Kids, parenting

How to Get Toddlers to Stay in Bed


Our daughter was the most amazing sleeper while in a crib. She would fall asleep without even a peep and sleep through the night. Her naps consisted of three hours of “me time” (me time= dishes, laundry, cleaning toilets, etc) because everyone else was gone. When she was a little older than 1 we got pregnant with our last baby and knew we would need to move her out of the crib. At 21 months we moved her to a “big girl” bed and everything changed! She was no longer taking good naps, bedtime became a three ring circus trying to get her to fall asleep, she was waking up with every sound, and she now was wandering into our room at all hours of the night to sleep with us.


Being hugely pregnant, I didn’t have the time or the energy to continue the bedtime fight for who knows how long so we tried everything and I mean everything to get Talie to stay in bed! After 2 months we finally found the perfect bedtime routine that keeps her in her bed through the whole night 95% of the time!

How to Get Your Toddler to Stay in Bed

Before beginning bedtime, you need to think of your child’s sleep schedule. Toddlers that take naps will naturally stay up later than those that don’t because they aren’t as tired. Make sure to allow at least 5 hours of playtime after they wake up from their nap. So on those “late nap” days that we all hate, it means you will probably have a little one bouncing around the house still at 10 pm.

Yeah… That was a LATE night!

Be Consistent with the same routine for getting into bed. Talie always says goodnight to everyone before she heads to her room. Then she and I head in there. I put her pillows on the floor, pull back her blankets, she climbs in and then I hand her each stuffed animal one at a time, with their correct name, Pink bear, dog sheep, super dog, and Minnie. I push her hair off her face because it is usually everywhere and I kiss her good night. She kisses me and I tell her I love her, which then leads, I love you more, I love you most, I love you right up to the moon. After that, I kiss her again and remind her that she is a big girl and she is going to sleep in her bed all night and we will see each other in the morning. I sing her one song! I then kiss her one more time and tell her goodnight and as I am a little bit away from her room she will sit up and say, “I love you, mom. Goodnight!” Of course, I say it back and that is the end!

In the morning I praise her for being such a big girl for sleeping in her bed and tell her what a good job she did.

This is our routine now that works, although it didn’t always work that well!

How We Got to What Works Now

I remember when we first were sleep training Talie we would go into her room to tuck her in. We were a little inconsistent with things and like I said we tried everything! Every time we laid her down and would walk out she would run out behind us crying and screaming.

This is what we did at that point:

We would carry her back in coddling her and loving her telling her it was going to be okay and that she needed to sleep.

Once we were in there we would sing her additional songs, which then would have her chasing after us for more songs.

We would lay with her as she poked us in the eye, played with our hair, stuck her fingers in our mouth while we (more my husband) slept and she entertained herself until she was exhausted and fell asleep.



What We Did That Worked When Toddlers Get Out of Bed

As stated before we had a consistent routine when we were in Talie’s room. She knew what to expect. She looked forward to each part of this routine. After we said goodnight and left that was it.

When Kids Get Out of Bed

At first, Talie would get up A LOT! The first time that she got up we picked her up gave her a kiss and told her it was time to sleep and that was it. We carried her back to her bed and laid her down with nothing else said. She begged and pleaded for another song and a hug, but we said nothing and did nothing. She, of course, started crying. We walked out. It is crushing as a parent to do this, I get it… I have been there, but the extra hugs and songs after the initial tuck in defeat the whole purpose of getting them to stay in bed. You are establishing the fact that if they get up you will come in and give them the attention they want.

At this point, every child, of course, will chase after you. This is where you need to stay STRONG! You will simply pick them up, no hugs, no kisses, no words and put them back in their bed. You will do this until they stay in their bed. It might take an hour the first night, but the point is to be consistent. Do not after 15 minutes say this is not working and go and lay with them because you have now just established with your toddler that they can follow you out for 15 minutes and then you will give them exactly what they want when it is bedtime.

Additional Tips


Nightlight: Sometimes a nightlight can really help toddlers feel safe. Think about it, they are in a big room with “noises” all by themselves. We didn’t realize at first (because Talie couldn’t communicate that well with us) that she was afraid of the dark. She would say it was scary. Once we bought a nightlight and put one in her room and one in the hall bedtime became a lot smoother.

Be Consistent: Have the same routine. Do the same thing. Toddlers thrive on consistency. When you give them that the world is a better place in their eyes. If mom has always tucked in the toddler and dad is going to do it tonight, make sure dad has the same routine or the whole night will be thrown off for your toddler.

Find Something Comforting that they Like to Sleep With: Toddlers love to feel a sense of security. Find a stuffed animal, a special blanket, or something that they like to sleep with. This allows them to feel safe while they are away from you.

Getting to toddlers to stay in bed takes consistency and time. It will be a struggle to teach them to stay in bed but in the long run will be beneficial for your toddler (they will actually get a good night sleep) and for you and your spouse (wink, wink).

What have you found that works for you?


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13 thoughts on “How to Get Toddlers to Stay in Bed”

  1. wow I am so trying this my son is 3 but is terrified of sleeping in his own room we have semi got the sleeping in own bed thing sussed but sleeping all night has always been a big no no he wakes 2x in night every night and still can be on go from 6am to 8pm everyday.

  2. GREAT advice. Consistency really is an important key. I’m now trying to get my teenagers to stay in bed. LOL. If I hear the microwave running at 10:30 one more time….

  3. OMG yes to all of this! Especially the consistency (incl on time/routine) and the firm, NON-engagement when they pop back up! Yes the first few nights are rough, but so worth it later! And I LOVE The praise in the morning -that is an added bonus! I’m trying to work w/my own girls on more praise for jobs well done/things remembered…

  4. These are great tips Michele. We went through a very similar issue in our house with our toddlers. We used a lot of the same techniques you describe and now everyone is sleeping much better.

  5. Consistency is so key! Or, if you are at your wits end… a baby gate across their doorway. Not saying i’ve ever done that but…

  6. The challenge is real! I’m reliving this through our grandson as my son and DIL are getting tired of the three of them sleeping together and baby #2 is months away. Consistency was always the most important for me. It works but you have to stick with it!

    1. My daughter is pretty strong willed too and it takes a lot of energy. Eventually it will happen for you 🙂

  7. As a mom of 7, we have been through this a few times. Consistency is key and even a simple forgotten part or change in the routine can drag it out longer. You think I would know that, but I am forgetful sometimes! I agree with having an expected routine with boundaries or limitations like the “1 song”.

  8. Completely agree about consistency. We found that although we’d agrees on the routine, we would alter it slightly when going to him but that’s ironed out now. Some nights he needs a bit more cuddling but I’m cherishing that now as I’m expecting again and I know it will be a big change for our relationship. #WanderingWednesday

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