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KIDS / OCT ‘2014

Sleep Conversations for 2 - 3 year olds

Discover why sleep is so important for two to three year olds, and how you can make the bedtime-sleep process easier.

Words Wendy Muller and Ngala Education Team

Expect a child in this age range to sleep 11 to 12 hours overnight and during the day they may need a sleep of 1 to 2.5 hours around lunchtime.

You might think that your baby’s developmental changes, such as achieving motor milestones like crawling and walking and learning to talk, have little to do with sleep. However, the two go together like bread and butter. Each time your baby reaches a new milestone, it’s a double-edged sword – just when you think you have settled into a sleep pattern or rhythm, your child learns a new skill or behaviour and this may impact on their sleep.

Think about what an amazing process this development is. Between birth and age three, babies learn to roll, crawl, stand, walk, and run. They learn to talk, joke, rhyme, and sing. They may create imaginary playmates (which typically disappear before your child turns 6). The line between reality and fantasy is still blurry. Your child might say that he didn’t scribble on the wall because he wishes he hadn’t – not because he’s deliberately lying.

The following characterise this age group:

  • They have increased negotiation skills at bedtime (eg. one more story)
  • They tend to wake early
  • They can be fearful
  • They internalise what they see/hear on TV for example, as they have difficulty discriminating reality and fantasy
  • Show resistance to going to bed by using delaying tactics
  • They may dream more at night as imagination increases with exposure to fantasy
  • There may be a healthy increased reliance on comforting security blankets, toys or objects as your child develops and more readily associates them with sleep and bedtime
  • They begin to call themselves by name, to use “I” and “mine,” and to assert their new feelings of competence and independence by insisting on “doing it myself”

 

Expect a child in this age range to sleep 11 to 12 hours overnight and during the day they may need a sleep of 1 to 2.5 hours around lunchtime, or a rest period during this time. Be guided by your child’s day time behaviour as to whether they need a rest or sleep or not. Keeping a child up later in the evening does not guarantee that they sleep later in the morning – as many sleepy parents can confirm.

Between their second and third birthdays, most children have lots of energy. Try to give your child a chance to run around outside each day. Moving helps your child build strength, increases their coordination and helps them to calm down.

Children are usually ready to go to bed between 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm. However, if they have slept later than 4 pm they may find it difficult to go to sleep at the usual time. In this case their evening behaviour will let you know when they are ready for bed.

Some time from 24 months of age onwards, unless your child has shown earlier signs of climbing out of their cot, your child will be ready to move to a bed and this will bring with it new challenges! This is the age that children like to climb in and out of bed or on and off the mattress on the floor. Involving your child in the move to a new bed is an important step but will not always guarantee an easy transition.

 

For many children the move is more likely to be smoother when they have:

Expect a child in this age range to sleep 11 to 12 hours overnight and during the day they may need a sleep of 1 to 2.5 hours around lunchtime, or a rest period during this time. Be guided by your child’s day time behaviour as to whether they need a rest or sleep or not. Keeping a child up later in the evening does not guarantee that they sleep later in the morning – as many sleepy parents can confirm.

Between their second and third birthdays, most children have lots of energy. Try to give your child a chance to run around outside each day. Moving helps your child build strength, increases their coordination and helps them to calm down.

Children are usually ready to go to bed between 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm. However, if they have slept later than 4 pm they may find it difficult to go to sleep at the usual time. In this case their evening behaviour will let you know when they are ready for bed.

Some time from 24 months of age onwards, unless your child has shown earlier signs of climbing out of their cot, your child will be ready to move to a bed and this will bring with it new challenges! This is the age that children like to climb in and out of bed or on and off the mattress on the floor. Involving your child in the move to a new bed is an important step but will not always guarantee an easy transition.

 

For many children the move is more likely to be smoother when they have:

 

  • Enough language to discuss their concerns
  • Involvement in the decision making – including a timeframe for the move
  • Read books about going to bed
  • When you have checked your child’s room after dark for possible scary shadows and have removed the object causing the shadow
  • Been supported if they change their mind. Telling a child to “be a big boy/girl” or to “stop being a baby” will NOT help. They need to feel secure in the transition from a familiar cot or family bed to a completely new sleeping arrangement; and reassurance as to where exactly you will be if they need you. Communication is the key.

Additional strategies and safe sleep messages include:

  • Planning for the fact that your child will now be able to get out of the bed and move around the room and perhaps out the door. Therefore do a safety check. Watch out for and secure curtain and blind cords, electrical dangers and furniture that could topple over if climbed on.
  • Making a plan regarding the bedroom door. Consider using a safety gate if worried about your child roaming. The introduction of a bed can have unexpected consequences and some children who have previously slept with the door closed, may now want it left open.
  • Encouraging your child to climb into the bed if able. Teach them to pull up covers and allow them an opportunity to arrange blankets, pillows and favourite comfort toys.
    Comfort aides can make settling less difficult and should be chosen by your child.
  • Secure curtain and blind chords and never use electric blankets or hot water bottles.

For more information visit www.ngala.com.au to view or download their new Conversations About Sleep (0 – 3 years) video, for free. This video offers practical tips for overcoming common sleep challenges.