2 1/2 Year Old Who Will Not Go to Bed!

Updated on July 02, 2008
K.M. asks from New Berlin, WI
14 answers

My daughter will not go to bed at night! We have a routine that we have been following forever but once I tuck her in, she gets out of her bed several times. She is beginning to make up excuses like "I need water", "I need this toy or that", "I need the door open more"...etc. She will sometimes stay in her bedroom but will turn on the light and play, read books, change her clothing...etc. I feel like I have tried everything to keep her in her bed. The doctor suggested closing her door and having a door knob thing on it is so she can't get out. I am not able to do that in her own bedroom since she shares it with her little sister. I have tried to let her sleep in the playroom but she really wants to be in her bed and puts up a big fight. I have also done the Supper Nanny thing where I just keep carrying her back to her room and say "Big girls stay in their beds." She is keeping her sister up and causing me to be supper crabby. Any other ideas would be appreciated, I am in dire need of some of my own time at night.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Ok so I'm a BIG fan of the Supper Nanny so I really believe that her techniques work if used properly. The thing with the supper nanny bed time routine is that after the first time she attempts to get out of bed you are nice and tell her "its bed time sweetie" the second time you are stern and tell her "its bed time" the third and subsequent times she gets out of bed you don't say anything to her. So that means that you do not respond to any requests she makes like water, or toys or door open more. You strictly do not give her any attention except for walking her back to her bed. Yes it will take a night or two but she will get the point. As for keeping up her little sis, maybe you could put her to bed in another room for a few nights while you practice the routine with the other one or maybe put her to bed after you get the oldest settled in. The supper nanny thing will work but you have to refuse to give her attention when she is suppose to be in bed and keep at it until she gives up, you can't give up first. Also, it may take two or three nights for your daughter to realize that you are serious about her staying in her bed. Keep trying and good luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

At bedtime inform your child that you will no longer tolerate getting up at night. The buck stops here. Put her to bed with her regular routine and a stern admonition to stay in bed. Then, when she test you (and she will) give her two firm swats on the bottom accompanied by a stern "no" and put her immediately back to bed, then walk away. Repeat as many times as needed until she gets the hint that you are in charge. I guarantee it will work if you are calm throughout and do not back down. When she learns that you (not her) are in charge and that there is absolutely no upside to disobedience she will stay in bed.

SAHM of seven



answers from Rochester on

We are having the same problem with our two and a half year old. Super Nanny is FAILING me (GASP). I have tried the super nanny trick and it just turns into a game for our daughter and frustrates me to my boiling point. There have been quite a few not so good mommy moments in the past few weeks!

This is what I have tried and it seems to be helping a bit:

I have asked daycare to shorten the afternoon nap to no more than 1.5 hours. She is a little more crabby at night, but it seems to have worked a little better last night.

Also, we changed our nighttime routine. It's normally, bath, jammies, teeth, stories and then bed. Instead of reading stories before bed (they tend to get my daughter more wound up for some reason) we are putting in a lullaby cd of her favorite songs. She and I sing the entire CD together, with her lying in her bed. I rub her back while we sing and it seems to be relaxing her. On the nights when she doesn't take a bath, I will replace bathtime with a story to keep up the interest in reading.

The lullaby CD seems to be helping - I'm going to keep trying it. Maybe it would help in your case too!

Also - I've been reading about bedtime in the book "raising your spirited child" and she has some good tips. Maybe find out what is causing your dd to not go to sleep? You don't want to get sucked into lying with her until she is asleep, but she suggests trying it and then slowly moving farther away each night. If you haven't read the book - it might be a good one to pick up. I got it after seeing all the recommendations for it on mama source.



answers from Minneapolis on

I recommend trying "The Sleep Fairy Book". It is a story about two little girls that do just what your child is doing -- not staying in bed. The story talks about what they should do and states that should they act accordingly at bedtime, the sleep fairy will come and leave them a small gift under their pillow. We used a lot of items (special granola bars, pretty hair clips, lots from the Target dollar area, etc). After about 2 weeks, the sleep fairy came less and less and after about a month she only made an occasional visit. It worked wonders in our household.

Good luck



answers from Minneapolis on

Would she stay in bed if she were allowed to "read" books? We let our girls have a couple of books in bed - no toys and they have to stay in bed. Some nights they read, some they don't, but they generally stay in bed and then when they are tired enough, go to sleep.



answers from Minneapolis on

Your daughter is now old enough for a more advanced bedtime routine: Children this age need their brain activity to slow down in order to calm down their bodies for a good night's sleep:

Pick out CHAPTER books that are calm but interesting: Charlotte's Web, Winnie the Pooh, Francis, Little Bear (girls LOVE Little Bear). Tuck her into bed ("the story won't start until you are tucked in...") and sit by her bed (or in it with her is best) and read aloud, slowly and softly.

Show her the pictures if you want to but don't let her touch the book - this is story time and she needs to create the pictures in her head.

Once children start getting into their bedtime story, they will RUN to bed looking forward to finding out what happened at Little Bear's birthday party, or whether or not Winnie the Pooh found the North Pole.

She will fall asleep before you are done reading for the night, of course. So pay attention to her while you read so that you remember where you left off.

Then, make a trip every week to the library to seek out new and better bedtime stories, giving you something to do for fun when she is awake that will also stimulate her to know when it is time to be quiet and respectful.

Also, get her into the habit of choosing one of her favorite stuffed animals or dolls to listen to the story with her in bed so she has a story buddy. She may change animals/dolls with every story, or may choose the same one for an eternity. This will be the last thing she does before climbing into bed...

Knowing that her friend is missing the story will give her a feeling of importance and reverence. Now SHE is in charge of someone else who NEEDS her in order to have their own good bedtime experience.



answers from Minneapolis on

When my kids go to bed they get a lamp and their music. The first time they come out they lost their music and the second time they loose their night light and are in the dark.
To be honest though, my 2 1/2 year old son is still in a crib :o) When they learn how to listen and stay in bed they get a bed, lol. He was crawling out of the crib so we cut the legs down a little, took out the spring, and dropped the mattress down on the floor inside. Now he can't get out and it's still safe and there isn't any gaps between the frame and mattress.
But my 6 year old was in a bed when she was 2 1/2. We got her a new bed and comforter set so she was loving her pretty new bed so much that she didn't want to leave it :o)
I guess it depends on the child, you'll figure out what works best. Maybe just telling her that she'll be back in the crib or making her get in a crib when she won't stay in bed might help.
Good luck,
Mom to 4, soon 5 through another adoption and hopefully more :o)



answers from Minneapolis on

You said she really wants to be in her own bed and puts up a fight when you try to place her in the playroom? I think you have the answer. Tell her she may sleep in her own bed as soon as she learns to obey you and stay there. If she gets out of bed, put her to bed in the playroom and make her stay there. Even if she screams and cries about it for five hours hold your ground. If she hates sleeping in the playroom or is afraid, your instinct will be to protect her and not force her to sleep in there but if you make her see that that is where she'll end up if she disobeys you may be able to solve your problem very quickly. A more general strategy would be.. an hour before bed start a calming routine. 20 minutes before bed ask her if there's anything she needs to do before bed (potty, drink, hugs, stories) because once she is in bed she must stay there until morning. Let her know the consequences she will face the next day if she gets out of bed. (Making up the time she should be sleeping by sitting in the corner the next day. Losing all tv or treats the next day etc.) Then, when she gets out of bed IGNORE HER. Don't look at her. Don't talk to her. Pick her up and carry her back to bed - no words no emotion. Follow through with discipline. Take away anything she looks forward to the next day if she gets out of bed. TV, treats, outings, playdates. Let her know only girls who obey their parents and stay in bed deserve these priviledges. Don't cave in!!! It worked for me.


answers from Milwaukee on

I don't agree with taking away the favortie blanket or stuff animal... that is something a child may need to help fall asleep if you are not in the room. That will create a bad experiance at bed time instead of a relaxing calming feeling.

With that said I am not a huge super nanny fan but some of the stuff she does can work. Can you turn the play room into her room (move her bed and other speical things in there), then you could close the door (if possible) and just let her be. We keep the door closed to my daughters room, we can hear her playing around but within half an hour she falls asleep. Most nights now she lays right down now and falls asleep. Granted my daugher has no siblings so she does not share a room so having another kid in the room maybe keeping her up.

I have been told by many that playing outside helps wear them out. It is the fresh air I am told (not sure if that is true or not) but I do play with my daughter for an hour outside about 1 1/2 hours before she goes to bed. She comes in wore out, so I do a quick wash up with a wash cloth, change her into PJs ready her a book and she goes down with like a charm.

I hope you find something that works for you.


answers from Omaha on

Wow I could have written that. I'm reading the responses as if I did. I have zero me time. Last night my daughter went to bed at 11:30pm. Like you, she will go through the routine. Her's is milk with 3 stories, night night prayer then sleep time music. The light goes out and she begins with the requests, or sitting up in bed, or deciding she wants me to flip her blanket the other way or she didn't quite hear the end of the story I last read and I need to read it again . . . the list goes on. Last night the yellow monkeys with Macaroni on their heads wouldn't let her sleep. And she says it with a straight face like she really thinks I am supposed to beleive it. She hasn't hit the age of reason yet so her little fibbs are far fetched.

She's up when I am up in the morning and she goes to bed when I go to bed. Downtime is but a dream.

Good luck to you. May we get this figured out : )



answers from Milwaukee on

I like the sleep fairy idea!!
I also do the Super Nanny thing on days my kids don't want to sleep. Let them sleep with their favorite animals, blankets or toy.. It's their security while they are sleeping and can't see mom and dad. They are also testing you to see if you actually will eventurally let them do what they want!
Keep it up and keep consistent with the routine.. 2 weeks isn't a very long time in the scope of things. Look how long it takes them to crawl, walk.. etc.. I know I personally would LOVE to go to sleep at night(even earlier than the kids and let my husband put them to bed) but that's not a mommy option!! =0)

E. B
Need Affordable Dental/health?



answers from Minneapolis on

We have a girl the same age. We give her a night light and put a gate at her doorway. She always plays in her room for awhile with just the night light on and then eventually gets into her bed. Make sure you are putting her down when she is sleepy because if they get overtired then you will have a very hard time getting them to relax. A good idea would be to by a sleep book. We used Good Night, Sleep Tight by Kim West. It is great and goes all the way up to 5 years of age. And yes our daughter does the requests. We just keep telling her that you are fine go to sleepy. And she eventually gives up. But if you keep getting everything she requests then she will keep doing it. Also how is her nap? She should still be taking a nap starting at about 1 in the afternoon. And lasting for about and hour to two hours. If her daytime sleep is off then so will her night time sleep. I really encourage you to buy a sleep book. It will help you so much. And yes we tried the sleep nanny thing and it turned into a very long game. So that is why we did the gate. She can see out and doesn't get scared but is safe from wandering around the house. Good luck.



answers from Minneapolis on

We deal with this and our daughter on daily basis since she was 1. We threaten her by telling her we'll shut the door unless she stays in bed. If she stays in bed, the door can stay open. Figure out what she HATES, and use that to keep her in bed. (no night-light, no favorite blanket, favorite toy, etc.) You'll probably have to take that privledge away once or twice for her to get it, but she'll see that you're serious and she'll stay in bed to get that privledge. (It doesn't mean that she won't test you everyday, but at least you'll have some leverage.)

Make her cry a bit to understand the conciquences of getting out of bed, then...make a deal with her. If she promises to stay in bed, she can have the privledge back. If not, you'll keep it or take it away again.



answers from Minneapolis on

We deal with this on occasion with our 2 1/2 year old as well. He shares a room with his 17 month old brother and we do shut the door so he can't come out. The living room is right off of the bedrooms for now so we can still hear everything that is going on. If the light goes on I go in and firmly tell him the light needs to stay off. There aren't any toys in their room so if he gets out of bed he finds other stuff to do, which I don't care about. As long as he is in his room he will eventually go to sleep.

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