My Toddler Won’t Stay in Their Room

At some point, your little one will outgrow their crib. It’s a sad day. They grow out of the crib or climb right out, and it’s no longer possible or safe to keep them in the crib. Saying goodbye to the crib is a milestone for parents and children. Changing your sleep space can feel emotional and marks the end of an era in your child’s growth. The newfound freedom that comes with a bed can be overwhelming for everyone. Here are some tips to encourage your little one to stay put at bedtime.

  1. Struggling with the transition to a bed:

Before you say goodbye to the crib, ensure your toddler is physically and cognitively ready to move to a bed. I recommend your toddler stay in a crib until they are around three years old unless the crib is no longer safe. 

If your child needs to move to a bed or you have already made that transition, setting loving, clear boundaries at bedtime can help prevent pushback from your toddler. 

How do you set these boundaries? Consistency. I tell my clients they will hear me say the words “be consistent” repeatedly. Toddler especially thrives when things in their lives are consistent. 

For Example:

If your family boundary is, we read three stories at bedtime, when they ask for one more story, the answer is no. “I loved reading stories with you tonight. We have already read our three stories; tomorrow at bedtime, we can read three more.” If you read one more story to prevent a meltdown, stop a meltdown, or even inadvertently participate in stalling bedtime, this tells your toddler that the boundary is flexible. A flexible boundary moves, which means they develop a why-not-ask attitude. Holding the boundary is crucial to establishing credibility with your toddler. Boundaries help them feel safe; they know what to expect and take the guesswork out of the equation for everyone.

2. Provide a consistent bedtime routine

Here’s that word consistent again. My number one tip for toddler bedtime is to make a bedtime routine chart that is personalized for them. I provide this to every toddler client I work with. 


Snack Time



Brush Teeth

3 Stories

Hug Goodnight

Next to each task, you can add a picture graphic so that the visual cue will help them understand what is coming next. If you laminate the chart and allow them to cross off each task as it is completed, they feel a sense of control and accomplishment.

3. Evaluate their sleep space

Like an infant, your toddler’s room should be cool, free from too many distractions, with their white noise machine on. A dark room is still appropriate at any age. However, you may be noticing your child expressing anxiety or fear of the dark. This is a normal developmental process, and you can do a few things to help.

  • Monitoring screen time before bed. It is recommended that blue light exposure be limited to at least 60 minutes before bed. It’s also essential to monitor the content of what your child is viewing to ensure the videos are age-appropriate.
  • If your little one needs a night light, I recommend using a toddler clock or Hatch light (these are my favorites, and they are affiliate links). Red light does not interfere with the brain’s natural melatonin production or disrupt sleep patterns. 
  • Use positive language about the dark and use natural opportunities to reassure your child. Sometimes, we tease kids about being afraid of the dark or talk about darkness as something to fear. Instead, consider stepping outside right before bed as the sun goes down. Talk about how the sun needs a break, and the moon and stars are coming out. Tell your child that your eyes and their smart brain love the dark. It’s calm, quiet and peaceful. 
  • Avoid your toddler becoming overtired. When they are overtired, their brains release stress hormones to try to keep them awake. This can make bedtime a battle, and it usually ends in tears and a prolonged bedtime. 

4. How do I know if it’s a sleep regression?

Toddlers are busy balls of energy that are growing and changing at an incredible rate. This busy nature makes sleep even more important, but some things can derail sleep and make bedtime a battle. 

Changes in life, like adding a sibling, moving to a new house, and starting or changing daycares, can all affect sleep. 

Signs of a regression:

  • Waking early in the morning
  • Stalling or fighting bedtime
  • Waking in the middle of the night
  • Taking short naps or protesting naps altogether

Your child may have or is going through the 2 year sleep regression. This can happen anytime between 18 months and 2.5 years. It’s generally accompanied by boundary pushing, moodiness, separation anxiety, a developmental spurt, or a life change. Sleep regressions generally last a few weeks and can feel overwhelming. When your child is pushing boundaries, it’s even more important to keep things consistent. They are relying on you to help them feel secure and trust in your reactions and their environment. 

What do I do if my toddler still won’t stay in bed?

Toddlerhood can be a wild ride full of sweetness, sticky fingers, belly laughing, and tantrums. If you’ve been fighting bedtime, are struggling to balance rules and love, and your toddler is cranky because they are coming out of their room in the middle of the night, I’m here to help. My toddler packages are some of my most popular. Schedule a free sleep assessment with me to get you all enjoying your days and nights.

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