Help Your Toddler Fall in Love with Bedtime

Getting your little one to stay in their crib can be tricky, but we've got some tips to help you get back on track with bedtime

We all know how creative your toddler can be with their bedtime stall tactics and I’m never surprised to see these frequent sleep issues show up. What’s great though is that there is no reason why we parents can’t be equally creative in getting things back on track and helping our toddlers fall back in love with bedtime.

 When Your Toddler Hates Their Crib

Even if your little one was an excellent sleeper there might come a time where he starts to scream when you put him into the crib. This can happen for many reasons including nap strikes (resulting in an overtired child) or bedtime could be happening too late. The best thing you can do is stay positive and make bedtime 15–30 minutes earlier for a few days, or until the bedtime fussing stops. 

Tip! If he isn’t napping, continue to offer downtime during the day and then stick with the earlier bedtime until naps return.

If you have never had him in a crib, then he doesn’t hate it, he just isn’t used to it. If you start him off in the crib and then bring him to bed with you during the night, then he is going to prefer that and fuss when you put him in his own crib. Spend some awake time in his room, play some games, read some books, and most importantly, resist bringing him into your bed in the middle of the night. Give him a chance to love his room and his own space.

Often parents will think that this is the time to move to a “big kid bed”—but don’t be fooled! If you are already having issues with the crib, then the freedom of a big bed will not help and he will be getting out of the bed before you reach the door after saying “goodnight.”

Dealing With Crib Breakouts

Oh the escape artists! They really know how to make your heart skip a beat, don’t they? Make sure that your crib is on the lowest level possible and before you rush to get rid of the crib, give these suggestions a try:

Turn the crib around—if your crib is higher at the back than the front, turn it around. He will have a very difficult time getting up and over the high front of the crib.

Sleep sack—if you are not using a sleep sack, get one. You can even get them with holes for his feet if you are worried about the full sleep sack. It is more difficult to lift his knees/feet up and over the edge of the crib.

Say “no”—if you have a video monitor then you can stand right outside his door after saying goodnight. If you see him attempt to get out, say a strict “no Johnny, leg down, it is sleepy time.” You might have to say it several times—but he will stop.

The Never-Ending Bedtime Routine:

I am a firm believer in the bedtime routine as it is a great way to wind down and let your little one’s body know that bedtime is coming. As our babies get older they will test their boundaries, “one more book,” “one more hug,” “you didn’t kiss me,” “I’m thirsty”—shall I go on?  What they really need you to do is stay in control of bedtime. 

Give him options—“which toothbrush would you like to use?” or “which pj’s will you wear tonight?” —but when it comes to the timing of bedtime, you need to decide  that and be consistent in how you respond to his demands.  

Consider making a bedtime routine chart—As you finish each task he can visually see that you have done it. Tell him how many books he can choose and then when you are finished, that’s it. I don’t suggest water or milk in the crib—so when he asks for a drink, remind him that he had a drink with dinner and the kitchen is now closed. 

Say goodnight and leave the room—He may keep asking for things but you can respond in the morning when you get him up.

Toddler clock—A toddler clock is an excellent cue for a child to see when it is time to sleep and when it is time to wake up.  You will need to explain that once you say goodnight and that clock indicates sleep time, there is no more talking until wake up time (and stick to it).

At the end of the day it is up to you to decide what time is lights out and how you respond after you say goodnight. Be consistent in how you respond—don’t send mixed messages by responding to his request one night and not the next. A few days of consistency will help him (and you) sleep again!


Jamie is a certified sleep consultant with Good Night Sleep Site Halton. Proud Mama of two boys. Jamie realized that her interest in helping change some of her son’s sleep habits actually turned into a passion and she happily joined the Good Night team with her mission being to help families succeed as she did. When she is not working, Jamie enjoys family time with her husband, sons and golden retriever.

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