How I get my Toddler to stay in bed

 Bedtime should not be a 3 hour ordeal. And yet it is.

As the clock ticks closer to 6:30 I start to feel the dread creeping in. Don’t get me wrong, I love bedtime- time for bed. I just really hate the whole bedtime extravaganza routine. I am not sure when our bedtime routine became, full meals in bed, 3 bathroom visits, 2 different drinks, unlimited storybooks, and endless minutes of chills and massages, but that was where we were a few weeks ago, and it wasn’t fun. She would continuously come out of her bed every time I put her back in. I decided things had to change. I found that with a lot of positive reinforcement and consistency, finding a better bedtime routine wasn’t so terrible after all. Here is how I did it.

      I like to start by going through all of the possible reasons for my child to get out of bed.

  • Needs the bathroom
  • Hungry
  • Thirsty
  • Not tired
  • Scared of the dark

 I try to address all of those needs BEFORE putting her in to bed. I like to send her to bed with a drink in hand, after she has already washed up and used the bathroom and had a pre-bedtime snack.


     I separated bedtime into 2 categories- “relaxing time” & “sleeping time”.

For “relaxing time”, we leave the lamp open and my daughter can listen to stories and read books. This is also the time for her to ask for anything else she may need before she sleeps. I usually give about 30 mins for her to do this- so by the time I come in to shut the lamp she is sleepy and ready to lay down. “Sleep time” is when we shut the lamp and I lay with her in her bed for a couple of minutes. After that there is really no reason she should get out of bed. She knows there are no more snack breaks/ café visits available to her lol. It can still take her another 15-20 minutes to fall asleep, but she usually stays in bed for that duration.


     To motivate her to stay in bed, we have a bedtime chart hanging. If she follows the bedtime routine- in the morning she can put a sticker on her chart. If she gets a sticker on her chart, Mommy will have a special treat ready for her when she comes home from school. After she finishes the entire chart and puts a sticker on each empty box, we will go on a trip to the toy store.

I find that having immediate gratification is very important with little kids. You can try to delay the reward for a few days or after the completion of a full week- but I don’t know what the results will be. I know my daughter looks forward to her treat every day and doesn’t really want to mess it up by coming out of bed. Obviously the goal is to wean her off the sleep/treat schedule but for now it does the trick. The treats are there to motivate her to follow the bedtime routine, hopefully soon she’ll be so used to her routine, she won’t need them anymore!

Wishing all you moms struggling with bedtime; GOOD LUCK and sweet dreams!


  Sarah Mom of 2





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