Oh no! My toddler is playing in bed! Do this for a good night's sleep

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  September 29, 2020

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Imagine putting your toddler to sleep in his crib. He doesn't cry, likes to play in his crib, looks at the cellphone or chats, but doesn't sleep.

Or your toddler talks happily in his bed for an hour every night before going to sleep.

Sounds like an ideal situation for parents with crying babies, but can be tricky to deal with for many parents.

In this article, I'll discuss how it happens and what you can do with it.

Oh no! my toddler plays in bed

Playing in bed is a great way for kids to establish their autonomy.

They need sleep, but it is also often said that children aged 18-36 months really need to develop their own autonomy and exercise their free will.

Playing in bed instead of falling asleep right away is a good way to do this with minimal headaches for you and no negative consequences for your child.

Staying in the room is a bad idea, because it doesn't just hinder this exercise of free will - it starts a habit that you almost certainly don't want to continue and that will end up making everyone unhappy.

My son has occasionally had regressive sleep episodes and screamed when left alone, where before he would just fall asleep peacefully.

Something that helped then was a modified “Ferber” method:

If he had tantrums despite being comfortable and well fed, etc., I would wait 7-10 minutes while he was still crying alone and then I would go in, make him lie down and repeat over and over again, " it's time to go to sleep ”, and then leave again.

And after repeating a few times he finally got the message and went downstairs.

However, if he is playing and has no tantrums, it is just of his own free will and he can learn the consequences himself (be more tired).

They may be overexcited by some type of activity right before bed. They may also just talk and play a bit before going to sleep.

Being in the room is the least productive thing you can do, it won't help them fall asleep, it would probably keep them awake more.

Moreover, it is an invasion of their space. If he kicks the wall, go in, tell him to stop and then leave immediately, or better yet, don't do anything after a few times or else he'll get attention when kicking the wall.

To try:

Toddler plays in bed early in the morning

If your baby wakes up too early in the morning (which is 'too early' is different for everyone) and he's not crying, I would absolutely recommend that you don't go in and get him.

This will inadvertently reinforce him in the behavior of waking up too early.

When your toddler is crying, you want to limit your interaction as much as possible,

But don't make it fun to get up and try not to get him up for the day. This can keep his internal clock waking up early.

If your toddler wakes up in the morning and it is not “too early” but he is happy, allowing some play time is fine.

Children may also need this.

Some parents even say that if they go into their room when they hear their child wake up, and it wasn't too early to get up, their children will send them away because they came in too early!

They sometimes really enjoy their “relaxation time” in the morning.

Is it sad to leave a toddler alone in his cot?

All parents will have a different philosophy about whether it is "sad" to leave your toddler alone in bed.

My opinion is that if they aren't upset, some independent 'thinking' time or relaxation isn't a bad thing, and maybe even a good idea.

Some of my best ideas come to mind when I'm lying quietly in bed (or at least talking to no one) or taking a quiet shower or doing the dishes.

This site was such an idea!

Your toddler might enjoy alone time, and if they aren't crying, they might have great moments to reflect on their day.

Playing in bed can also become too much

While independent playtime can be good, at some point it can become too much playtime, and this can be bad for your toddler's sleep.

You want to avoid this.

Just because you have an easygoing baby who lies in bed for hours on end without crying doesn't mean he should.

You would think this sounds far-fetched and toddlers singing for hours will be rare.

But it is quite normal for a toddler who has once learned how to go to sleep on their own to start playing and chatting in their bed in the morning when they just wake up or before going to sleep at night.

Too much playtime can cause sleep problems

First, too much time on your baby's back when the head is still soft can cause plagiocephaly, or their head can be flat or misshapen.

As it is recommended for SIDS prevention to put your baby to sleep on his back, this is more common.

You will want to give your baby plenty of tummy time to play during the day, so playing outside the crib is better.

Second, too much “rest time” instead of sleeping can lead to shorter naps and more waking up at night.

Some general rules of thumb:

Ultimately, you know your baby best and what is 'too much' for one baby is not for another.

I also know people whose toddler takes 45 minutes to fall asleep no matter what time she is put to bed.

She 'talks' to herself about her day and needs that 'rest' time. For her this is now perfectly acceptable and even what she needs.

Now that they know that, she can set her schedule properly.

As always, keep in mind that something isn't a problem until it becomes one so always stay alert.

Always something to do for the holidays or rainy day?

Play Choice now has the ultimate activity book collection, with over 60 pages of fun coloring pages and educational puzzles.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Speelkeuze.nl is a content marketer, father and loves trying out new toys. As a child, he came into contact with everything around games when his mother started the Tin Soldier in Ede. Since 2016, he and his team have been creating helpful blog articles to help loyal readers with fun play ideas.