The little baby sleeps most of the time, waking up to eat and, perhaps, to play a little while, and then dropping off to sleep again. The toddler will usually sleep the whole night through, but will also need a nap each afternoon. In addition, he may need frequent periods of quiet play and relaxation to balance his activity. A cross child is often a tired child. When a little child starts whining and crying it is frequently a sign that he needs to curl up in his mother’s lap while she takes a few minutes to read to him, show him pictures, play records, or start a quiet game, such as building with his blocks. A one- to two-year-old is tremendously active and on the go. He does not always know when to stop and may need help in changing to a quieter, more restful activity. If mother is really too busy at the moment to stop for a quiet time with the child, it often helps to perch him in his high chair close to the table or ironing board where she is working and to give him a cup and spoon to play with. If she prefers, she can give him a box into which he can put and then take out such things as spools, colored measuring spoons, cookie cutters, or a nest of measuring cups. A little thought often saves a child from becoming overtired.
Not all children require the same amount of sleep. If a little one is happy, eats well, wakes in the morning, and goes to bed well at night, he is probably getting enough sleep for his needs. A youngster should think of his bed as a comfortable, restful place that he enjoys. A child should never be put to bed for punishment or he may begin to dislike his bed. A little one should feel that his bed is the place he likes best of all when he is sleepy and the day is over.
Going to bed should be a happy time. Mother and father should try not to be too hurried at their child’s bedtime, so that they may have time for the simple routines which seem to make going to bed and ending the day easier. The little child should have only quiet games before bedtime. If the toddler does not go to bed immediately after his supper, but waits up to see his daddy, the time with daddy should not be an exciting romp, but a cuddly time with stories, songs, picture-books, or records. Then daddy or mother should take the child to his room and put him into his crib.
A regular bedtime is best, except on very rare and special occasions. A little child should not be kept up or wakened to be shown to guests. A child gets used to bedtime and becomes sleepy as it approaches. This is true also of his naptime. His afternoon nap should follow immediately after his lunch, for he is more likely to be sleepy then than he will be if he is allowed to play again before going to sleep. Then, too, the child continues to associate the sequence of lunch and nap. This is the pattern he had during his first year, and he continues it easily into the second. The child should be undressed for his nap and put into bed so that he gets the feel of being really ready for sleep. The shades should be pulled down so that the room is darkened. Mother should try to be as unhurried when she puts him to bed for his nap as she is when she puts him to bed at night.
Many little children sleep better if they have a soft, cuddly toy with them. Some of them take a blanket to bed or will not be parted from a certain loved woolly doll or animal. This need not cause concern. When the child’s need for such comfort is past, he himself will discard the toy. Sometimes the attachment to one toy can be lessened if he has a basket of soft cuddly dolls and animals from which he may choose the one to be taken to bed each night. This plan often works if the attachment to a certain doll or blanket has not been established.
Some children go to sleep right away; others are much more restless and find it harder to relax. If a child is not ready to sleep it is not necessary to cover him up right away. He may want to walk around the edge of the crib a bit or sit up for awhile and play with his toy until he is able to relax and fall asleep. This seems to be particularly true at about fifteen to twenty-one months. Some children of this age may take quite a time to go to sleep or may waken in the night and stay awake for an hour or two. If the child plays happily in his crib and chatters to himself, it is best to leave him alone, and he will later fall back to sleep. Then he can be covered for the night. If a toddler is a restless sleeper and gets out of his covers, it may be best to continue the practice suggested for the baby — to let him sleep in a warm bathrobe or soft outdoor suit.
Some children, however, are restless and make many demands for drinks of water, or cry and become quite upset at bedtime. Simply telling such a child to go to sleep will rarely work; a child cannot be made to sleep. During this second year a little child is becoming more aware of the things happening around him. Sometimes he finds these disturbing. Things that have happened during the day can affect his ability and willingness to relax and sleep at bedtime. If the little child has been scolded a good deal he may cry for his parents. Or, if he is old enough to climb out of his crib he may get out repeatedly to reassure himself that his parents are still there and still love him. If mother and father are very busy and have pushed him aside during the daytime, he may cry and be demanding at night, in order to get the attention he missed during the day. If a child has moved about a good deal or has been ill, if his parents have gone out and left him alone and he has awakened to find them gone, if he has been left with a sitter he does not like, if too much has been expected of him for his age, if his toilet training has been too severe, or if he has had a fright, he may find it difficult to go to sleep and may cry for his parents.
It is always best to go to the child if he really cries or seems very demanding. There is almost always a reason behind his refusal to sleep. Reassure him by sitting beside him or by holding him for a little while. Then return him to his bed with a friendly, but firm, statement that now it is time for bed, but that mother will be in the next room. It is sometimes necessary to go back to the child several times before he relaxes enough to sleep. Allowing a little child to cry it out for a long time makes him more unhappy and insecure. Do not try to control sleep by discipline, but by kindly, sympathetic management. Attempt to find the cause of the child’s sleeplessness. All children are occasionally slow in going to sleep. If a child continues a pattern of unwillingness to go to bed and seems unhappy and difficult, the parents should check through the possible causes of his restlessness and carefully think through their relationship with him and their methods of training him. Sometimes the cause is simple and easily found. The child may have been overexcited with bedtime fun, he may have a cold and a stopped-up nose that makes breathing difficult, or he may be too warm or too cold or hungry. Perhaps his nap was too long or the radio was playing too loudly. These simple things should be checked first, then the deeper problems thought about. (Continue below to page