How I sleep trained my toddlers

Every time I post pictures of my kids getting ready for bed, I’ll get DMs asking how I sleep trained them, followed by complaints that their own kids cannot go to sleep early.

To be honest, my first thought would be, why cannot?  Most parents worry about their children’s diet – how much they’re eating and whether the food is healthy.  But to me it’s equally important that kids get enough sleep, cos sleep fuels growth and development.  And Fighter being so small for his age, I just want to make sure that he gets everything he needs in order to grow well. T____T

So yeah, my kids are in bed by 7 pm and usually asleep by latest 8 pm.  I know some families have working parents who come home late and can only see their children at night.  So I understand the need to keep the kids up a little longer so they can see mommy and daddy at the end of the day.  I think in the end, all it boils down to is your family’s lifestyle and finding what works for you.

Since I get questions about the critters’ sleep all the time, I thought I’d do a sleep FAQ here for what we do.

what time do they sleep?

Ok so on weekdays, I’m quite strict with their bedtimes.  Both of them have to wake up at 6.30 am for school (FTL) so by 6.30 pm they start getting ready for bed.  Normally both are fast asleep before 8 pm.

what’s their sleep routine like?

From 6.30 pm, they start winding down!  We wash up, change into pajamas and brush teeth.  I read them both a bedtime story (picked by Penny) and then Fighter goes into his room to play a bit.  I turn off the lights, turn on her night light while Penny arranges her stuffed toys in a specific way on her bed wtf.  I give her a bottle of milk, she drinks it and usually falls asleep immediately.  Sometimes she doesn’t right away, so I stay in the room with her until she does.

After Penny falls asleep, I go over to Fighter’s room.  We read another book that he chooses himself, he tells me whatever he wants to say about his day, then he drinks his milk.  He doesn’t fall asleep immediately so he brushes his teeth.  Then I tuck him into bed, turn on night light, turn off lights, kiss him goodnight and leave the room.  He goes to sleep on his own.

why so early?

They both wake up at 6.30 am on school days.  On weekends they may sleep in until after 7 am but that’s about it hahaha.  They also don’t nap anymore.  On weekends and holidays though they usually sleep later, about 9 or more.

However, even before they started school they already slept early.  Two reasons – we have a circadian clock and it’s healthier for small children and babies to sleep early; also sometimes I want to go for a dinner with just grown ups and it’s easier to put them to bed then I can go out and relax HAHAHA.

For a guide on age-appropriate bedtimes for children, you can see here.

when do you know to drop the nap?

When you notice that it is consistently difficult for them to nap at their usual time!  Penny used to nap from 12-1 pm and then go to bed about 7 pm, but after a time, I noticed she’d struggle to sleep cos she just wasn’t sleepy.  Her nap dragged on, and consequently, her wake up time would get later, and she ended up with a later bedtime.

When it gets harder for your kids to fall asleep for naps, it may be time to drop one nap.  When it happened to Penny and she was already down to only one nap a day, I decided to just take it away.  At first she’d get cranky about 5 something, and end up going to sleep at 6.30 pm.  But that was ok with me too cos she’d sleep a good straight 12 hours at night.

I prefer that both her and Fighter don’t nap, so that when they sleep at night, they sleep longer.  I notice that if they do nap, they end up going to bed much later, and the total hours of sleep they get is actually less.

my  kid didn’t nap and he’s still sleeping at 11 pm!

I get this question a lot too.  I don’t know your situation well enough, obviously, but I think there are a few questions to ask.  Were they overexcited?  Over tired?  Kids are human, not robots.  My kids don’t go to sleep at the exact same time every day, and neither do I wtf.  If you stop their nap one day and they still sleep late, just keep trying. ^^  Sleeping late is a habit they have to break after all.  As long as you stick to a consistent schedule for them, they should end up sleeping at the time you wish.

how do you get fighter to sleep on his own?

Actually I also just managed this the past few months wtf.  Even though they have their own rooms, ever since they were babies, I’d either breastfeed them until they sleep, or sit in the room with them until they do.  I never sleep trained them to sleep on their own.  But they’re older now, and they don’t go to sleep immediately all the time.  So end up I can stay in Fighter’s room for very long sometimes, and only get to eat dinner very late.  This is not sustainable wtf.

So this is what I did.  I asked Fighter why he wanted me to stay in the room with him, and he said cos he’s scared wtf.  But he’s actually not cos when he wakes up at night, he gets a drink of water from a Thermos we keep in the room, and goes back to sleep on his own.

So I told him we can do it slowly.  I usually sat on his bed while he fell asleep so every day I would move slightly further away.  From the bed next to him, to the foot of the bed wtf.  To an armchair in his room, then on the floor right next to his door wtf.  Then I told him I would just be right outside his door, eating at our dining table, or in the living room, watching TV.  I told him he could come out and check on me if he wanted but not too many times hahaha.  And I’d go in and periodically check on him too.  And it works!  He pops his head out once or twice, but goes back in by himself and goes to sleep peacefully.

For Penny I don’t know if this would work wtf.  Cos she’s way more stubborn and cannot reason wtf.  But she’s still younger so I’ll give it time and try a different method if I have to.

any other useful tips?

Yea got!

  • a consistent sleep routine is useful.  For toddlers and small children who can’t tell time, going through the same routine every day (wash up, ready story, chat about the day etc) can be very calming and prepare them better for bed.
  • decide what time you want them to sleep and stick to it.  Don’t anyhow one day sleep at 9 pm, next day want to sleep at 7 pm.  If you cannot sleep at erratic times, don’t expect your child to be able to.
  • time their naps if they’re still napping.  I did that with both kids.  For example, if Penny always wakes up at 5 pm from her nap and only falls asleep at 10 pm, it means she probably only feels sleepy 5 hours after her last nap.  So if I want her to sleep at say, 8 instead of 10, I make sure she doesn’t sleep anymore after 3 pm (5 hours before 8 pm).
  • car naps are the worst wtf.  I don’t know about you guys, but every time those two fall asleep in the car it wreaks havoc on their sleep.  Cos they won’t sleep that long in the car, maybe max 15 minutes?  But end up sleeping an hour later than bedtime it drives me mad wtf.

I realize writing this blog post that I may sound slightly anal about my children’s sleep and maybe I am hahahaha.  It’s just that my kids, when sleep deprived, are very annoying hahaha.  Cranky, grumpy and not fun to be around.  Plus I don’t want their immune systems to be compromised by a lack of sleep la.

My methods may not work for everyone cos it really depends on your lifestyle and preferences.  But hopefully some of my tips will help you if you’re looking to fix your child’s bedtime.

Leave me any other questions in the comments and I’ll try to answer!

Comments (6)

  • Hello aud, how do you do naps with your busy schedule when fighter and penny were babies? I am a nap slave to my baby, doesn’t make it better that she takes really short naps. What about weddings and events when they need to stay up? Do they get into a cranky mess? How do you make up their lost sleep?


  • Hi! If they start preparing to sleep by 6:30pm what time do they eat their lunch & dinner? What about when you want to bring them out to have dinner with family / friends?

  • Ever since we moved to Australia, I have also become slightly of a maniac when it comes to their bedtime! I try to get both kids to bed by 7.30pm, and hopefully they will be asleep by 8.30pm. Like you, I believe that sufficient sleep will help them be healthier and stronger. And also I want my kids-free time after they sleep! #hiddenagenda

    The only downside to this is that we don’t have any night life on weekdays boohoo. But it’s OK. The pros outweigh the cons at the moment 😀 Looking back, I can’t believe I used to let my daughter sleep at midnight!

  • yes to the hidden agenda hahahaha. you could still have dinners with friends! take turns to go out with friends? hehehe.

  • They eat at 5.45 pm hahaha. I don’t really bring them out for dinner on weekdays. On weekends we do, cos they don’t have to wake up so early for school.

  • Yea we planned our schedule around their naps! Penny used to be a horrible napper so I resorted to the sarong with the spring to get her to sleep longer. I didn’t bring them to weddings until they were older, and even then I’d pack pajamas and diapers in the car and change them before we drive home LOL. So if they fall asleep in the car, they can just sleep for the night, don’t need to wake them up to change pajamas etc.

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