Nothing helped our first toddler get to bed easily.
She’s a fighter – always up and ready to go. Her superhuman confidence that she is the smartest, fastest, awesomest thing on two eighteen-inch legs powers her days and half of her nights. She’s the one who gets a full 40 minutes at 5 PM – also known as the worst possible time for a nap – and is ready to go for the rest of the night.
You can imagine I am always on the hunt for the next toddler sleep solution. I will try just about anything.
Lullabies, essential oils, massage, the Super Nanny’s solution. We have tried it all…all of it. A. L. L. Even that new “magical” book ? Tried it – the second night she refused to listen to it.
Sadly, every single one of the supposed toddler sleep “solutions” simply didn’t work for our girl. Instead of restful nights, we worked the night shift, pleading, begging, bribing her to simply GO TO SLEEP!
After months of late or sleepless nights, I finally came up with a sleep routine that helps my toddler wind down enough to be still and succumb to sleep quickly.
I am a problem solver by nature, so coming up with solutions to the common problems we face in our home is my jam. This is what was going on in our girls’ bedroom every night. You will notice my oldest is the entertainer on the left.
So one day I was ruminating on the sleep situation that would work for our oldest and started connecting some dots.
Allow me to give you a peek into my cranium – I think in bullet points (doesn’t everybody?).
- G likes to be in charge.
- G doesn’t like it when we are in charge of her sleep.
- G doesn’t go to sleep until she has decided she wants to go to sleep.
- When G is exhausted, she will go to sleep, even if I am talking to her.
- G won’t be still.
- Could G just BE STILL?
I happened upon this idea:
Get her to be in charge of her sleep and her body and then trick…er…capitalize on that to lull her into sleep.
The Every Night Toddler Sleep Solution
So, here’s the routine we walk through before I pass the torch to G, so she can be in charge of her sleep.
Upstairs, bedclothes, brush teeth, pray with Daddy, lights off. (She likes all these things and does them pretty willingly)
And then I sneakily and calmly say,
“It is time to talk to our bodies.”
And then I lead G slowly through a conversation with her body in which she tells every part to be still. It goes like this:
Me: “Legs be still”
And the repetition:
G: “Legs be still”
Me: “Feet be still”
G: “Feet be still”
Me: “Toes be still”…
We work through the whole body in the same order every night. Legs. Feet. Toes. Bottom. Tummy. Arms. Hands. Fingers. Head. Mouth.
Then we end with:
Me: “Eyes close.”
G: “Eyes close.”
By the time we have gotten to the top of the head, G is usually settling in and has started to yawn a few times. As you know, yawning is contagious – it is a sign that your toddler has empathy – so I can’t be sure if it is me or her that starts the yawning at night, but we both get to yawning quite a bit.
On the off nights that G is still wound up and moving around a lot, I play my trump card:
G, did you talk to your body and tell it to be still?
Is your body being obedient to you?
Do we need to talk to it again? (stillness resumes)
I then start reading a book to her that is above her reading level – chapter books. That way it is not grabbing her attention and keeping her awake and interested. And usually, within 5-10 minutes she is sound asleep! SUCCESS!
Why does this work for us?
Here’s what I think:
- She is in charge of her body. She likes to be in charge. It is not another thing in her day that Mama tells her to do.
- It is a routine done the same way every.single.time. It has a calming effect because we talk quietly and slowly (and yawningly).
- She really is tired, but she has to have time to wind down from the day. This provides a cushion between getting in bed and getting to sleep that is softer than my (previous) demands that she get in bed and stay in bed.
- Stillness leads to sleep. There is a reason I created a routine that tells our bodies to be still: if she stops moving long enough, she will go to sleep.
Will this solution work for your kid, too?
I honestly don’t know, but it is worth a shot, right? It is kind of related to the sleep solution technique of self-hypnosis and it really does work for adults, so why not for kids, too? I would love to hear your feedback if you try this with your kids for a few nights.