A sleep-deprived toddler is often whiny, uncooperative and prone to tears or tantrums. Making sure your tyke gets appropriate rest is important not only for him, but to provide you with quiet time after he is safely tucked in bed for the night. However, he may not understand that adequate rest is crucial for his health and well-being. Teaching him about the benefits of sleep allows him to understand that he feels better during the day when he gets a good night’s sleep (and possibly a nap). A well-rested youngster also helps make the challenges of parenting less tiresome.
Who Needs Rest?
Bedtime is an appropriate time to bring up the benefits of sleeping. This is a time when the children are tired from an active day of play, and many relish hearing a bedtime story — or two or three. Grab age-appropriate books from the library that are about animals and people sleeping. Explain how every human and animal requires sleep. It is essential to enable the body to grow, function and heal properly. These types of books often discuss how sleep patterns differ. For instance, raccoons and koala bears do most of their sleeping during the daytime hours, so they can hunt for food during the night. “The Baby Beebee Bird” by Diane Redfield Massie and Steven Kellogg and “Sleeping Cutie” by Andrea Davis Pinkney are enlightening book choices that explain the importance of sleep.
“Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book” is about yawning. Explain that yawning usually means a person is tired. Tell your toddler that yawning is quite contagious and challenge her to play a secret game with you after supper. Both of you can pretend to yawn loudly a couple of times. It is helpful if you surreptitiously inform your spouse or older children about this game. Sneak a giggle with her when the rest of the family starts to yawn as well. Talk to her about how people tend to get angry quicker or pout more when they don’t have enough sleep. This enables her to recognize the signs that her body is getting tired and requires sleep to refuel.
How Much Sleep is Necessary?
Snuggle up next to your child and explain that at her age, she needs many hours of sleep each night to feel rested and stay healthy. Explain that sleep makes her body operate at its best. It is similar to putting gas in a car or feeding her body when her stomach growls. Ensure her that sleep provides a “get up and go” feeling. Explain that nighttime is long, but once she closes her eyes and goes to asleep, the time only feels like a few minutes before she awakens.
Getting in the Mood
When bathing your child, tell her that a warm bath gets her body into the mood for bedtime. Even adults do this to wind down after a hard day at work. When the sun sets, explain that Mother Nature is providing a way to make our bodies feel tired. A dim or dark bedroom helps the body realize that it is bedtime. Sometimes busy or troubling thoughts prevent the brain from allowing the body to go to sleep. Explain how she can convince her body to go to sleep by listening to quiet, soothing music or envisioning happy things as she drifts off.
Following a nightly routine of going to bed at the same time each night is also a smart way to help the body get ready. If your toddler asks for food at bedtime, explain that the stomach has to start working when heavy foods are eaten. A cup of warm milk or a small, healthy snack like a piece of fruit chases the hunger away but doesn’t make the stomach work overtime.