All of my kids have been crappy sleepers since birth. Every single night they require an hours-long bedtime routine, which almost always includes a billion drinks of water and an endless cycle of waking up, needing help, sleep walking, and crawling into my bed. Honestly, I haven't had a decent night's sleep in years.
So, like most exhausted moms, I'm willing to try anything to get my child to stay in bed all night. Hell, I think I already have tried everything, up to and including bribery, baby gates, and making adjustments to their sleeping arrangements, bedtime routines, and daily schedules. It got to the point where I thought I was the only mom in the world struggling to coax her kids to sleep. Thankfully, after talking to other moms, I learned I'm far from the only one. I also, thankfully, learned a few new tricks and tips for getting my kids to fall asleep and stay in their beds all night.
Even if it takes a while, sleeping through the night and staying in their own beds is something that kids eventually figure out. It might take years and a variety of strategies, but eventually it does, in fact, happen. And on that blessed day you will, dear reader, get some damn sleep, too.
For some big kid bed tips from experienced moms in the know, read on:
"We made a chart with a reward schedule that gradually increased and included a sleepover in our room on a cot as one of the rewards."
"My in-laws got my eldest one of those bed toppers that’s like a pop-up tent. It’s patterned with constellations and aurora borealis, and has flaps in front to close. My son said it makes him feel really safe and he’s stayed in his bed all night ever since."
"I’ve bribed my balls off and nothing has worked, but my friend bought her son a fish. He got to pick out the whole set up and the fish and everything if he promised to sleep in his own room, and it worked."
"By joining them and staying in their bed with them all night. Ugh."
"We co-sleep. I know many parents need to not do this for various reasons, but it works for us for now."
"Three pennies. Each time they come out, it costs them a penny. What they don’t spend, they keep. When they are out of pennies, they are out of trips. Obviously, they must be old enough to not eat pennies, but young enough to be excited about pennies. We went up in currency as they got older. They can get their own drinks and go the bathroom for free but without any assistance from us."
"Keep them in their crib for as long as possible, or until they are consistently climbing out. My daughter Amelia is 2.5 and still sleeping in a crib."
"If I can make sure my kid gets lots of hugs, snuggles and cuddles throughout the day with about an hour of good, unstructured exercise (outdoor park playing or swimming seems the most effective), then I can usually expect a quiet night. Please note that this kid is 6, and has only been staying in bed all night for about a year.
We've always tried to start the night in the child's bed, but our bed has always been available as needed. Our child is very sensitive and sleeping alone in their room all night has been a fairly new thing that has emerged with developmental independence, such as getting themselves dressed and brushing their own teeth."
"We established a solid bedtime routine, and there are a lot of stuffed animals and a book involved. We tell him that he needs to wait for me to come get him, and repeat that message when he gets out of bed. It’s very rare for him to play off his bed, and most of the time he will just stay put."
"They are all on a sleep schedule. In bed by 7 or 8 p.m. and up by 7 a.m. We told them their room is only for them and we enforce this. No one else is allowed in their room, and we put locks on all their doors. Not to keep them in, but to keep others out. They are just pop locks and we have a poker thingy on top of each door in case of emergency. They have a sense of security and control over that space and themselves. It’s also well defined as their place for sleeping.
If they have a bad dream or need a drink of water, we give them what they need and send them back to bed. And we've resorted to bribery, which works. Getting up to pee is highly encouraged, but returning to their own bed is paramount."
"I have a clock that turns from red to yellow when they are allowed to leave their rooms. I know it sounds super controlling but they are such jerks when then don't sleep enough, and I am pure evil without enough sleep, so I need everyone to stay in their beds. I also make them do physical activity for 45 minutes to an hour after school, and stop all electronics at least 45 minutes before bedtime and dim the lights. My hope is if I can make them super tired, take away all stimuli, and make their bed their favorite place, they will stay in there."