Our Top 8 Toddler Sleep Tips: Ages 2-4

Keep their naps forever (hey, one could wish).

Your kiddos are smart at this age. They can stay up and have this unbelievable energy that suddenly appears during nap time. Don’t let this fool you. They need to keep their naps as long as possible. Exhaust them before nap and aim for a solid nap time in the middle of the day. Darken the room to make sure that their little minds aren’t getting distracted from anything in their room. (These blackout curtains are super convenient and work SO well: The Sleepout Curtain).

Get them outside.

This is crucial for kids. Being outside not only wears their little bodies out, but they receive the vitamins needed to allow them to sleep well at night. Too often we see kids just placed in front of the TV or an iPad to distract them while we get something in the house done – (yes as a working mom with three little ones, I am totally guilty of this). That’s easy but not what’s beneficial. Get them outside, creating, imagining, learning social skills and all the while gaining the essential needs for a good night’s rest.

Food is essential.

When our clients buy a sleep package, we ask them to keep a sleep and feeding log for 3+ consecutive days. We can easily find a child’s natural sleep cycles but what can be more fascinating at toddler age is what they are actually eating. We often see lots of healthy foods but even more processed foods – including those easy pouches. Yes, those were our life savors…but what’s best is fresh, organic, non-processed, no-dyes healthy food. This allows for less wakings in the night, less night terrors which are associated to the foods our children eat, and strong healthy kids! Just be on guard with the ingredients.

Don’t force the transition from crib to big boy/girl bed.

We see so many parents get excited to make this transition to a big bed when most of the time, toddlers just aren’t ready. With the newfound freedom and the challenge of not understanding how to just stay in bed, it makes it for a hard time. Keep them in their cribs as long as they stay. Now, we totally understand when a new baby is expecting and you need that crib. If that’s the case, use a bassinet or a comfortable pack-n-play like the Babybjorn Travel Crib to use in the meantime. It will be okay! Making that transition when your toddler isn’t ready creates a whole new set of sleep issues you will have to face if your toddler isn’t really ready.

Watch out for the negotiations.

These little attorneys of ours know exactly what to ask or how to ask it that will allow our mommy hearts to melt and say yes. Toddlers only know how to ask for one more thing, one more book, one more hug. They are trying to take control of the situation as they are prepared to be away from you. As endearing as this is, remember you are the parent and need to keep the situation relaxed and in control. By giving your toddler clear expectations (only two books, water is next to your bed, and here is one last hug) they will rest assured that all will be well. Yes, we want to give our kids everything (the world, in fact!), but that’s not always what’s best for them. By staying in control of the situation. Saying no once in a while – it shapes them into really great ADULTS!

Night wakings.

They happen, but the real question is what are you doing about it. With the toddler stage, less is always more. Less talking, less of you to get them to sleep, less stimulation. It’s best to reassure your child you are there and everything is okay, but don’t jump into their beds and fall asleep with them. Guess what…they will wake again tomorrow night expecting the same thing! Pull up a chair and sit down. You can also take a step out of their room for a few minutes and come back if they still haven’t settled. One of our favorites for those highly stimulated children is to grab your video monitor that you can speak into and reassure them they are fine and you are keeping an eye on them. Affirm them.

“I have to go potty!”

Yep, this happens and oh, it’s so fun when you get that call at 2:00 a.m. Make sure you cut off their water 30-60 minutes prior to bed. Also, be sure to make them go potty before they get in bed. Some parents will have their child try to go potty before Mom and Dad go to sleep. If they wet the bed, be prepared with extra sheets. And guess what – it’s completely okay to keep them in a Pull-Up until the age of five. Some children can’t hold it all night long. Do what you need to do, but just know that they need to go right to bed no matter what after they have gone to the bathroom.

5:00 a.m. is NOT an acceptable wake time.

Give them clear expectations as to what time they are allowed to come out of their rooms. Buy the “OK to Wake!” clock. It’s our obsession, and it actually works if you follow through with it. We’re also big fans of the Hatch sound machine.

Well, there you have it. These are some of the most fun stages of life as a parent. It’s a lot of work, but it’s even more fun experiencing life along with them. Stay strong and give those sweet toddlers of yours the best sleep possible. If you need help, don’t hesitate to contact us today.




I'm Marli

I am the owner of and lead baby and toddler sleep consultant at The Cradle Coach. I am a family-first mom of three, goal-oriented entrepreneur, to-do list extraordinaire, avid dreamer and unshakable optimist dedicated to helping tired families all around the world give their child the best sleep possible.


find your way around