Some can use the toilet (win!). Some can climb into their own highchairs (nice!). Most can misbehave (enter palm-in-face emoji here). All have sleep issues, at least once (cue the groan from parents across the world). Yes, even the BEST toddler nappers and night sleepers can experience temporary sleep problems from time to time. Toddler sleep regressions, nightmares, bedtime battles (not to mention, when should they go to bed anyways??), moving to a toddler bed, or introducing a new sibling to the family can all cause night disturbances. I'll keep it quick, I know your child-free time is precious ;)
1. Keep that nap! So many parents are quick to think, "My child is having more trouble going down for naps, I bet if I drop the nap completely this will work out better in the end." Perhaps you're right. Or perhaps you will have a young toddler on a warpath by dinnertime. Toddlers nap begin to gradually disappear around age 3, over a period of weeks (not a couple days), where naps can become shorter or the child plays the entire time. Always encourage a quiet time until school age. Even us adults need some down time after a busy morning.
2. Beware of Bargaining. I once read that bargaining is a toddler's currency. They have nothing else to offer, but to ask for just one more book, one more hug, one more bathroom break. Occasionally, this is fine, but it's important to stay consistent, and go back to the basics should it spiral out of control.
3. Nightmares. As a working-at-home Mom of two, no one understands putting on a quick cartoon more than me while you hustle through a 2-minute shower. I get it. Make sure you're monitoring what your children are watching when you're not watching closely, or what the younger sibling is watching WITH the older child. Imagination in play peaks at age 3, which also means children have the ability to now dream "in sequence", making dreams much more vivid (or terrifying).
4. Toddler Rooms: Keep the room around 70 degrees, with white noise playing continuously and limited access to toys to encourage play. This is a room to sleep, not play until midnight.
5. Nighttime Wakings: Occasionally your toddler will experience one, for a multitude of reasons. It's best to reassure, stay in your toddler's room, and encourage him or her back to sleep, using as little intervention as possible.
6. Pull ups at night are OK! Many parents will ask me, "What should I do if my toddler wets the bed" or "What should I say if he leaves the room at night to use the bathroom?" It's perfectly acceptable to allow a pull-up until age 5, when a child's bladder completely matures. Due to our body's biology, your child should not experience a BM diaper late at night, unless they are experiencing some tummy troubles from dinner of course.
7. Moving to a toddler bed is exciting, yet tricky. This is a VERY exciting time for a young child, so expect some slight regressions at bedtime or in the middle of the night. Lots of praise for those kiddos that stay (and sleep) in their big kid bed at night!
8. Yes, the "Ok to Wake" color clocks work. BUY ONE. (Here's our favorite.)
9. Rewards are ok and don't have to be grand. I have my clients take their children to Starbucks for a hot chocolate, or pick a small prize from the Target dollar aisle. It doesn't have to be a big reward, but if it's worth rewarding (sleeping all night in their room, etc.) then go for it!
10. Keep realistic expectations. These are children, not robots, and not everything will go perfectly or smoothly the first time. Even as adults we wake up at night, and can't seem to shut our brains off, so give your toddler some slack. Always reassure, encourage, and take their feelings into consideration.
11. Keep plenty of wine handy. (OK, this wasn't a REAL step, but hey, I'm a realistic Mom! ;)