Top 5 Holiday Sleep Tips for Toddlers
It’s the holidays! The time of year when you’re so looking forward to having your family of four shoved into the guest room at your in-laws house…
Right… Good luck sleeping!
If sleep is already a challenge for your child at home, traveling can really make things even more difficult…
But don’t worry, it’s not that dire yet! With my five best travel sleep tips for your toddler, you’ll be soaking up well-rested holiday cheer in no time.
>>Watch this blog on my Awesome Little Sleepers YouTube channel! 👇
Must-Dos for Travel With a Toddler
One very accurate saying about being the parent of a toddler or preschooler is, “Give an inch and they’ll take a mile!” So, my number one sleep tip for the holidays is:
1. Do not start any bad sleep habits.
If you take away nothing else, remember that.
Some examples of what not to do…
• You’re staying at your in-laws house, and in order to prevent a bedtime meltdown, you decide to lay with your child until they fall asleep –- even though you never do it at home.
• Or, you have family staying with you and your child wakes up in the middle of the night. Even though you never do this, you decide to bring him back to your bed to sleep with you because you don’t want to wake anyone else up.
In either example, you could be setting yourself up for a tough time when you get back home and life gets back to normal.
Even one night of a different sleep situation or a different response from you can reset your child’s expectations and quickly become their new normal.
If you end up doing this for a few days or a week, it strengthens that new sleep habit even more.
Developing bad sleep habits during holiday travel can really make re-entry back into normal life suck.
This is one of the main reasons my phone rings off the hook in January with parents desperate to get sleep on track. Do your best to avoid this situation in the first place!
2. Prioritize sleep.
Would you go to the playground right before lunch without a plan for how to feed your kids? No! That wouldn’t be smart, right? You know your kid gets evil when they’re hangry!
Think about sleep the same way. It’s one of your child’s basic biological needs, and just as important as food.
Well-rested kids are happy kids.
They're in a better mood, they listen better, they're more agreeable: allllll things you want over the holidays.
If your toddler needs a nap each day, plan for it if you can. Schedule activities around naptime or leave her sleeping at home with grandpa.
If your toddler behaves better and is just a better version of herself when she gets lots of sleep at night, put her to bed early. If you have a very busy, active schedule, she may even need to go to bed earlier than normal.
If she needs to stay up late one night, put her to bed early the next night and offer an extra long nap. Plan ahead for her sleep needs just like you would plan ahead for her meals.
And when she sleeps well, lay on the praise! Have the whole family praise her, and encourage her to brag on herself!
Plan for the sleep you know your kid needs. Everyone will thank you for it!
3. Keep sleep separate even when room sharing.
If your child has their own room at home, try and simulate that even if you’re forced to share a room. I know, this can be tough! But if they can’t have their own room, try and give them their own sleep space.
If you’re in a hotel, try and find a room with a pull-out couch or ask if they offer a roll away cot that your child could sleep on.
At a hotel or at a relative’s house, you could make a pallet on the floor for your child to sleep on. You could use couch pillows and a sleeping bag. You could even use a blow up pool raft as a toddler mattress.
If you travel a lot or plan to be gone on a long trip, you may want to invest in an inflatable toddler bed or kids’ travel cot. (Here are some options from Amazon.) You could also pack a kids’ tent so they have a dark, private place to sleep.
Remember, if you make it seem cool and fun, your kid will think it is, too!
If your child is going to be sleeping like this, try a night of practice in their own room before you leave so it’s not totally new when you get there.
4. Get on the same page with your spouse before you leave or before guests arrive at your house.
Where will your child sleep?
How will you handle bedtime?
What happens if he wakes up in the middle of the night?
Are you willing to let them sleep with you in the bed?
Who will run point on making decisions - will you switch off nights?
Arguing with your partner in the middle of the night... while you’re trying to get your kid back to sleep... and not wake up other people in the house, isn’t fun. So, plan ahead!
5. Get back on track quickly.
Once you get home and normal life resumes, get your child back on track as quickly as possible.
If the sleep routine changed while you were gone or you ended up dabbling in some bad habits that you don’t want to bring home with you, talk to him about it.
“I know that you slept with Mommy & Daddy when we were at grandma’s house, but that was only for our trip. Now we’re home, so you’re going to be sleeping in your own room again. That's always how we sleep when we’re home.”
It's great to have this conversation before you leave, too, if you know you will be sleeping in a way that you don't want to continue when you get home.
Don’t be afraid to offer some rewards to help things get back on track quickly.
Ready for even more toddler sleep tips?
I put these tips plus five more together in a free download, “10 Toddler Sleep Tips for the Holidays.” Click this link to download it now.