If you find your child becomes anxious when bedtime rolls around, you are not alone! The thought of bedtime- being alone and in the dark can cause some real anxiety for some children, but there is a way to help them through it. Having your child spend some fun time in their room and crib can help ease that bedtime anxiety.
You might be thinking “Have my child play in their bed? That seems like it would be confusing for them! I thought that the crib should only be for sleeping!!”
The fact is, if putting them in their cribs for some play time can help diminish some of the anxiety surrounding sleep coaching or teaching your little one to like and feel safe in their sleep space, it is well worth it. Sure there’s a chance that they may go into bed for a nap or bedtime and play for a little bit before falling asleep but that is so much better than having a child feeling scared, anxious or apprehensive about being in their crib or bed.
No matter what age your child is, we encourage you spend time with, play and have fun with them in their room/bed on a regular basis.
Crib play for anxiety-preparing them to begin sleeping in their cribs or beds
We want to ensure that your child is feeling safe and secure before putting them into their space and asking them to sleep in it. The first step before making the transition to sleeping in their own space or before learning how to fall asleep is play. The positive exposure to their sleep space helps reduce anxiety as all of those opportunities to play and explore their space has given them the level of comfort they need to be able to confidently fall asleep. Most babies who have never slept in their own bed or room before are going to feel some level of anxiety being put into this completely new crib/bassinet/bed, in a room they’ve never been in before.
If you have a little one that is going to be transitioning to a new space or bed soon, taking time during the day at non sleep times to play and have fun is always a good idea. Make it fun, get them to giggle, play games and engage them but also work your way towards being able to leave them by putting them in their bed with a couple of toys and go put the laundry away or go for a pee!
Room and crib play for travel
Whenever you travel somewhere new where your baby will be sleeping, your first step will be to make sure that you acclimate them to the new room. You can do this by showing them around the room, looking in the drawers and closets. If you have a playpen set up for them to sleep in, you can put them in it for a few minutes to play and then take them out, show them around the rest of the house or hotel before they have to go to bed. But at least that new room will not be completely foreign to them. Doing this before they have to sleep in there can make a huge difference in how comfortable they feel in that new room and sleep area.
When and how do I begin?
Start by teaching your child that crib play is very different from sleep time.
For sleep time, you will go through a pre-nap or pre-sleep routine, the lights will be off and your sound machine will be on if you use one. You will set the expectation of sleep by going through the motions to prepare them so they know that it is time for sleep. When you are doing crib play, the lights are on, you have not gone through any pre-sleep routine so your little one will not expect it to be sleep time.
How to introduce your child to room/crib play
Pick a couple of times per day to do crib play. You want to make sure that you time it so that it is not directly before or after a nap though.
You can start crib play as soon as your baby is born! If you have to go to the bathroom or put clothes away in their room, let them lie in their crib for a few minutes while you do that. Most newborns will not mind hanging out in their cribs for a few minutes at a time.
If you have an older baby and your baby is very apprehensive about going into their crib for play time, start small. You may not just be able to plunk that little one into their crib because they are grabbing at you and lifting their legs while crying. You may need to take a few extra steps to help them become a little more comfortable before you start crib play.
You can start by having them play outside of their cribs reaching for a toy that is inside. Do this a few times or for a few days. From there you can try placing them in the crib but do not let go. Play a game of lowering them in and taking them out but make it fun.
Next step is to put them in bed and play a little game of hide and seek. Again, the intention is to keep it positive and not to push it too much.
Once they are a bit more comfortable, you can then put them in bed with a toy and let them play for a few minutes. You can then start to put clothes away in their room or even step out to go to the bathroom!
Crib play is a great thing to do in conjunction with sleep coaching as well to keep that crib a positive space. If you are not yet at the point where you are ready for sleep coaching, you can still use crib play as a means to get your little one more comfortable in their own beds.
Room and bed play can also help your older child feel more comfortable in their sleep space if they are having some fears and anxieties towards sleep. The idea is the same with making it fun, spending time in their together and giving them the chance to feel comfortable again in their space.
We hope these tips will help you teach your child that their bedroom is not a bad place to be and help you ease your child’s bedtime anxiety, which will help with their overall sleep too.
If you would like to teach your little one how to fall asleep on their own and you do not know where to start, we would love to chat with you! Contact us for a free consultation or check out our services page for more info.