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The importance of a good routine part three -18 months plus (the toddler years)

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Your 18 month old really is showing their personality now, but they are also going through huge developmental stages. A major task for your toddler will be learning independence and needing to be independent. It is important that you support your little one’s need for independence, as best you can, whilst ensuring his/her need for routine and structure is met. Toddlers live in a world of black and white, not grey where we spend most of our time as adults. This is why consistency is so crucial and you need to follow through with all consequences and promises.  To make this difficult process more challenging, toddlers can’t remember rules; they learn through repetition and frequency so this is another reason for consistency.

We have all been there, an overtired toddler does not make for a happy household (or supermarket trip, school pick up…lets face it, any public place is perfect for a meltdown)! To help avoid your toddler becoming overtired and making your outings more tricky, I’ve put together my top tips to get your little one settling and sleeping well:

1. This could be numbers 1,2 and 3; consistency is key. As I mentioned above, children of this age thrive on boundaries and if those boundaries move they will be pushed again and again. It is vital to be consistent with children so they know what is, and is not, going to happen. Consistency must be there 100% of the time, otherwise you are creating a confusing message for your little one, which is unfair. 

2. A crucial element for teaching children to go to sleep, and stay asleep, is helping them develop self-soothing strategies (and, just to be clear, I don’t mean just leaving them to cry). Although this is similar to younger children, this older age is trickier as your little one will need to be taught how to stop relying on their props. We all have ways that we sooth ourselves into sleep. If your child depends on a “prop” to fall asleep – such as rocking, a dummy or a parent, then they will find it difficult to get back to sleep without their “prop.” It is important that we teach our children these skills so they can settle themselves to sleep and begin to sleep more peacefully.  If they rely on something external to fall asleep, something beyond their control (such as relying on somebody to rock them, feed them etc.) this will increase their anxiety and stress levels (increasing the amount of cortisol their bodies produce) and make it even harder for them to fall asleep by themselves. They will need to be guided to learn how to fall asleep independently, at this age, without their prop.

3. Implement a bedtime routine, which should be the same every night, and take around 20-30 minutes. if it is longer, they may find their second wind and be very difficult to settle to sleep.

4. Following on from point 3, make sure this is at a suitable time. Too late and they will be overtired and take a long time to settle.

5. Pay attention to wake time in the day- don’t forget those naps! Those people who tell you to keep your little one up in the day so they will sleep better at night, probably don’t have children. You might start to forget about the importance of naps a little now your little one is a bit older but your toddler can still get cranky and difficult to settle if overtired.

6. Don’t allow your little one any screen time 2 hrs before bed. This may sound obvious but it also includes television, no relaxing in front of cartoons before bedtime as this will simulate their minds and the light will prevent their little bodies creating melatonin – which is vital for their bodies to get ready for bed.

 7. Did I mention consistency?! As I said, consistency must be present 100% of the time, otherwise you are creating a confusing message for your little one, which is unfair (and will cause difficult behaviour for you later down the line)!

I know these tips seem to be for smaller children but they can apply equally to older children – the consistency especially. If you would like a blog, or more advice about older children I can help there too, just get in touch and let me know!

As always, if you’re experiencing any problems with your little ones sleep, please do get in touch for a free 15 minute chat – We would love to help!

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