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Bedtime can be a bit of battle sometimes. Here are our top 10 essentials to help your toddler learn a great sleep routine
Bedtime can be tricky if you have a toddler, especially when their day has been filled with activities and fun. If you're struggling to get your little one to fall asleep (and stay asleep!), you're not alone – 60% of parents will struggle with their child's sleep habits at one time or another.
'Sleep is essential for growth and development,' says Fi Star-Stone, sleep expert and author of forthcoming book Top Toddler Tips – A Guide To Enjoying And Surviving The Toddler Years. 'Encouraging good sleeping habits can be hard to achieve with a wilful toddler, but there are a few items that can help.' Here's our list of night-time essentials for toddlers.
Soft cotton PJs
Comfort is key, and cotton pyjamas that fit well will keep your little one cosy in the winter and cool in the summer. If they're wearing anything too small, scratchy or uncomfortable, they might struggle to get to sleep.
A sleep-training clock
Days that begin at 5am aren't fun for anyone. If you're being woken up early by your child, a sleep-training clock could be just what you need. The clocks that show a moon when it's sleeping time and a sun when it's time to get up allow you to set the clock for the time you want your little one to get up. 'These visual time signifiers can really help an older toddler or young child to understand day and night,' says sleep expert Andrea Grace. Especially, she says, during the summer months, when the light levels can be confusing.
Chances are, you'll have bought and used a monitor from birth. They're still really useful when you're at the toddler stage, especially if your child likes to chat to themselves, sing or get out of bed lots before going to sleep.
Sleeping bag with feet
If you're not quite ready to move onto a duvet, try a sleeping bag with legs and feet. 'They are great for keeping your little one warm but safe, so that if they do get out of bed, they don't fall over, caterpillar-style!' says Star-Stone. 'It's important to remember that toddlers, like babies, can overheat if using a sleeping bag, so don't be tempted to use it with a heavy quilt or blanket.'
Once you're potty training, it's a great idea to use night-time nappies, which can be pulled on like a pair of pants. Not only does it make it easier when your child needs to sit on the potty, but they feel more grown-up, too (which is very important!).
Always ask your child to sit on the potty before bed. It's wise to keep the potty in their bedroom, in case they want to use it during the night, especially, according to Star-Stone, if your toilet is downstairs or difficult for them to access.
Toddlers become more aware of their surroundings as they grow, so it's natural for them to be scared of the dark. Choose a night-light with a gentle glow, or leave the hall light on for them. 'Ensure the night-light is safe for children and that any wires are tucked well away from little hands,' advises Star-Stone.
Reading is such an important part of the bedtime ritual. 'Toddlers thrive on routine and structured days,' says Star-Stone. Try reading the same final book before bed every night, as a signal that it's nearly sleeping time.
If your little one doesn't like to fall asleep straight away, putting a children's audio book on, on low volume, can be a great way to send them gently off to sleep.
Making their bedroom dark is one of the most important elements of creating a calm sleeping space. A blackout blind will block out any light that might creep through curtains or regular blinds. Sleep expert Andrea Grace says there are biological reasons why we all struggle to sleep in the light. 'One of the major sleep hormones, melatonin, is only secreted during darkness,' she says. 'And this is the hormone that helps us to get to sleep and to stay asleep.'
By Alison Perry, author of notanothermummyblog.com