How to help a toddler sleep

How to help a toddler sleep

I wrote a short while ago about James’ terrible sleep patterns, and how he has struggled to sleep through the night since he was a baby. We’re still waiting for the results from the sleep study we took part in a few weeks ago. Hopefully that will give us a reason, and a solution to James’ snoring and waking in the night.

You kind of expect wakeing through the night from a baby, but as your children age, you’re told by so many sleep experts, other parents, and lots of non-parents, that the child should be sleeping through by now, “they are wakeing through habit”, and there are usually recommendations to change the wakefulness. We’ve tried lots of different things, and some did help for a while, or continue to help now, so I’ll share those with you!

How to help a toddler sleep

Outdoor play

I read somewhere that being outside between 3pm and 4pm will release some kind of hormones that make you sleep more soundly. That sounds really scientific, doesn’t it?! No, I’m sorry, I don’t know where I read that, but I did, and we try to do that, by playing outside at a park, or more recently in the garden with the new play house.

A dark room for night time

I use black out curtains for the window in bedrooms. It can be very light in our house at James’ bedtime, and whilst we really love the sun streaming through the big bay windows, it doesn’t help for bedtime if it’s super bright in the room. While we were in France we had the attic room with a funny sloped ceiling and VELUX windows, and thanks to the blind it was totally pitch black in that bedroom! James found falling asleep much easier!

We also use a GroLight for James’ bedroom for story time. It’s a little gadget you screw on the light fitting, and the bulb connects to it, and it emits a blue, gentle glow rather than the yellow/white brighter glare of the usual bulb.

Screen-free time before bed

I have written so many times about how much of a massive fan I am of screen-free time before bed. We do some gentle activities like crafts, playing with Duplo, or water play. 

water play quiet activity
I really like the sound of this lavender play dough from Clares’s Little Tots before bed; lavender is such a calming smell, and everyone loves play doh! We’ll have to give this a go!

lavender playdough before bed relaxing activity

I also like this mess-free paper plate painting activity From 3 Princesses and 1 Dude – I think squishing the paint in the bag would be a lovely calming thing to do before bed, and a nice thing to wake up to play with the next day (when it’s dry).  

Bedtime stories

reading bedtime stories baby and toddler 

Oh, we love stories before bed! This week’s favourite is called Monty’s Magnificent Mane, by Gemma O’Neill. It’s a book with gorgeous illustrations, and is all about a lion who, yes – you guessed it – has a very fine mane indeed. Stories help James to wind down, and occasionally drift off to sleep while I’m reading. I think they also help with his imaginative play, too.

A comfortable bed

We are on the look-out for bunk beds for the boys at the moment. Right now James has a single bed with a truckle bed underneath, and on Tuesday of this week I put an extra mattress protector on. Yesterday James mentioned that his “bed is so comfortable now” and he slept until 7am this morning from 6:30pm yesterday. Maybe that was it! Maybe we’ve cracked it?!

How do you help your toddler to sleep? Do you have tips on getting a toddler to sleep at bedtime? I’d love to hear them; please share if you have cracked it!



  1. September 15, 2015 / 6:59 pm

    Thank you for featuring our lavender playdough. Some great ideas here – especially the screen free time that’s something I need to work on for my little one!

  2. February 16, 2017 / 7:40 am

    I’ll have to give the lavender playdoh a go. Through years of parenting I’ve pretty much discovered that nothing helps my kids other than me staying with them and cuddling them to sleep. They do sleep worse if they get overtired though.

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