedtime you get to sleep in a big bed."
  3. Get a safety rail  (Standers 5000 Bed Rail Advanta (Google Affiliate Ad)) for the sides of the new bed so it feels safe like the crib did.
  4. Establish a "stay in bed when it's bedtime" rule and stick to it firmly. One Dad sleeps by the bed on the floor for the first few nights and firmly without emotion or eye contact reminds the child to get back under the covers if they start to get out. 
  5. Some parents simply walk the child back to their room without conversation and again without emotion or eye contact.  It can take 45 minutes or more the first night but night 2 is easier and by night 3 or 4 the problem is solved.  Consistency is key.
  6. One parent with multiple bedrooms to monitor, placed a rocking chair in the hall and established the pattern of reading there for 30 minutes after tuck-in time.  She was right there to catch them if they got out of bed and and firmly without emotion or eye contact reminded the child to get back under the covers or walked them back to bed.
Notice the repetition of "firmly without emotion or eye contact."  Emotion rewards and encourages misbehavior and lets kid's know you don't 't have control.  Love and Logic emphasizes discipline without anger, lecture, threats, or warnings.

If this post was helpful to you please comment.  If you post a question or have suggestions for posts you'd like to see I'll answer.  Don't forget to follow this blog.  I only post a few times a month.


  1. Thank you! This has been a battle in our house recently, between moving to the toddler bed and Daylight Savings Time, bedtime has been a mess. I think we've mostly the situation resolved, but my son still sometimes gets out of bed 1-2 times before he will settle down and fall asleep. He just turned 3 but isn't potty trained yet, and he often comes out of his room with a poopy diaper around 9pm. Any advice? He refuses to sit on the potty before bed, which seems like the logical solution to me.

  2. Thanks for your question Sarah. One idea you might experiment with is to teach your little guy to remove his diaper himself, clean himself up, put on a new pull up and dispose of the dirty diaper correctly. 3 year olds can definitely do this.

    You can monitor and help a VERY little but let him know that big boys take care of this for themselves. (Perfection really isn't important if you think about it. You can catch it with a bath tomorrow)

    If he doesn't want to, you can provide empathy and a choice, "I know. Poop is yucky. That's why mommy poops in the potty. If you want to poop in the potty you can go poop before bed or try to get up in time. But don't worry. Now you know how to clean yourself up if you have an accident."

    By the way putting children in charge of self clean-up teaches responsibility and empowers them with a "can do" message that can really build self esteem.

    Hope this helps. Let me know what works for you if you have time.

  3. Lots of thanks for this post.I think it is a very good start potty training carol cline revie


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