How to get your toddler to stay in bed?

Many children fall asleep without a problem, but learning to stay in their own beds throughout the night can take time. The Stay in Bed technique helps parents get that much-needed uninterrupted evening - and ensures a good night's sleep for the whole family

Once a child has their own bed, climbing out to pay you a visit could become their favourite game - especially if the effort pays off with a night with Mum and Dad. Some determined toddlers will climb out of their cots for the privilege, while even formerly good sleepers can sometimes change their habits at different stages in their development. This is disruptive for parents, but could also affect siblings, too. What can you do about it?

Try this Stay in Bed technique - as with anything child-related, it's important that you're consistent and follow the steps. Soon you should create the right environment for your child to stay in their own bed all night.

Steps to keep your child in bed

Follow a calming bedtime routine. Before your child gets into bed, make sure they have no reason to get up - they've been to the toilet, had a little water - and it’s clear that you expect them to stay in bed now. This way, if the child gets out of bed, you won’t be drawn into a discussion about why they are up, and you can get on with the business of getting them back to sleep.

  • The first time they get up, remind them that it’s bedtime, lead them back to bed, give them a kiss and a cuddle, and leave the bedroom.
  • The second time, do the same but use a firmer voice and make the kiss and cuddle brief.
  • The third and any subsequent times, say nothing at all as you lead them back to bed, tuck them in, and leave the room. This is the hard part as it’s very tempting to give a cuddle. Remember that a gentle, consistent approach will convince your child that you’re there for them, but that you insist they sleep in their own bed.

What else might help?

You could make ‘stay in bed’ part of your child’s Reward Chart, but to break the back of an established ‘staying awake’ routine, it might be better to use a Star Chart initially. That way, you can give him a star on the nights he gets it right and not focus on the nights he doesn't.

We'd love to know whether this technique worked for you. Share your story with us via our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Related links

  • TV Clip - Sleep Separation Technique: Bedtime was the most stressful part of the day for Ryland’s parents, but creating a relaxing bedtime routine meant he was able to sleep by himself for the first time… eventually!
  • TV Clip - Stay in Bed Technique: Whilst this technique really tested these parents’ stamina, Ashlin eventually stops calling for mom to get into her bed and lets Mum and Dad have an evening alone.
  • Getting Bedtime Back on Track: Staying up late to watch TV or play in the garden, with the chance to sleep in the next morning, can mean children’s sleep cycles naturally shift away from the ideal bedtime.
  • Bedtime Routine: The Bedtime Routine, as seen on the show, ensures your child gets enough sleep, while you get time to yourself.
  • Sleep Separation Technique: Clingy children often have sleep problems. As seen on the show, this technique helps your child to get to sleep by herself, so you can get some proper rest… 
  • Controlled Crying: It sounds simple, but why is controlled crying so challenging to put into practice? Experts from the Millpond Sleep Clinic answer your questions.
  • Bathtime: Bathtime doesn’t have to be difficult. The Supernanny website gives some simple advice to make bathtime bearable.
  • The Reward Chart: Positive attention and praise are the most effective rewards for good behaviour, and the Reward Chart is a useful way to reinforce good behaviour on the spot.
  • Superstars Reward Charts: Saying ‘well done’ to your child is the very best way to promote good behaviour. Download for free one of Supernanny’s ready-made Reward Charts.
  • Forum: Share your toddler troubles and take a look at other parents' tips to keep the kids in bed.

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