Magic Words to Keep Toddlers in Bed

“Do you have a secret trick to get my toddler to stay in bed?!”

Yes! Say, “Santa is coming tonight, but he won’t stop here if you’re not asleep in bed!” Watch how fast those little ones close their eyes and stay glued to their beds! 

Oh, you’re reading this in July and not in December when I originally posted it? Darn! 

Unfortunately, no, besides those magic words, that work one night a year, I don’t have any secret magic trick that works for every kid! 

There are some products, floating around out there, that claim to get your little one (usually infant age) sleeping through the night. And some do a good job! For a short amount of time… But then your little one gets a little bigger, or learns a new skill, or changes beds, and then this magic product either is no longer safe to use, or just doesn’t do the trick anymore. 

And even more annoyingly, these products aren’t guaranteed to work for every little one. So maybe you’ve been hearing all the moms everywhere raving about the latest baby sleep product that works wonders. You finally shell out the big bucks to get it. Pay for overnight shipping (because, hey, why not!). And then… dun dun dun…  it doesn’t work for your little one! 

Whomp, whomp, whomp. You’re back to square one searching for the next magic piece of spaghetti you can fling on the wall and see if it sticks for your little one and their sleep. 

So although what I’m going to now go over with you here, is a) not magic and  b) not a quick fix, it is free and should last longer than any magic beans you spent hundreds of dollars on. 

You need to put on your big girl (or boy) pants, and create strong routines, boundaries, and limits for your little one to understand how bedtime, sleeping at night, and sleeping in the morning will go in your family. 

Can you do this gently?


Can you do this with compassion?


Can you do this so everyone in your family gets the sleep they need (including you!)?


Like I said, you are going to be creating the framework you want for YOUR family. What is essential about this is that you stick with it and show your little one what to expect when it comes to sleep moving forward. 

This will be a process. You won’t be able to see immediate results overnight.. But, like I mentioned earlier, this will be a longer lasting solution than those quick fixes that might have worked on younger babies. 

Depending on your little one’s age, a good place to start is with a family meeting. Work on getting everyone on board with how important a good night’s sleep is for all members of the family. 

You’ll want to explain any changes that are going to be happening in the coming days. If you are introducing something new, like a baby gate, show them off during your meeting. This way your little one can see and experience them when they aren’t already over tired and stressed about bedtime.

You want to make this a pleasant experience and go over everything so that there are no surprises later. To keep it fun and engaging you can use puppets or role playing to demonstrate to your little one how things are going to go down when it’s bedtime, during the middle of the night, and in the early morning. 

Children do best when they know what to expect. Consistency and strong limits create a sense of safety for little one’s. They come to know and expect “X” to happen after they do “Y” 

If you explain in your family meeting that it’s important that your little one stays in their own bed throughout the night, you need to follow through with that. 

You may think you are showing them your love by letting them crawl into your bed a couple nights later but what you’re really doing is sending them mixed messages. This could actually cause them greater stress in the nights following because then they are left to wonder which action, staying in their bed or crawling into your bed, will be better for them. (I delve into this idea deeper in another one of my blogs.) 

Explain to your little one how important it is for everyone in the family to get the right amount of sleep. Give real life examples of things that can’t happen if you don’t gain enough energy from a good night’s sleep. If you are completely transparent in your family meeting and explain to a little one what their responsibilities, you’re creating an opportunity for your little one to accomplish something. If they are able to follow a couple, simple family sleep rules, then in the morning that is something they can feel proud of themselves for! 

Simple family sleep rules can be something like this: Stay in Bed, Close Your Eyes, Stay Very Quiet. You don’t even have to mention sleep in the rules because if they do these things at the appropriate times, sleep will come. No need to stress them out and make them think that sleep is something they have to force. 

So again, Christmas Eve, you get off easy. For the other 364 days of the year, you need to put in the work and show your little one that you trust they can do this!… But if not, this is how we deal with it in our family. And remember the follow through is the key to success. 💜🧸

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