What to Expect
If you haven’t included reading books to your child as part of her bedtime routine, this is a great time to start. Reading stories together is not only great bonding time but is important for developing language and early reading skills. And good old-fashioned books are a much better choice than reading books on tablet or other electronic device. Turning pages and seeing the pages turn are surprisingly important for developing readers.
Put your little one’s bedtime routine on a bedtime routine chart! A bedtime chart is a set of visual images, or pictures, in a specific order that represents the activities your little one does before bedtime. You can make the chart with drawings, magazine cutouts, printouts from the internet, or even printed pictures of your little one going through the steps of her routine. So show her taking a bath, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, and reading books. Refer to the visual chart each time you reach a new step of your bedtime routine. Eventually, your little one will learn what comes next in the routine, and you can refer to the chart if she is making other requests. Keeping the steps of the routine consistent helps to get your little one ready for sleep.
Sleep training can get tougher as they get older. One common question that comes up for toddlers in this age range (around 18- to 24-months) is how to respond when they try to talk to you after lights out. You want her to fall asleep but she wants to communicate with you – with words, advanced babbling, or gestures, depending on your little one’s verbal skills at this age. The best thing to do after lights out is to respond as consistently and neutrally as possible. For example, once your bedtime routine has ended, choose a phrase that you are comfortable with and respond the same way each time. For example, you could respond by saying, “it’s bedtime, goodnight,” or “goodnight, I love you.” Be as neutral and boring as possible Do this until she falls asleep. She will realize that it is not time for exciting play or engaging interaction; instead, it is time for bed.
Toddlers between 1- and 2-years-old sleep, on average, 11 to 14 hours per 24-hour period. Little ones her age can seem overactive if they don’t get enough sleep. They also may be more irritable and have a harder time falling asleep.
In general, the best way to respond to night wakings is to be as boring and consistent as possible. If your little one can already fall asleep on her own at bedtime, and starts suddenly waking through the night, first make sure that there is nothing that is making her physically uncomfortable that is disrupting her sleep such as difficulty breathing or having a cold or ear infection. Once you are sure she is not physically uncomfortable, and you are confident that she can fall asleep on her own at bedtime, try paying attention to how you respond during the night. For instance, gradually move yourself out of the room when you respond in the middle of the night. Make sure you are incredibly boring when you go in and saying something calm and simple like, “it’s night-night time.” You can start by sitting next to her crib for a few nights, then sitting halfway across her room for a few nights, then in the doorway, and finally out of the room. You likely will have to wait out some crying but, since she is able to put herself to sleep at the beginning of the night, she is able to do it in the middle of the night as well.
Napping is still quite important – the more sleep she gets, the better she will sleep! Although it is easiest to have your little one nap where she sleeps overnight, that is simply not possible for many families. For families that use a daycare provider outside of the home – whether that is a family member, home care provider, or formal daycare, it is important to communicate with your little one’s daytime caregiver about nap routines and schedules. This helps things be as consistent as possible when she is at home, say, on the weekends. Talk to your child’s daytime caregiver about things like your little one’s naptime routine, what time she naps, what type of environment she has (for instance, whether or not there is a fan or music on), and how long she typically naps. Try to make her naptime routine as consistent as possible. You can also try giving her the same lovie (blanket or favorite toy) for naptime both at daycare and at home. If you happen to have two of the same thing, keep one and home and one at daycare. This will help naps be more consistent across the two settings.
Family & Environment
Your little one is likely much more mobile at this age – and is probably curious as to what’s going on outside of her crib at bedtime and in the morning when she wakes. If she tries to climb out of her crib, be sure you make her environment as safe as possible. For instance, you may be able to drop the bottom of the crib toward the floor so it is harder for her to climb out. Make sure there are no large toys in the crib that she can stand on to climb out. Similarly, make sure there is no large or high furniture that she can climb onto while trying to get out of the crib. Be sure, too, to avoid using things like crib tents that were once used to keep cats out of a crib, as they can be safety hazards.