3 year old needing a bedtime snack – sound familiar?

Here’s a question I’ve just been answering for a column I write & thought it might be of interest to readers here too:

Hi Louise,

Recently miss three has found that she is hungry after we put her to bed. She’ll only be in bed for about ten minutes before she decides to come out and request a snack. I think we initially made the mistake of giving her a snack of banana and peanut butter and now she thinks that it’s part of her evening routine. What would be your suggestions to break her out of this habit – is she really hungry?

Thanks,

Annie.

 

Hi Annie,

Oh, the joys of toddlers! They can find so many ways of delaying bedtime and spending more time with mum and dad!

There are a few ways you can tackle this. If you think the snack is a useful part of her settling down and helps top her up, then I would make it part of your routine. Have a small, healthy snack in bed while you read her bedtime stories. I find this works well with all my children, as it’s an incentive to get into bed! Then it’s off for teeth cleaning and settle down to sleep with no more excuses!

However if you think it’s just a delaying tactic and she’s had plenty to eat, then decide on another approach to settling than offering the snack.

Let your daughter choose 3 stories for bedtime. Hop it bed and enjoy the story time together, cuddle and don’t let it feel rushed. Parents of toddlers are often ready for them to be asleep and to have some down-time but toddlers pick up on this in a flash and bedtime takes even longer!

Make sure her bedroom is a restful and relaxing place to sleep. Does she have something to cuddle all night? A nightlight is always a good idea for that age, particularly a cool one like a colour changing unicorn or something else she would love lying in bed watching. The Aloka ones are awesome as they come with a remote control to select the child’s favourite colour or change through the rainbow. I also recommend some white noise, a story CD or the most effective is a Dinosnores relaxation CD. The Kitten one is just lovely, with loud purring!

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Then decide on a technique for keeping her in bed that you are comfortable with and can be super consistent with. I don’t like the super nanny approach of constantly taking a child back to bed, as this turns into a game and can take up your whole evening! My preference is for our gentle and gradual approach, where you agree to sit or lie with her as she falls asleep. The aim is to break the habit of getting out of bed or finding excuses to come out to you. Often toddlers just want a bit more quiet time with mum or dad, and by agreeing to this they stop all the bedtime battling.

Do this for a few nights, as she settles down and gets used to watching her nightlight, listening to the CD and falling asleep. Then you start the gradual process of removing yourself! Start with a couple of nights of sitting on the end of the bed, again staying until she is asleep. If you find she is quickly getting settling, you can also add in some pop-outs, where you pop out for a short time, saying something like ‘mum just needs to pop out & get a drink of water’ and return within about 30 seconds. You can gradually increase the length of the pop-outs.

Then over a few nights, move to sitting on a chair away from the bed or increasing the length of your pop-outs, so she has the opportunity to fall asleep without you there. You may also like to add in some little rewards from the ‘bedtime fairy’, who comes for 3 nights to rewards children who fall asleep in bed without coming out! Little treats like a sheet of stickers, a little car or little pot of glitter (fairy dust!). Bedtime fairies only stay for 3 nights though, as there are lots more children who need a visit!

I hope those ideas help you regain your evening and help your little one settle down at bedtime.

You can also read more toddler sleep articles on our website:

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