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Tips for Transitioning to a Toddler Bed

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This week we had an unexpected hiccup in our parenting plan. Our darling 2 year old decided it was time to break free from his crib. The parental plan was to keep him enclosed as long as possible, especially since his baby sister will be here in just 2 more weeks!

Well, I should know better than to make strict plans– kids have their own needs and timeline that we can’t always dictate. After his initial escape, we tried to put him back in his crib. This resulted in another, more dramatic escape attempt. Ezra tried to climb out and somehow managed to catch his thigh between two of the crib slats and was so wedged in, the only way we could free him was by sawing the bed! Thank goodness for Amazon Prime and speedy delivery of a toddler bed!

Sleep training is something very new to me with this child. I co-slept with my oldest son and really struggled with any kind of sleep schedule. When we had Ezra, the first months were rough with frequent waking (every 45 min) and I struggled with postpartum anxiety, so it was a necessity to get him into his own room and on a schedule. It only took 3 days of discipline to get him to sleep in his crib and on a nice schedule of 7pm-7am with two nighttime breastfeedings. It saved my sanity. After he was weaned, he sleeps through the night without waking at all. I knew I had to take the same approach with the new bed transition and in this post, I will share with you the 5 tips that worked for us!

1. Take the Transition Slowly

We gave ourselves a few days to transition and prepare Ezra for the switch. He knew his bed was damaged, so we took it down and he watched us remove the old bed from his room. I showed him the new bed that we ordered and told him when it would arrive. For the 2 days that we waited on the new bed, he slept in his old pack-and-play. When the bed arrived, he watched my husband unbox it and put it together and we talked about it being his new bed. We put it in his room in the new spot, let him help us make it up and try it out.

We did not have him sleep in the new bed immediately, we continued putting him in the pack-and-play but moved it beside the new bed. The next day we moved the pack-and-play a little closer to the door and only had naptime in the toddler bed. On day 3, the pack-and-play disappeared and we did naptime and bedtime in the new bed, and we had success!

2. Start Bedtime 30 Minutes Earlier

When making the transition to a new sleeping arrangement, we started our bedtime routine 30 minutes earlier. This was for parental sanity in case there was a protest or multiple attempts to escape.

The first night Ezra got up multiple times calling for us and crying. We did not engage him or coddle him, we just picked him up reminded him “to stay in bed and fall asleep”  until he finally did. He was still asleep by his normal bedtime, and we weren’t exhausted for tacking extra time on to our evening routine. My husband and I really need our last few hours alone after the kids are in bed.

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3. Toddler-Proof the Room

A toddler bed means a roaming toddler. Even if you have a perfect sleeper from day 1, from time to time he/she may awaken early and find their own adventure. Making sure furniture is strapped to the wall, closets are secured, outlets covered, and toys that require supervision should be secure or out of the room.

4. Keep the Routine

Having a routine is so helpful. We have a strict bedtime routine and Ezra welcomes sleep when the clock hits 7pm. For us, we have dinner, bath, playtime, storytime, then bed. We even read the same books every night. I am pretty strict in general when it comes to the bedtime routine (even for our teenage son).

During the transition to the toddler bed, we kept everything exactly the same, just starting a bit earlier. I have found in my years of parenting that both of my kids really thrive with a very predictable routine, we have very little wiggle room in our daily schedule and weekly routine and it has prevented the meltdowns that would happen when we were less structured.

5. Childproof the Door

This is a piece of advice that could ruffle some feathers, however, I studied and read multiple articles about toddler transitions and this one resonated with me tremendously. A crib is a boundary that your baby learned to sleep in comfortably. When transitioning to a big kid bed, the boundary is now the room since they have the freedom to move around if they choose.

I put a plastic doorknob cover on the inside of the door so that my son can’t get out of the room or lock the doorknob on his own. I know that his room is safe and he’s secure on the inside and I can tend to his needs when I hear his cry as needed. I did let him cry for a few moments the first night completely alone, his fussing only lasted 5 minutes and he was then nicely asleep in his bed and didn’t wake until morning.

These are the 5 things that helped us most with the transition and he is now sleeping soundly without protest after only 3 days of adjustment to his new scenario.

A few other things we have been doing during this transition:

  • We have not been using a nightlight– our son sleeps best in dark and quiet, so we avoid any additional stimulation.
  • Using our favorite essential oil blend to promote a restful night sleep. I use the Young Living essential oil Tranquil, applying to his feet and neck.
  • We do not rush in to get him in the morning, we let him play a little and be content. Then after we pick him up we move straight into his typical morning routine.
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You’re Going to Be a Big Brother

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One of the most perplexing things about being pregnant with baby #3, has been how to prepare or introduce the new baby to Ezra. I know that siblings have been introduced into families since the beginning of time, and I should not over think it. It is just a difficult transition in my mind when he has been the “baby” for the last 2 years. My older son was 11 when he learned he was going to be a big brother, so logic was in place and the preparations were easy.

My 2-year old seems to have a vague concept of there being a baby in my tummy. He attends prenatal appointments, hears baby Mira’s heartbeat, and has seen her on the “TV” screen during our ultrasound scans.  But, does he really “get it”? Probably not, is my opinion.

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How have we been preparing?

Reading + Repetition

I ran across a beautifully illustrated book, Mama’s Belly by Kate Hosford which we have been reading frequently. Over the months since we have introduced the book, he seems to make the connection that his mama’s belly is “rising up like a wave”. He will now point to my breasts or belly when asked where his baby sister is.

I do not buy multiple books about the same subject, I tend to find one we love and read over and over. I have heard many times that we tend to learn by shock or repetition, so for a toddler, repetition seems to work well.

Attending appointments

As I mentioned above, Ezra has attended most of our OB appointments. Our doctor is great about talking directly to Ezra and showing him the doppler and explaining it is the new baby. Again, I am not sure he “gets it”, but the repetition and expansion of my tummy may be helping him grasp the concept. Also, the familiarity of seeing the doctor and the office may make my hospital stay less of a shock.

Videos

We are not big proponents of tv time with Ezra. When we do allow screen time, we try to keep his exposure to “quieter” cartoons like Little Bear. However, Daniel Tiger Season 5 deals with Daniel becoming a big brother. We have watched these episodes multiple times as a teaching tool.

Visiting Other Babies

Luckily, we are in an environment where we have many friends and acquaintances who have new babies. We have been exposing him during story times, play dates, and even when we are walking in the store we will point out the new babies and explain that he will have a new baby soon.

Preparing the House

As we have set up the room (which he will be sharing eventually), we have explained who the new items are for. Her clothes are in the drawers and closets, so he sees them often and we have even installed her car seat to establish the new seating routine in our van.

We have also introduced more stuffed animals into his life, and he is bonding with them. With the animals, we reinforce “gentle touches” animals so that he can make a similar connection with the new baby.

 

 

There are many blogs and articles with tips and tricks to introduce a toddler to a new baby. We are doing these small steps to include our toddler in the process. Ultimately, we will allow it to unfold naturally and deal with the transition as it comes. Our childcare comes a few days before our scheduled birth-day, so that will be another aspect we will talk up and make exciting! A sleepover with bestemor and big brother! How have you introduced a new sibling? Any tried and true tips?

 

 

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Tips for Taming Two-Year Old Tantrums

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Our sweet, little, easy-going Ezra turned two on Valentine’s Day. Recently, his two-year old switch was flipped on, and he is exploring the world of tantrums. This go-around with parenting, I am in a different place than I was 11 years ago when this happened with my oldest son.

When I first became a mother I was 25, and definitely less mature than I am now at nearly 39. My parenting philosophy in the early years was that I did not want my son to feel pain, have his feelings hurt, or ever lack security. In retrospect, this was because of my upbringing and feelings of lack. I transferred my “pain” on him and did what I could to make sure his childhood wasn’t mine.  All psychology aside, it was not the right course of action and now that I know better, I can do better. That is how life works, I do not beat myself up for past mistakes. I just get back up, dust myself off and keep on moving.

I did not “damage” my oldest son (that I can tell) 😂. It just took a longer time to establish the parent/child roles and structure that a kid actually craves. 11 years later, I do not take any of the tantruming personally, and have learned how a two-year old’s mind works, and what they are actually communicating when they lose their temper.

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The Two-Year Old Mind

A two-year old is not “terrible”, the so-called terrible behavior often occurs during the second year because their language skills are underdeveloped and their desire exceeds their ability. A two-year old does not have the ability to reason, or have any of their own wisdom to make decisions or have concern for their safety.

A toddler is equipped with persistence so they can develop into their world, and they live in the moment. They know what they desire and how they feel, but can not express with words. All they know is that they are angry. Big brother can eat a muffin? I want one too.

Know the Triggers

Knowing what sets your little one off is the first step in tantrum avoidance or diffusion. Does skipping a nap make it worse? Is bedtime a terror? Does your two-year old hate abrupt change? Is it when you are preoccupied or when you say “no”? In the store or in the car?  Having the knowledge of what the triggers are will help avoid the situation. Although, you may not be able to live 100% tantrum free, you can have yourself prepared to deal with whatever situation occurs.

For my two-year old, food and abrupt changes are his biggest triggers. He wants to eat other kids snacks, or things out of our pantry that are not being offered. For us, keeping the food out of sight (and therefore out of mind) is a prevention method, and warning him ahead of time that his activity is coming to an end is another method. It is not a fool-proof method, just an awareness we have and can make steps toward avoidance.

Parents and Caregivers are a Team

When it comes to kids, they learn very quickly how to get their way. The adults in the situation have to be a united front so that the child does not receive mixed signals about what is expected of them. If one adult “gives in” and the other is standing firm, “giving in” discredits the work of the other adult.

Clearly defining what is acceptable and agreeing on it and staying firm together keeps the child balanced, because there is no “grey” area. The grey area for children leads to confusion of what boundaries exist. Setting up the home environment for success is also helpful. When the trigger areas are less accessible, the thought to tantrum may not even occur. Keep do not touch items out of sight, have appealing play areas available, are great ways to “toddler-proof” the environment. We even keep a basket of Ezra-friendly items in the car, for one of those dreaded car-tantrums.

Do Not Take it Personally

This was my biggest mistake when my oldest son was a toddler. His tantrums hurt my feelings and I took it very personally. I would feel I “did” something to upset him rather than realizing that he needed structure and language skills to help him deal with his emotions.

When he melted down, I would feel like a failure and in a sense, meltdown with him. As an adult, and as a parent, it is our job to keep our peace in the midst of chaos. Knowing our own triggers, and being able to stay uplifted and balanced and responding from a mature place will diffuse the tantrum much quicker with less “trauma” for parent and child.

What to Do When the Inevitable Occurs

Remember that tantrums are a normal part of development, and we use these moments to guide and direct them toward appropriate behavior. This “appropriate” behavior is actually emotional recognition and coping skills that will develop well into life. If the skills are not learned, then the same behavior will be carried on later in life because it worked effectively to get their way.

Sometimes a child may need help (tantrum about not being able to do something they want to do, like get undressed), so offering help may diffuse the emotional spiral. Other times, they may need to let off steam. When this occurs, verbalize for them what they can not say. Our common one is “you are mad because mama won’t let you have that snack”. Some children need someone to provide support and security with a hug and language. Maybe offering to hold them while they are angry. This does not work with my toddler, he does not want restraint so redirection is usually our method.

Redirecting his behavior by walking outside and pointing out birds or airplanes will usually calm our little guy swiftly. Other times, just sitting beside him and reminding him that we are here and we know he is angry is another nice technique. The final method we use, if nothing else seems to be doing the trick, is to give him a time-out. For instance, if the tantrum happens at Target, we will immediately walk out of the store and go to the car until he settles down, or we leave completely. If it happens at home, we will put him in his bed and tell him we are leaving him there to cool off, and so-far this has been successfully rather quickly.

This Too Shall Pass

Having a plan, and staying calm and confident will help move a parent through the tantrum-piece of toddlerhood. Our children are rapidly developing, and over time we will see their ability to reason and make choices blossom.

Staying connected to your child, and being a safe, secure figure allows them to trust and develop emotionally and verbally during this time. Remember that “giving-in” when they tantrum is just reinforcing the behavior, so staying on top of the triggers and reminding them that no amount of tantruming will result in what they want reinforces that you mean what you say. Children catch on to this very quickly.

Have you raised a toddler? What worked for you?