Sleep needs for two and three year olds

Filed under: Toddlers Preschoolers, Preschoolers, Activities: Babies, Health & Safety: Babies, Development/Milestones: Babies, Bedtime

According to experts, a two year old needs 12 hours of sleep, plus an afternoon nap of 1-2 hours, while most three year olds only need 12-12 1/2 hours sleep, without an additional nap. Theoretically, this sounds about right. I know from watching bleary eyed kids come into my classroom almost every day, tired from too-late bedtimes, that sleep is crucial for learning, positive behavior, and overall well being. But in practice, getting my kid to bed early enough is HARD.

Well, maybe not for everyone. But it is for me. As a working mom, I'm out the door pretty early in the morning, and even though I'm luckier than some and I'm usually home by 4p.m. at the latest, but that only leaves two or three hours with Bean (at most) before bedtime. In theory, we should be having dinner at 5:30p.m. sharp every night in order to leave room for digesting, playing some games, reading some books, taking a bath and snuggling into bed--so that it's lights out by 6:45p.m. and he's asleep by 7p.m. But crikey, that's a tall order, especially if we decide to grab dinner out, or head downtown to check out the lights and have an after-dinner family date at Starbucks for a cookie and a frothy milk/latte--and I'm loathed to give this important together time up.

I know people (including my own mom) who are sticklers for routine, and invariably their kids go to bed and wake up and eat meals at regular and consistent times, and I find this admirable, if not a tad obsessive. (Okay, I threw in that last bit to make myself feel better.) I am not one of those mothers. Routine has never been my strong suit. I am spontaneous, and happy-go-lucky. I am good and winging things, and I don't mind changing plans, and I love time with my family. My husband is similarly inclined, which is perhaps why we are together, and is also why together the two of us still have not managed to nail down a consistent bedtime for our kid. Hence the current bedtime delemma. Which is more important? An extra hour of sleep or quality time with family?


Bean goes to bed anywhere between 6:45p.m. and 8:30p.m. and wakes up between 6a.m. and 7a.m. and has a 1 hour nap every day... but according to the research, this still means that on the off-days he's not getting quite enough sleep. When do your little ones go to bed, and how much sleep are they getting?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.