Why is sleep so important for the development of our children?
Sleep is very important for your child. Sleep is necessary for the development and the recovery of the body and the brain. Sleep deprivation tends to cause slower brain waves in the frontal cortex, shortened attention span, higher anxiety, impaired memory, and a grouchy mood. Conversely, a well-rested organism tends to have improved memory and mood. Neurophysiological and functional imaging studies have demonstrated that frontal regions of the brain are particularly responsive to homeostatic sleep pressure. (Wikipedia)
When your child is in deep sleep, new cells are created and damaged cells are replaced. When your toddler has trouble sleeping, he or she will spend relatively little time in deep sleep. In extreme cases, over extended periods of time, lack of deep sleep can even stunt growth.
Sleep is not only important for physical growth, it is also crucial to the development of the brain. A child’s brain mainly grows during the REM phase. So: Children get smarter during sleep!
Babies, toddlers and older children spend relatively more of their sleep in this REM phase. Experiences and even traumas can be processed during this phase of sleep.
All in all there are enough reasons to ensure that your toddler gets a good night’s sleep. Add another excellent reason: When kids sleep well, parents also get their rest; this way everybody can start the new day with plenty of energy and a good mood!
What age is best for a toddler bed?
For the first 3 to 4 months a cradle is safe for your baby. As your baby gets older and becomes more mobile, he or she could roll over into the solid sides of the cradle, which could pose a suffocation risk. A cot is a good next step. Your toddler can sleep safely in this cot with bars on the sides until he or she is about 2,5 years old. After that, you can choose from several suitable beds. Further on in this blog I provide a list of 11 of the best cradles, cots, and children’s beds.
How and when should I move my child from a cot to a bed?
The age you child moves from a cot to a bed of course also depends on the needs of the family; if there is a new baby on the way, the cradle will be needed for the new arrival. If this is the case, it is important that your toddler gets the chance to get used to his or her new bed, and perhaps even new bedroom, well before the arrival of his or her new sibling. For example, let your toddler bring his or her paintings, toys, rug etcetera, so that your toddler’s surroundings feel familiar.
Best bedrooms for toddlers
One of the conditions for a good night’s sleep for your child is a good bed in a nice bedroom. Your toddler must feel safe and comfortable in order to sleep well. When I go on home visits I often see very nice bedrooms with themes: Unicorns, Frozen or Paw Patrol. All very nice for children this age, especially if the bedroom can also be used as a playroom.
The following things are important:
- Good bed for your toddler
- Calming colors
- Keep toys in a chest or closet
- No TV or other screens in the bedroom
- Do not use the bedroom and the bed as a place for Time Outs; sleeping should never be a punishment
How do I keep my 2-year-old in the cot?
- Use a sleeping bag. In a sleeping bag, your child will be comfortable all night without kicking off his or her blankets. In a sleeping bag, your child is less agile and will therefore not be able to climb out of the cot so quickly.
- Use the lowest position of the bed base. For yourself it is less convenient, because you have to bend over further to lift your child out of the cot, but your child will be less likely to climb or fall out.
- See which stuffed animals are in your toddler’s bed. If a stuffed animal is large and firm, it could be used as a step to climb out of the cot.
- Use a cue to tell your child when it is morning. There are clocks or lamps that can be set for a specific time, which can indicate it is time to get up. This of course depends on your toddler’s age.
- If your toddler, despite all your efforts, keeps climbing out of his or her cot, or if he or she is anxious because of feeling trapped inside the cot, it might be time to start thinking about a single bed. That could be safer and better suited for anxious children. This way they know that when they are scared they can get up and go to their parents.
- Handy and useful tips on this can be found in my blog: How to get a toddler to sleep, with 20 Bedtime Tips for Children with Sleep Problems.
When to introduce your toddler to a pillow?
A pillow is dangerous for children who sleep on their bellies and who are not yet strong enough to properly lift their head during sleep. I would recommend starting with a pillow when your toddler moves from the cot to the bed. Even then it is important to make sure the pillow is not too thick and hypoallergenic. Be extra alert in the beginning and if you even remotely think that the pillow can obstruct breathing it is best to remove the pillow for a while longer. Also use a critical eye for the stuffed animals: Are there parts that could be swallowed by your child or could choke them? If so, remove those stuffed animals from the bed and ensure your child only sleeps with stuffed animals that are safe.
This stuffed animal is great for young children to hold and fall asleep with:
This dragon is a stuffed animal and a pillow at the same time!
This is a good and safe toddler pillow. You can choose to take some of the stuffing out:
Can a toddler sleep in a twin bed?
When a toddler is old enough to sleep in a single bed, it is also possible for him or her to sleep in a twin bed. Just make sure that your child doesn’t kick off the covers at night, or that night time twisting and turning leads to your child getting wrapped up in the sheets and blankets. It could be that your toddler feels lonely in a large twin bed. He or she might be more comfortable in a toddler bed.
Personally, when I was young I shared a twin bed for a while with my two-year older sister, but we were a bit older, at least 4 and 6 years old. I remember this period as very pleasant, especially when our father would lie between us to read a book before bedtime.
What kind of mattress to use for a toddler bed?
A good quality mattress is even more important for a child than it is for an adult. After all, babies and young children spend much more time in bed than adults do. When it comes to choosing a mattress, there are almost as many options for children as there are for adults. But what really matters when choosing a mattress for your child?
The mattress should ventilate well; it should not get too hot. The mattress may not be soft, and definitely also not hard. In fact, a children’s mattress must be resilient, bouncy, and provide good support. It must of course be free of harmful substances.
Should a child sleep on a firm mattress?
It is recommendable to buy your children a sturdy mattress. It is wise to renew the mattress in the cot when this cot is about to be used by another child. A mattress can sag over time, and of course it gets dirty, since night time accidents happen.
This mattress is made of excellent foam. It has a double bamboo cover, which keeps moisture out. The bottom of the mattress has handy anti-slip dots.
Consider these things!
When your baby moves into a cot, it will be hard to imagine that your child will be so agile and enterprising that he or she will be able to climb out of the cot. Prevent accidents by taking this upcoming rapid development into account.
- Many cots have an adjustable floor, so you don’t have to bend over so deep to get your child out of or back into bed. By the time your child starts rolling over, you put the floor in the middle position. When your child can sit, the floor must be set to the lowest position so that he or she cannot fall out of bed. In the lowest position, I recommend a minimum distance of 55 cm to the top of the bed (measured from the top of the mattress). In the highest position, this distance is still at least 20 cm.
- Make sure there are no soft materials (such as pillows or stuffed animals) in the cot, so that you child cannot roll over into them and have his or her breathing obstructed. It is wise to wait until your toddler moves to a large bed to give him or her a suitable pillow.
- Hang a baby mobile out of your child’s reach. A mobile is to look at, if your child can grab it, he or she can get caught in the strings and such.
- Do not put the cot next to the widow. A toddler could climb onto the windowsill from his or her little cot and fall out of the window.
- Do not place the cradle or cot next to the heating. You child can get too hot, or might get burned.
- Do not put the cradle or cot next to any curtains or cords that can entangle your child.
Best toddler beds
As promised, here is the list of the best beds, mattresses, bedding and accessories for toddlers and babies.
I would have loved this cradle when I had my newborns. I liked having them close to me, but the cradle was not a good fit in our bedroom. With this cradle you can safely keep your baby close to you at night.
This cot is bit more basic, but perfectly meets all the requirements.
If your toddler is going for a sleepover, or if you take a short family vacation, a portable toddler bed is a must-have.
To make the transition from a cot to a single or even a twin-bed go smoothly, it is a good idea to purchase these bumpers to prevent your child from rolling out of bed.
Which Paw Patrol–loving toddler would not be happy with this bed:
This Batman bed can be complimented with a Batman closet. This way the real Batman can tidy up properly and get a good night’s sleep.
Of course there are also toddler beds that are fun for both boys and girls. This way the bed can be used for many years and get used by both brother and sister.
When you buy a mattress, mattress protector, sheets and covers, remember that a leaky diaper or night time accidents can and probably will happen, and that your toddler’s bed will get wet.
This storage cabinet is perfect to quickly and neatly tidy up the toys before bedtime:
Toddlers and sleeping problems
Now you have the right bed, a beautiful little bedroom which you picked out and furnished with your toddler, but… your toddler is not going to sleep, or wakes up a few times in the night and wants to go to mommy and daddy. It can happen. As a teacher of toddlers I know very well that this age is a great age, and that at the same time our children are discovering their own will at this age, which can make them very stubborn or picky. I have previously written a blog about sleeping problems: How to get a toddler to sleep, with 20 Bedtime Tips for Children with Sleep Problems.
You might also enjoy checking out my Pinterest Page. There you will find a group board Let’s Talk Toddlers with a section; Children’s Bedrooms. This is a great place to get some ideas and inspiration.