Whether you’re caring for just one child or many children, you will at some point deal with an overtired child who can’t seem to calm him or herself down enough to fall asleep.
Running a home daycare has given me the opportunity to learn what works and what doesn’t. I’ve put combinations of 6 babies and toddlers to sleep at once in my own daycare everyday, and at the daycare center I worked at many years ago, I was able to put 10 toddlers to sleep everyday, all at the same time and in the same room on cots.
I’m going to let you in on some top secret, surefire ways to put your little ones to sleep (… and NO, it doesn’t involve medication or tablespoonfuls of whiskey!).
A few things to keep in mind: Create a consistent routine. From day one, children should know what to expect and when. Provide a dark, calming environment. Draw the blinds, play quiet lullaby music and make sure they have age-appropriate blankets. With multiple children, start with the one that’s most likely to fall asleep first and work your way through to the one who will take the longest to fall asleep.
If the baby or toddler is overtired and fussing or crying:
1) Wrap them in a blanket and cradle them belly to belly.
2) Wrap them in a blanket and lay them on their cot or in their playpen on their belly or side. Rub their back with a flat hand in large circles, becoming slower and more deliberate with your movements as they start to calm down.
3) Lay them on their cot or playpen and run your fingers through their hair.
4) Lay them on their cot, sit with your face close to theirs, and maintain eye contact for an extended period of time while whispering quietly to them. There’s a good chance they’ll stop fussing to hear what you’re saying to them.
If the baby or toddler is simply fighting sleep:
5) While they’re laying on their cot or playpen, stroke your fingers gently down their face, starting at the hairline and gently brushing over their eye lids.
6) Lay the child on his/her side and pull the blanket up over the side of their face like a hood. It will block out any visual distractions and muffle any noises.
7) Gently draw swirls and circles on their forehead.
8) Gently breathe air into their eyes from about a foot away. Make sure you do this so gently that they don’t realize what’s happening. Their already-tired eyes will have a hard time staying open.
9) Play a slow motion version of “Round and Round the Garden”, while drawing circles on the back of their hand. (The rhyme goes like this: “Round and round the garden like a teddy bear. One step, two step, and we’re almost there.)
10) Give them a foot rub.
And if you have more than one child, numbers 2-10 can all be done while cradling a second child in one arm, and rocking a third child in your lap or between your outstretched legs — just make sure you’re sitting on the floor first!
I’d love to hear your tips for putting little ones to sleep. What are your secrets?