Bed Time with a 3 Year Old

Updated on April 12, 2011
S.J. asks from Gordonsville, VA
10 answers

My lovely little 3 year old will go down for naps (1-3 pm) without a fight. Bed time, however, is a different story. We have a light in her room set with a timer. When the light turns on it signals that she is to start getting ready for bed. The light turns on at 6:30, she goes to the bathroom, brushes her teeth, puts on pajamas, and we read 2 stories. She is allowed to look at books in bed until the light turns off at 7 pm. We have her model what she is to do when the light turns off so she knows that she is supposed to lay down with her eyes closed and lay real still. She knows that she is to stay in bed until the light turns back on at 6 am. This has been working for us for a while now. Now recently she is fighting us on laying down, wants to look at books forever, play with toys in bed, play with toys in the room, go to the bathroom 800 times (we have a potty seat in her room to keep her from going in and out of her room 100 times and waking up her baby brother next door). The problem is that if she doesn't go to bed at 7 she is a real pain and misbehaves at preschool the next day. She needs her sleep! Does anyone have any tricks or ideas that they use to get their little one to lay down and go to sleep without a fight? Any help is appreciated!

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So What Happened?

My daughter has nap time at school from 1-3. I cannot move or shorten the time since she is at school. She cannot sleep in at the morning since we leave the house at 6:30 to commute to her school to have her there by 7 and me at work by 7:30. I just wanted to know some strategies of things people have done to keep their kids in bed and laying down. I will try adjusting her bedtime later to see if that works. Keep the advice coming!

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answers from Boston on

My best guess is that her bedtime is just too early. If she's not ready to drop her nap, try bumping her bedtime back to 7.30 or 8. Hopefully she'll make up the difference in the morning. It might be a couple days of crankiness while she adjusts to the new schedule, but hopefully it cuts down on the nightly fighting.

Good luck!

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answers from San Francisco on

Too long and late nap time. Put her down after lunch for about 1 1/2 hrs. If she doesn't wake up, wake her up. I would also change her bedtime by 1/2 hr to 1 hr. say 7:30 - 8 PM.

You will have to be a bit firm about the trips to the bathroom. Bath time, PJs, brush teeth, potty, story (one), drink of water, last trip to the potty (no potty in her bedroom), prayers, light out.

On her last trip to the potty, let her know she is not getting up again until the morning. There are no tricks, just consistency. She sounds pretty smart, she'll get it.


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answers from Detroit on

I don't know of any magic words, except for NO. My daughter will try the same stuff - stalling, wanting one more story, one more hug and kiss from Daddy, a drink of water, etc., etc. At first it seemed sweet, and not unreasonable - after all, what's one more story or one more song for cuddles when they are little like this? But DD would just want more and more and I finally had to realize that I needed to be firm, set my limits, and just tell her NO. Because otherwise the bedtime routine was dragged out for an hour or more and it was just too much. DD will still sometimes put up a fight, but I'm the mom and I'm in charge, not her.

Before she lays down, make sure she's had one more trip to the potty and she's got whatever toys she needs, and then say good-night, and LEAVE. And if she asks for anything else, tell her NO, time to sleep, no more requests, good-night!

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answers from Biloxi on

my dr has said that my 3 year olds need 11 hrs of sleep. they have to wake up at 6, so their bedtime is also 7. I think you are spot on with the bed time!

One of my twins was having some behaviorial issues so we took him to the dr and we realised that he was laying in bed awake till 12.. no matter what we did, we couldnt get him to go to sleep early. after many long nights the dr finally put him on some med to help him go to sleep and that has helped greatly!

other than meds, i would see about shortening her nap... or moving it to earlier in the day



answers from Dallas on

Is the nap-time required at preschool? Have you considered cutting down, cutting out, or having her nap earlier? My son is 22 months and I have had to cut down his nap to one hour, or he just won't go to sleep well. He has started only sleeping 30 minutes during his nap now. He is not tired throughout the day with less nap, and goes down well at night. Perhaps, your problem could be similar?

Also, I agree with her bedtime maybe being too early.



answers from Washington DC on

Do you have blackout curtains? It makes a HUGE difference if the room is dark when your kiddo is ready to go to sleep. If you just have regular curtains, you can buy the blackout liner. But I think that your bedtime/naptime is right on. Let her get lots of sleep, it will do her good, and do you good too!



answers from Dallas on

I agree with other posters in that I would definitely try to reduce the nap or replace the nap with quiet play time (alone, in her room) if possible. A way to do that might be to move the quiet play time earlier, so she's less tired then. If the nap is eliminated or reduced she'll probably start sleeping a little more at night and be less cranky over all. At 2.5, my son was sleeping 10-10.5 hours at night and 2 hours for a nap. From 2.5 - 3 he started occasionally dropping naps, until by a few months after 3 he stopped napping except when sick. At the same time, he increased his nighttime sleep to 11.5 - 12.5 hours. The loss of the nap (and increase in nighttime sleep) dramatically improved his mood. He still has 1-1.5 hours of quiet play time in his room, however, and that is also helpful for the both of us. Of course he pops out of his room now and then, but I just tell him to go straight back up for anything except potty (and I limit the potty breaks to 2 - which, frankly, is one too many). Good luck!



answers from Chicago on

I agree with Jane M. Her bedtime seems to early. She is 3, so she still has a lot energy to exert. My son is VERY ACTIVE!!!!!! I have bedtime at 9 pm, but I start preparing at 8. Try her going to bed at 8 p.m. Lights out does work, and it has worked for a while with my son. He may fight a little, but he goes eventually with the tv and lights off. With the weather breaking, maybe there can be planned outdoor activities to tire her out and help her go sound asleep.



answers from New York on

I have to agree with DVMMOM!

"No" is the only method that has worked in my house. That and the threat that if my daughter does not lay down and stay in bed then I WILL turn off the hallway light! Even with the nite light, she likes the light from the hallway to be on until she is asleep. Oh well.

Good luck.

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