How to Keep Kids in Bed (The easy way!)

Cute little baby sleeping with toy at home. Bedtime

Children have a variety of needs that must be fulfilled in order for them to develop in healthy and happy ways. Some of these needs include basic needs like eating and sleeping. However, sleeping turns out to be a more difficult need to fulfill than maybe you originally thought. 

You keep children in bed and promote better sleep habits by creating a sleep routine and expectations with your children. This can promote stability and consistency they can rely on. Some examples of things you will want to have in your routine are a stable bedtime and quiet time before bed. 

The idea of a bedtime routine is pretty commonly thought of. Yet, it is a lot harder to find a routine that works and apply it. Here we will discuss what is considered enough sleep for different ages, some benefits of having enough sleep, and some top tips and tricks that have been found to promote good sleep habits in children of a variety of ages from toddlers to young adults. 

How Much Sleep is Enough Sleep?

The amount of sleep you need in order to thrive can shift depending on your age. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) younger children, like toddlers, require significantly more sleep than teenage children. The older you are, the less sleep you seem to need.

AgeHours of Sleep Needed
Newborns (0-3 months)They usually manage their own sleep well, 14-17 hours recommended
Infants (4-12 months)Naps are recommended, 12-16 hours sleep total
Toddlers (1-2 years)Naps are recommended, 11-14 hours sleep total
Preschoolers (3-5 years)Naps are recommended, 10-13 hours sleep total
6-12 years9-12 hours of sleep a night
13-18 years8-10 hours of sleep a night
18-60+ years7 or more hours. After 60 the range should decrease and stay around 7-9 hours a night

https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html

The amount of sleep your child needs can impact what time bedtime is and also different aspects of the bedtime routine. Your toddler will need to go to bed significantly earlier than your teenager will, so curfews can shift to accommodate the new sleep needs. 

Benefits of Having Enough Sleep

When trying to instill good habits in your children, it often comes with some pushback. This can be discouraging and exhausting for you! So it is important to remember why you are making changes in your family life. The reason you are working so hard to help your children can motivate you to keep trying, regardless of how much opposition you receive. Let’s talk about what some of the benefits are for your children getting enough sleep. 

For you as a parent, you will be able to have time to recharge and invest yourself in some of your different interests and relationships while your child is asleep. You might have more time to read that book you have really been wanting to get into or have good conversations with your spouse that couldn’t happen while your child is awake. Beyond some of those benefits, you can also get enough sleep yourself! You will be able to get the seven hours a night you need which will improve your overall health. 

Some of the benefits for your children are the ability to pay attention better, have better self and emotional regulation, have an easier time learning and remembering different things, and better overall health. https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/ACH-News/General-News/The-importance-of-sleep-for-kids#:~:text=Studies%20have%20shown%20that%20kids,pressure%2C%20obesity%20and%20even%20depression. With less than enough sleep, there is a correlation to high blood pressure, obesity, depression, and poor grades. https://www.publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article-split/134/3/e921/74176/Insufficient-Sleep-in-Adolescents-and-Young-Adults

This is just brushing the surface of reasons why sleep is so important. Now that we have this foundation we can rely on, it’s important to discuss the logistics of getting better sleep. 

Young well-slept african woman stretching in bed, smiling with closed eyes, empty space, top view

Helping Toddlers Stay in Bed

Young children are well known for being full of energy! When I was a nanny for a young family with a two-year-old girl and infant twins, there were many things that were made apparent to me.

The twins were much easier to manage rather than the two-year-old. The young toddler was full of energy and didn’t want to slow down. When I would try to promote naps, she often refused unless her Mom was home and also taking a nap. She needed sleep, but naps didn’t happen often.

The infant twins were easy to help get to sleep. The parents had established a schedule and even these young infants knew and followed it. They would play for a little bit with their toys on the floor, then they would need to drink some formula, and afterwards, they would fall asleep for about an hour and a half or so till the cycle repeated again. 

Every child is different, but this experience illustrates that schedules work with children. If they can know what is happening next and understand the end goal, they will eventually follow it without pushback. This schedule is a comforting structure rather than a constricting one. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-get-your-child-to-go-to-bed-and-actually-stay-there/

Structuring a Bed Time Routine

We know it is important to have a bedtime routine and it is important to define what this is with your children. So what are good things to include in your bedtime routine with your younger children?

There are many things you can add to your child’s bedtime routine to promote good sleep habits such as quiet time, removing bigger stimulants, establishing bedtime habits, and choosing a specific time for children to be in bed by. The most important things to add are the activities that your child needs done before bedtime. These can include brushing teeth, showering/taking a bath, getting pajamas on, having a snack, or getting a drink. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-get-your-child-to-go-to-bed-and-actually-stay-there/  Another thought is to include things that your young child often requests to delay bedtime, like extra drinks, book reading, and talking about their day. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/bedtime-routine-tips 

A thought that might not have come to mind is the importance of having your child fall asleep in their bed instead of in a car, on the couch, or elsewhere. They should be awake before they get to their bed so they can develop the ability and habit of falling asleep in their bed. 

Family reading bedtime. Pretty young mother reading a book to her daughter.

Handling Challenges Once They Are in Bed

Sometimes, the problem isn’t in getting your child into their bed but in what happens once you say goodnight. Some of these challenges can include crying and restlessness/resistance.

If your child begins to cry when you go to leave, reassure them that they are safe and that it is bedtime. You can talk to them in reassuring, calm tones to try and help them handle their emotions. If you end up visiting them after tucking them in, it is important to keep your visits short and to reassure them they are okay. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-get-your-child-to-go-to-bed-and-actually-stay-there/ You can also get them some kind of objects like a toy or blanket to help reduce anxiety separation. 

Your child could also be pretty resistant to going to bed. If this is the case, you can try to reinforce the idea of bedtime by closing (but not locking) the door for a short period of time. Explain to your child that if they stay in bed, they can choose to keep the door open. When your child disobeys and gets out of bed, you can walk them back to bed but then you need to close the door for a few minutes. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-get-your-child-to-go-to-bed-and-actually-stay-there/ 

The most important thing to do is to only give attention to the attributes and habits you want to see. If you give attention, even negative attention, to your children when they do things that you don’t want to see it promotes the action. https://beewisesleepconsulting.com/toddler-in-bed/  You can praise your children in the morning for good behaviors through treats or validation, just try to not overdo it with sugar or junk foods. It is important not to critique them the next morning for bad behaviors, this could create negative feelings and connections to bedtime. This will be detrimental to getting your child to sleep in their bed all night.  https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-get-your-child-to-go-to-bed-and-actually-stay-there/ 

Mother and her little son at home. Bedtime

Helping Teenagers Go to Bed

With older children, there are a few different aspects to consider. Older children and teenagers need significantly less sleep than toddlers do. They only need 8-12 hours of sleep, so the time you set for bedtime might need to be shifted to accommodate for that. 

There are also some different obstacles for teenagers getting to sleep that don’t exist with your younger child. Your teenager will likely have more responsibilities like homework or a job that could take up a lot of time in the day or evening. There is some social pressure for teenagers to be up later like spending time with friends or pursuing hobbies. These are just a few additional obstacles that make getting enough sleep a challenge that you won’t see in your younger children. 

There are some commonalities between things that can help a small child and a teenager get more quality sleep. One of these is communicating expectations with your child. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/bedtime-routine-tips Your toddler isn’t able to understand fully why they need to go to bed at a certain time, but your teenager can! 

You can promote communication with your teenager and talk to them about how to get more sleep. You can ask them when would be the best time for them to go to bed to get the 8-12 hours of recommended sleep. Explaining the benefits of sleep could also help you motivate them to get better sleep on their own. If you can convince them that they need and want better sleep, it will be less of a fight on your part to get more sleep. 

Another thing that benefits children of all ages is promoting quiet time before the appointed bedtime. You can help them establish their own bedtime routine that suits their needs. Some other things that can be done to promote the effectiveness of a bedtime are having the hour before bedtime considered quiet time. 

technology, internet, communication and people concept – happy smiling young woman texting on smartphone in bed at home bedroom at night

Sleep Tips Specific to Teenagers

Now that we have discussed some of the unique struggles of getting enough sleep for teenagers, let’s talk more about some unique answers to these sleep struggles. 

Although all children can benefit from quiet time before they go to bed, this quiet time can look different for teenagers and older children. Examples of the things to remove include screens, gaming, and homework. Maybe they need to have less or no caffeine during the few hours before bedtime. Whatever you and your child consider to be something that is making sleep more difficult should be considered something to put away or minimize before bedtime.

They could also be stressed and this stress is keeping them up at night. Whether this stress comes from school, friendships, relationships, or illness it is important for them to handle it before they go to bed. You can help them by promoting different tools like meditation, reading, journaling, and talking to you or another trusted adult. If they are able to learn how to emotionally regulate and help themselves work through hard emotions, this will benefit them in every aspect of their life not just sleeping! 

Another thing to consider when trying to promote better sleep is their room. There are many factors that can help them. Maybe they need to have their bedroom at a cooler temperature to help them chill out, quite literally. There might be too much light coming in from other areas of the house or windows. You can fix this by getting them thicker curtains or allowing/offering a suggestion to close their bedroom door to block out the light from other areas of the house. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/sleep-tips-for-teenagers/ 

If none of these seem to help, you can also try doing some things to make your teenager more tired. Examples of this are helping them get more exercise or giving them high-carb snacks before bed. If they are getting more exercise, they will need to get the energy to replenish what they lost. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/sleep-tips-for-teenagers/ This can make falling asleep easier. Giving your teenager snacks that have high levels of carbs also can help them fall asleep. Some examples of snacks are cereal, graham crackers, pretzels, and toast. https://www.aastweb.org/blog/10-proven-tips-to-get-your-sleep-deprived-teen-sleep-better 

You are now empowered with many ideas and options on ways to help your child, regardless of how old they are! We wish you the best of luck in getting a full night of sleep for your child and for yourself! 

About Shelly

Shelly Courtney has a rich knowledge about babies and parenting that she has gathered from a decade of experience interacting with relatives, friends, and colleagues. Being a doting mother herself, Shelly loves sharing her experiences on the nitty-gritty of parenthood with other budding parents. Her parenting advice is sure to make parenthood more enjoyable for all the new moms and dads.