image shows a baby sleeping while sucking their thumb

An Early Years Expert’s Tips To Supporting Your Child’s Sleep

Looking for sleep tips to help your child?

We all know how important sleep is – both for us and our little ones.

The question of how much, when, and where can become a real issue for parents whose children refuse to go to sleep.

Parents should be reassured that sleep patterns change with changing routines and events in a child’s life and that children have very individual needs when it comes to rest and sleep times during the day.

We’re joined once again by the team at Family Corner (the family arm of the Early Years Alliance) who are here to offer expert tips and guidance for you and your loved ones. We hope that they help!

Tips For Improving Sleep / Nap Times For Your Child

child sleep tips -image shows a child sleeping next to a brown teddy bear.
  • Set a good example – the likelihood is that you need ‘time out’ to rest and relax during your busy day too. Try to make some time in the day to rest with your child rather than trying to get those little jobs completed whilst they are asleep. Be realistic about the tasks that have to be done right away and those that can wait until tomorrow.
  • On some days and in some situations, your child will not need to sleep but will still recharge if they have the opportunity to rest quietly when they are ready to. You could try encouraging them to relax in a comfortable place with lots of cushions, and perhaps some soothing music to help them rest.
  • Sleep should not become an ‘issue’. A child who is exhausted is unlikely to give in to the sleep that they need if there is tension. Even adults know that the harder you try to fall asleep, the less likely it is to happen, so having somebody tell you that you must ‘lie down and go to sleep’ is unlikely to achieve the desired outcome.
  • If your child attends an early years setting, talk to your child’s key person if you are having difficulty getting your child to rest or sleep during the day, or if bedtime is becoming a battle of wills. They may be able to offer advice, sharing their knowledge of what works well for others. Most importantly your child’s key person will want to work in partnership with you and will try to help.

Ultimately children are good at self-regulating when it comes to their need for sleep and/or rest. The most important thing you can do is offer a safe, comfortable and consistent environment in which they can do so.

Tips For Helping Your Child To Sleep In Their Own Bedroom

child sleep tips - image shows a children's bedroom

Once your child is old enough to sleep in a bed rather than a cot, you will probably be thinking about moving them into their own room; however, getting a young child used to settling down in their own bedroom every night can be difficult. Here’s a few tips for helping your child to sleep once they have their own bedroom.

Create A Calm And Inviting Sleep Environment

  • Create a cosy and comfortable space for your child to sleep in, complete with their comforter, night light and soft bedding.
  • Start dimming the lights, if possible, or turn off some lights in preparation for bedtime.
  • Introduce calming activities into their bedtime routine to help them wind down, such as reading a book, having a bath or singing a lullaby.
  • Keep their room temperature to a comfortable level as high temperatures can disturb sleep.

Gradual Transition

  • If your child is initially resistant to sleeping alone, you can start by transitioning slowly from your room to their room. Spend a few nights sitting with your child in their bed to help them feel secure. As they grow more comfortable, gradually reduce your presence until they can fall asleep independently.
  • Consider using a transitional object like a special blanket to provide comfort and familiarity during the transition.

Set Clear Expectations

  • Communicate positively with your child about the upcoming change. And explain why it is important for them to sleep in their own space.
  • Reinforce the idea that their bedroom is their own special place for sleeping and that they are safe and loved.
  • Involve them in choosing bedding patterns, or pictures to help them feel a sense of ownership for ‘their’ room.

Introduce Helpful Habits

  • Read your child social sleep stories, which help to explain why and where we sleep. These can be found online, or you could make your own, since everyone’s bedtimes look a little different.
  • Make an effort to keep changing into nightwear, brushing teeth, reading bedtime stories and other winding down activities strictly to the bathroom and bedroom.
  • Consider removing any access your child may have to electronic devices around one hour before their bedtime.
  • Offer a drink before your child brushes their teeth, rather than directly afterwards. The longer the toothpaste lingers in their mouth, the better the effect, so don’t be tempted to rinse it away.

Consistency Is Key

  • Stick to a consistent bedtime routine and schedule, as young children thrive on predictability.
  • Be patient when they wake up during the night. Try gently guiding them back to their bed without giving in to the temptation of bringing them to your bed.
  • Be a ‘boring parent’ before bed and throughout the night. By keeping your voice low and not engaging in too much conversation, you show your child that they won’t get the attention they are expecting.

Address Fears And Anxieties

  • Talk to your child about any fears or anxieties they may have about sleeping alone. Offer reassurance, validate their feelings, and find solutions.
  • Consider using a night light or white noise machine to create a soothing and secure sleep environment.

Show Patience And Empathy

  • Remember, this transition takes time, and each child is unique. Be patient and empathetic towards your child’s needs and emotions throughout the process.
  • Offer comfort and support during any setbacks or regression, reinforcing the idea that you are there for them.

By implementing these strategies and being consistent and patient, you can help your child develop healthy sleep habits and successfully transition to sleeping in their bedroom. Remember, each child is different, so adjust these tips to suit your child’s individual needs. With your love and support, your little one will soon be enjoying nights of peaceful sleep in their room. Good luck!

child sleep tips -image shows a mother sleeping next to her baby

If your child’s sleep patterns become a concern, particularly if they are not sleeping through the night, talk to your GP or health visitor. This could help to rule out any underlying emotional or behavioural problem that might be affecting their sleep.

Early Years Alliance

For more FREE information, advice and tips on supporting your child’s early learning and development, visit the Early Years Alliance’s Family corner website. Family Corner is the family arm of the Early Years Alliance, offering expert articles, activity ideas and online learning sessions on key areas of child development such as learning through play, communication, behaviour, health, nutrition and wellbeing.

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Guest Author

Guest Author

This blog was written by a guest author. That means it was either created by an industry expert, medical professional, or someone from within the parenting community. You will be able to find out more information about them within the blog. Thank you so much for popping in to give it your support!