Those toys don’t just throw themselves around your entire house! Your toddler is doing hard physical work all day, from running to jumping to breaking your antiques, and he’s doing it all on those short little legs. Sleep is what allows him to grow and develop at this furious pace, and making sure he gets enough shut-eye allows both of you to recover from the chaos of the day.
For your toddler to go at full speed for half the day, he needs to spend the other half sleeping. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a child between 1 and 3 years old needs a total of 12 to 14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period; by contrast, KidsHealth.org estimates that a toddler needs 10 to 13 hours of sleep. If your munchkin hasn’t yet dropped his morning nap, he will soon, so he’ll probably need a single afternoon nap lasting anywhere from one to three hours. His internal alarm is probably pretty accurate, so unless he’s napping for so long that he can’t fall asleep at night, he’ll wake himself when he’s ready. You’ll have plenty of chances to drag him out of bed once he hits middle school.
You know those climbing moves that your toddler has perfected using the back of your couch? He’s probably attempting those in his bedroom when you’re not around to catch him. To keep him safe, move him out of a crib and into a toddler bed with safety rails once he starts climbing. Push his bed into a corner away from windows, and tie the window shade cords up at the top of the window. Too much stuff in his bed poses a suffocation risk, so get rid of everything but a single stuffed animal made with sturdy seams and no buttons or removable choking hazards. His mattress should be firm and fit snugly into the bed frame. He may not need a pillow yet, unless he can’t sleep comfortably, and he probably only needs one or two thin blankets.
Getting Them to Sleep
When there are toys to be played with, snacks to be eaten and people to be snuggled with, some days sleeping is the last thing your toddler wants to do. Establishing a relaxing routine for both nap time and bedtime is the key to getting him ready to doze off without complaint. Make the 30 minutes before sleep a no-TV time, and put away noisy toys and scooters that tend to get your toddler worked up. Spend some time cuddling together so he’ll come to associate sleep with cozy happiness, then move into the bedroom and dim the lights. Read stories together in a rocking chair or put him in his bed while you read two or three books. Give him one big smooch and head out the door. On your way out, turn on some soothing music or white noise to drown out the sounds of other family members moving around the house, and your toddler should be dreaming in minutes.
You’ve soothed him, hugged him and tucked his drowsy little self into bed with no problem. But now it’s 3 a.m. and he’s screaming or babbling in the next room. It’s frustratingly common for toddlers to wake in the middle of the night, but unless he’s sick or slept too much the day before, avoid giving him too much attention or he’ll keep calling out for you. Go into his room, help him lay back down, cover him up and say in a firm voice, “It’s still night-night time. You need to stay in your bed and stay quiet.” Adjust his pajamas or blankets if he feels hot or cold, and if he’s crying hysterically due to a nightmare, spend a few minutes rubbing his back and murmuring quietly before putting him back to bed. A toddler who snores nearly every night or routinely has trouble falling or staying asleep should see his pediatrician, or you’ll have a houseful of sleep-deprived grumps on your hands.