When your child reaches the two year mark, they welcome the world of independence with open arms. The first locations of control are in situations where they sleep and eat.
Sleep can be influenced by an array of things – from nutrition to medical issues but very often at this age, sleep is a discipline or behavioural problem. Once you have successfully ruled out medical problems, consider your child’s nutrition habits. Your child should not have stimulants like sugar and caffeine and should eat balanced meals that include protein three hourly during each day. Hydration is especially important, so remember to give your child adequate water too. At the age of two, milk becomes supplementary and is not a fundamental part of the child’s nutritional needs. Also, your child should no longer be taking milk feeds during the night. If your two year old is still using a bottle, the change to a sippy cup can be made now, and it should not be taken to bed.
The biggest mistake parents make around this age is moving their children to a big boy/girl bed too soon. Toddlers are sometimes too young to understand the freedom of being able to get out of bed and so my best advice would be to keep your child in a controlled sleep space for as long as he/she remains comfortable. Make your child’s sleeping environment optimal for sleep – a cool room, comfortable organic bedding, and darkness and possibly a comfort item with which to sleep. A cot of toys is over-stimulating for the little ones!
Start making positive sleep associations with your child when it comes to sleep, which includes checking your attitude as well as two year olds can be much more perceptive than you think. Implement reward charts, and establish a set routine every night that the child is part of. Hold off on scolding your child, and decide beforehand what the parameters are when it comes to sleep as a discipline in your house, and stick to it.
One of the simplest reasons for your toddler resisting bedtime is to gain attention from you! In the fast paced society that we live in today, the last two hours before bedtime (and sometimes the only time we spend with our children) is a crazy whirlwind of cooking, cleaning, screaming and running. Ensure you and your partner invests in quality, cellphone-free activity-based time where the child leads the activities.
Activities before bedtime should be calming. Attempt a no-TV period for 2 hours before bedtime. TVs illuminate blue light, which inhibits the production of melatonin (our sleep inducing hormone). Rather play outside, or go for a quick walk or bounce on a Pilates ball – all these activities are great for sensory integration.
Unfortunately, an overtired child will not sleep well, contrary to popular belief. At two years old, your child should still be napping once daily for an average of between 90 minutes and 2 hours. Bedtime should be between 7 and 8pm to ensure that your child is well-rested.