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How to Get Your Toddler to Stay in Their Bed All Night

flickr / Oğuzhan Abdik

Making the transition from crib to toddler bed is a major milestone in a child’s life. But seasoned veterans know that the real challenge isn’t persuading your toddler to sleep in their exciting new big-kid bed — it’s getting them to stay in that bed overnight. Even the best-sleeping toddlers need time to adjust and probably won’t stay in bed all night long, right away. Not only does your kid suddenly feel unfettered, they have newfound freedom to walk out of the room and indulge their curiosity about whatever noises mom and dad are making in the night.

So how do you keep your toddler in bed? For some parents, it’s less of an issue. They have an open bed policy and it doesn’t matter where their toddler sleeps as long as their toddler is sleeping. For other parents, alone time is crucial, and learning how to keep a toddler in bed is a top priority. Enter yet another round of sleep training.

Sleep-Training Your Toddler

The training itself goes by many names, most of which include the word “walk” in them. That’s because you’ll be walking back and forth between your bed and theirs. Maybe all night. The simple steps are:

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  1. Complete the bedtime routine as normal. Including hugs, kisses, and encouragement.
  2. Leave quickly without fanfare, and no answering last-minute pleas or requests.
  3. If your kid gets up, walk them back to bed calmly, tuck them in again and remind them they need to stay in bed. Leave the room.
  4. If your kids get up again, walk them back to bed calmly and now silently. Tuck them into bed. Leave the room.
  5. Repeat.

This is not an easy or quick thing to do. It may take a night before it works. It might take five. But it will eventually work. The key is to remain completely calm and quiet in the face of whatever your kid throws at you. Even if they are literally throwing things at your face.

Need motivation? Just think of the quiet nights of conversation with only you and your partner in bed. Or having sex.

Make Expectations About Staying in Bed Clear

Make sure your kid knows what you expect from them. Explain that big beds are for big kids and they are perfect for sleeping. You can make a sticker chart for stay-in-bed rewards if you’re into that kind of thing. In terms of the bed itself, make sure that it has all the great stuff they remember from their crib, except for the spit-up stink.

Maintain Your Toddler’s Sleep Schedule

Keep the bedtime routine as sharp as it once was. But this time look at it with a critical eye to make sure any changes in sleeping habits haven’t put you in an impossible situation. Is your kid still napping? Is that nap too close to bedtime? Is bedtime too early? These are things that will make your tiny night owl want to hop out of bed and party.