The wisdom and experience of our resident sleep expert Jo Tantum will have your toddler tucked-up in their comfy ‘big bed’ in no time.
You really don’t need to go into panic mode to get your little one sleeping in their own bed. Firstly it’s not a race; keep them safely in their cot as long as possible, usually until they try or succeed to climb out. It is important that you can explain the transition to them, so they need to be old enough to understand your explanation.
Around two and a half is average though my niece stayed in her cot bed until she was three because she was so happy in there!
Let your toddler choose the quilt covers and a few other big bed treats so they are involved in the change and experience it positively. You might like to keep the cot in their room for the first couple of weeks, in case there are nights they won’t settle in the new bed and seek the comfort of their cot. Always praise and encourage your child once they go in their ‘big bed’ as it can be rather overwhelming for them.
If your toddler gets in and out of bed (having discovered they are free of the confines of cot bars!) you might like to use a sticker/ or reward chart to incentivize them to stay put. Don’t employ a reward programme before the situation arises though as it doesn’t always immediately occur to toddlers that they can get out of bed!
If they do climb out in the small hours take them straight back, you can either not talk or have a sentence that everyone uses. For example ‘it’s sleepy time now, love you’. Be consistent and they will soon settle in their new bed.
Toddler’s brains take in and process a huge amount of information and they can get frustrated if they are unable to communicate this wealth of learning. This situation can lead to night terrors, or bad dreams, which tend to occur in phases.
There can be periods where night terrors occur every night and the best thing you can do is to cuddle and reassure your child, who often won’t be fully awake when they become distressed in their sleep. Just putting a reassuring hand on them and saying ssshh is usually enough to calm them, though sometimes cuddles may be needed.
‘Ewan the dream sheep’ lights up and plays melodies and soothing words that can greatly reassure young children at night. Having a night light can help too, leaving normal lights on can be too stimulating and counterproductive to a good night’s sleep.
The night terrors phase doesn’t last long though it can recur when children become unsettled, perhaps by changes in their lives. Sticking to a routine as much as possible can help to minimize the frequency with which they occur.