After the hurdle of sleep training an infant, I just kind of assumed we were done. Forever. We started sleep training Blake at 4 months old and ever since then he’s slept through the night with no regression. Celebrating this success, I think Michael and I both thought that was it. We were done and the kid would sleep like a baby forever. No one told me I’d most likely have to sleep train a toddler who would cry in the middle of the night, and want to get out of his bed at ungodly hours of the night. For 2 years we’ve been so spoiled, enjoying our 7pm-7am kidless night and sleep. When Blake would wake in his crib he would either entertain himself in his bed for a while, or call for us to come get him. It was rarely ever before 7am though, which has been such a blessing to us!
Up until two weeks ago he was still in his crib. He’s never tried to climb out so our plan was to keep him in “jail” for as long as he’d allow it. Two weeks ago, at 4:30am, our door flung open and there stood a creepy toddler staring us down in bed whispering “Momma, momma, momma…I fell outta the bed.” We were startled. He’s never crawled out. He’s NEVER come into our room in the morning. Heck, I didn’t even realize he’d mastered the art of opening a door (something we’ve purposely NOT taught him how to do.) My heart jumped, then I noticed the big red mark that streaked across his left cheek from his face hitting the floor. And we knew right then it was time to convert to the toddler bed.
That day Michael made the adjustments to the crib to make it a toddler one. Due to his leg injury, it made the adjustment a little more difficult to do, but he pushed through it. I love his tenacity! Blake likes to move around a lot in the bed, and it was a concern that he’d fall out of it time and time again in the middle of the night. So we purchased this Regalo Swing Down Bedrail from Amazon.
On the first night of him sleeping in his new bed, he came into our room at 5:30am, eager to start the new day. Thankfully, and surprisingly, he didn’t try to get out of it in the middle of the night, or even when we first put him in to bed. Though we did have a conversation with him about the importance of staying in his bed until it was time to wake. We try to converse with him a lot and explain why we do things, even if he doesn’t fully understand. (Though, kids really do understand more than we give them credit for. They just like to pretend they don’t know what we mean!) The next morning he realized his freedom to get out on his own. For three days in a row he entered our room between 5 and 5:30, ready to start the day! Something had to change because mommy and daddy value their sleep way too much, and if Blake wanted nice parents around during the day, we were going to need more than just coffee to get through the days of waking up before the sun. One morning I took him to the window to show him that it was still dark outside, and he should go back to sleep and wake back up when there’s light, but, he only argued with me that the moon was light so it was okay for him to be awake. Oh, this kid!
I can survive a day or two on little sleep,but after that, I get useless, and grumpy. Not the kind of way I want to be around my kid. Infancy sleep deprivation seems like a lifetime ago, yet close enough for me to always remember how exhausted and sick I felt all.the.time. How did I survive? How does anyone survive?
At first, we tried telling Blake he could come back to sleep for a few more hours in the bed with us, but he wasn’t interested. Looking back, that wasn’t a habit we really wanted to get started on, anyway, so it’s probably a good thing. Not that I don’t enjoy cuddling with my kid, we do it almost every night before bed, but this just goes with our personal philosophy and training our child during the night. We tried putting him back to his bed to sleep when he was getting up at 5:30, but he wasn’t having that either. Michael and I both knew something had to give. We were desperate, and tired, so I started asking around. How could we prevent our kid from consistently getting up so early?
We have had to re-employ the cry it out method a few times during the transition course to toddler bed. He walked out a few times crying, and we just gently loved on him and put him right back to bed to self soothe. Everyone’s different, of course, in their training methods.
I love having friends who already have kids. They give really cool advice, especially when it comes to products! My friend recommended a toddler alarm clock that’s based on colors!
She recommended an owl clock and we jumped on board! The OK to Wake! Owl with Night-Light & Music is a product we were willing to try in order to, selfishly, gain a few more hours of sleep. To stay sane.
Isn’t he so cute?
How does it work? The owl has a clock and timer. You simply set the time when it’s okay for your child to leave their bed or room. When it’s time, the owl’s eyes light up green. When squeezed, and if it’s not time, the eyes will light up yellow and gently tell the the child it isn’t time to wake yet, and play a soft lullaby. It’s volume adjustable, and brightness adjustable. We have the volume on the lowest setting so it isn’t distracting him when the music is playing. (Some may like this feature.)
We tell Blake that he can play in his room until the owl turns green, then he can come to our room to get us. It took a few days for him to get the hang of it, but he’s got it down now, and he absolutely LOVES it. He runs into our room when his eyes are green and yells “momma, daddy, the owl’s eyes are GREEN!” I love the independence it provides him. He plays quietly in his room, usually with trucks, or books, and we don’t really hear him. This morning he was putting together a firetruck puzzle until it was time to get up.
You can also use the owl for naps. There’s a second option to set it for certain number of hours, rather than a time. We don’t use the nap option, but it’s easy to operate if you wanted to.
The owl sells for $34.99. I wasn’t keen on spending that much on it originally, but it has been 100% worth it. We are so grateful for this owl! I don’t know how else we would’ve “trained” him. We thought about going with the “come and get mom and dad when the sun is out” option, but due to time changes, that wouldn’t always work well.
The owl is soft enough to be a cuddle in the bed, but we keep it on his bookshelf across the room because he already has a thousand stuffed animals in the bed with him, plus a pillow and 2 blankets. I’ve found that sometimes he goes and pulls it off the shelf and puts it in the bed with him. You just have to make sure your little one isn’t resourceful enough to push buttons and change any of the options, even though they are secured in velcro in the back.
Michael and I are both huge advocates of sleep training and helping Blake to be more independent. The OK to Wake has given us and Blake some much needed sleep back, especially since things have been a little hectic in our household recently.
Hopefully there’s no more sleep regression stages, but I know anything can happen. Momma needs her sleep to operate! And coffee. Must have coffee!
Now, if only potty training were going as quickly and smoothly as this!
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3 thoughts on “Sleep Training a Toddler”
My son is still in his crib at 2,5, and I hope it stays that way for a while. We have him wearing a sleep sack to bed, which makes climbing a bit harder. He knows how to take it off, but he also knows that he will be cold without it, so he keeps it on.
I am dreading the moment he has to transition to toddler bed. I feel like we will have more issues with going down to sleep – that he will get out of bed and will play and wont go to sleep. We also have a 6-mo old who sleeps in our room, so having him come into our room in the morning brings the “what if he wakes the baby?”…
For when we are ready, I was also looking at toddler clocks. My goal was to find the one with red light at night, since red light doesnt fully wake us up at night. And I found a Sleeper Hero (you can Google it), a cute super hero doll that has red/green light 🙂
I do want to ask – what about the light in his room? If he wakes up at 5:30am and ready to play, is there a light in his room? My son sleeps in complete darkness.. He likes it that way.
Hi Nadya! We use the Owl Clock, (https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B0195NR7TE/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0195NR7TE&linkCode=am2&tag=mommisad-20&linkId=8672bfae28a7ab9b8dcef5dcd1e539a4) mentioned in the post and it works wonderfully! Its eyes are a subtle orange color and that’s what we falls asleep to. The light lasts for about 30 min (until he goes to sleep) and he knows not to get out of bed until it’s green. They have loads of clocks, like the superhero one you mentioned. I know, for us, we wanted to get one that we knew he wouldn’t want to play with. I thought if we got one that he’s actually interested in as a character then he’d think of it more as a toy. Owls have no sifiificance to him (lol) so it does it waking job and that’s it!
We’ve recently switched B to a bunk bed style bed, where underneath he has a fort (still need to blog about it). As for light, there’s a plug in nightlight under his bed, and we use an essential oil differ that doubles as a blue lamp. He doesn’t get up out of the bed to play. He just lays in bed and talks to himself until the owl is green. When the owl is green, he gets out of bed, turns his lightswitch on, and comes to our room to get us. We actually trained him NOT to get out of bed to play until the owl is green because for a few days he was waking up at 3am to play! It was too confusing for him.
Hope this helps! Happy to answer any more questions you have! I’m no expert, just know the trial and error of what works for us! HA.
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Thank you for responding and sharing some tips. I might come back or more once we get to transitioning from the crib! 🙂