22 07, 2014

Want Your Child to Sleep Better? The Timing Is Everything!

July 22nd, 2014|Categories: Baby Sleep, Preschooler Sleep, Sleeping Through the Night, Toddler Sleep|

When it comes to children and sleep, tired parents want to know how to help their child sleep better. The problem is, where to begin?

There is so much information out there, that it’s hard to sort out fact from opinion.

Add in Facebook forums, friends and family’s “advice” and we end up not doing anything because of the information overload and overwhelm.

Many parents have heard the term “sleep training” and wonder if that is what is needed. It may be, but there is something much more important that needs to be addressed first, otherwise sleep training efforts will fail.

Do you want your child to sleep better?

The majority of sleep issues in children that I encounter as a certified pediatric sleep consultant fall into two categories; dependency on sleep associations and insufficient sleep amounts.

While sleep training can help change sleep associations, a more important issue; having a healthy sleep routine, (which doesn’t require any formal sleep training at all), is often overlooked when parents are struggling to solve their child’s sleep problems.

If a child’s routine isn’t on track, that is, they aren’t waking up, napping and going to bed at the right biological times for their age, they can become overtired, or sleep deprived, extremely quickly.

It can be hard to believe that that term ‘sleep deprivation’ may pertains to your child. I know it can seem so extreme, but young children require such large amounts of sleep, that even missing one or two hours can have significant repercussions.

Is your child overtired? Here are some common signs:

  • Your child wakes up crying during the night, in the morning and/or after a nap
  • Your child cries, arches their back, squirms or throws a tantrum before a sleep period or while you’re trying to do your wind down routine
  • Your child frequently starts the day earlier than 6:00am
  • Once your child is sleeping, it is fitful and short; waking every few hours in the night or after 25-30 minutes for a nap
  • Your child will frequently fall asleep during a car ride, even if it’s short and/or they just had a nap
  • Your toddler or preschooler becomes cranky, irritable, emotional, defiant, or hyper in the late afternoon

How to Get Back on Track

To help get a child’s sleep on track, I frequently recommend that parents ensure that nap and bedtimes match biological rhythms or sleep windows after 4 months of age. The reason for this is scientifically based.

Our bodies are regulated by naturally occurring circadian rhythms or body clocks, which are controlled by a master clock called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus or SCN for short. The SCN is responsible for our sleep/wake cycles, feeding patterns, body temperature regulation and other cycle fluctuations. The SCN is located in the brain, close to where the left and right optic nerves cross paths.

Why Do We Need to Consider Light Intake?

So why is it important to know about how light impacts our kids’ sleep?Because children’s sleep/wake cycles (and yours too) are regulated by the amount of light that is received by the SCN.

As the child’s brain perceives different intensities of light throughout the day, it will regulate when the child is best suited for a nap or bedtime.
If a child naps at a time when the SCN isn’t preparing the body to sleep, or if they are kept up too long when their body is actually biologically ready to sleep, they are going against their natural sleep drive.

The longer they stay up past their sleep window, stimulating hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are released into bloodstream in an attempt to fight the fatigue.

Want more tips to help your child sleep better? Get your FREE copy of Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night.

It seems counter-intuitive, but overtired children do not fall asleep easily nor sleep solidly once asleep.

The more overtired they become and the harder it is for them to eventually settle to sleep. This is why many of my clients first come to me with the complaint that their child is resistant to sleep, is “wired” or hyper and doesn’t look tired, even though the parents know this can’t be the case.

This is why the timing of sleep is a crucial factor when establishing a healthy sleep routine in children.

If this key component isn’t addressed, then sleep problems will often persist.

When parents master this critical element of their child’s routine with a solid and consistent nap routine and well-timed bedtime, sleep issues will have a much higher chance of being resolved quickly.

Joleen Dilk Salyn is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and founder of Baby Sleep 101. She helps tired parents get their children sleeping through the night by working with the science of sleep and healthy sleep best practices. She is the Western Canadian Representative of the International Association of Child Sleep Consultants and in addition to her certification as a sleep consultant, also holds a Bachelor of Education, and Post Baccalaureate in Education. Joleen is also a mother to two wonderful children.


2 06, 2014

How to Stop Your Toddler’s Food-Related Stalling Tactics at Bedtime

June 2nd, 2014|Categories: Feeding Tips, Guest Post, Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep|

This article comes to us from guest blogger and child-feeding expert; Kristen Yarker from kristenyarker.com. She provides us with another commonly asked question about food and sleep. You can see her previous guest blog article, “Will Starting Solids Help Your Baby Sleep Better” here.

Today, Kristen answers the following;

“My toddler will only go to sleep after being given a bottle or milk/juice/water-does this mean they are still hungry? If I don’t give it to them, they scream and cry until I do.”

Using a beverage to transition a toddler to sleep is a habit that usually starts when they’re much younger babies. We do this because it works (it gets kids to fall asleep). However it’s a habit that does cause a couple of problems:

Tooth Decay

Putting babies to sleep with anything besides water leads to tooth decay. The natural sugars in cows’ milk, goats’ milk, breast milk, formula and juice cause tooth decay. And while it’s true that their baby teeth will fall out, the decay can cause damage to permanent (adult) teeth. We health professionals call it “baby bottle mouth”. A search on Google Images brings up all sorts of awful pictures. Trust me, you want to prevent this.

Picky Eating at Dinner and Poor Nutrition for Toddlers

Toddlers are clever. Many put together that they don’t have to try more challenging foods at dinner because just a short time later, they can fill their tummies with their bedtime milk or juice. This creates both picky eating behaviour at dinner and can cause children to have unbalanced eating habits and not get the nutrition that they need.

Many smart toddlers also learn that while other bedtime stall tactics like “one more story” or “I need to potty” don’t work, “I’m hungry” works like magic. They aren’t actually hungry, they’ve just learned to push your buttons to effectively delay going to bed.

The solution is twofold – one sleep-focused and one nutrition-related.

Sleep solution

Teach your child to transition to sleep without a beverage. Joleen teaches these solutions.

Nutrition solution

Provide 5 or 6 opportunities to eat each day (3 meals and 2 – 3 snacks). This may or may not include a bedtime snack. At each opportunity to eat, provide both familiar foods and challenging foods. Often kids only see challenging foods at dinnertime and get favourite foods at bedtime snack. This inadvertently fuels picky eating at dinner. Instead, offer foods from 2 or more food groups at snacks (including bedtime snack), offering a food that your child hasn’t tried before (this may be a new food or something that they’ve seen before but haven’t wanted to try). By providing 5 or 6 opportunities to eat each day your child will have enough opportunities to get the nutrition that they need during the daytime and they won’t be hungry at bedtime. Remember this as your toddler uses their (previously powerful) tactic of claiming hunger to prevent going to bed. Lastly, be sure to brush teeth after the last food/ bottle and before bedtime.


Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD

Child-Feeding Expert

Helping Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky)




Twitter: @kristenyarker

Pinterest: kristenyarker


Do you have a toddler that refuses to go to sleep without food or drink? How did you solve the problem? Did you find this article helpful? Tell us in the comments below.

30 05, 2014

Tools In Your Pocket: Surviving the Toddler and Preschooler Years, Part 2

May 30th, 2014|Categories: Guest Post, Parenting Advice, Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep|Tags: , , |

Tools in Your Pocket

A practical guide to surviving the Toddler and Pre-school years, Part Two.

We pick up where we left off in Part One with a guest post written by Sharyn Timerman from The Early Years.  Here are some more “tools” for you to use when dealing with a toddler or preschooler:

Realistic Goals

  • Expecting a child to clean up the whole room will not ensure success. It is okay to come alongside her and do it together. A 2 year old will respond well to a simple request like this one: “Can you come down from the table by yourself or do you need help”. Many 2 year olds will come down by themselves and if they don’t, you simply say “I see you need some help” and you take them down. This certainly is a physical stage.

Validate Their Emotions

  • This takes away 50% of their “angst”. “I know you want a 4th cookie they are delicious.” It is okay that they express anger, you have still set the limit. Let them know that their feelings are important too. “You really want that toy, it is a fabulous toy but he was playing with it. You need to wait until it is your turn”.

Arouse Empathy

  • “Look at his face, he’s so sad because he wasn’t finished with that toy”. “Look at her arm where you hit her, it’s all red. See her face, she looks really sad, she’s crying”. “Look at my face, I’m so happy because you slept the whole night!” Showing a child how their behavior has an impact on the world around them is a powerful tool. Whether positive or negative, you will be teaching them about their own abilities to make a difference.

Focus on the Positive:

  • “Catch your child doing good”. This is essential and different from praise. Praise is when they’ve accomplished something that we clearly expect from them. We praise kids for good report cards, we praise them for swimming well, or for helping with the dishes. “Catching him doing good” means you will point out why he is special to you. “Your smile helps me have a better morning.” “You’re the kind of boy that eats so well at the table , it helps me cook better”. You are an amazing brother, when you gave her that picture, it made her feel really good”. It’s catching him in everyday moments, the small stuff .

Role Model

  • Role Model: Set a positive example. Be a “truth keeper” and respond to another’s distress the way you would want your child to respond. Showing is more effective than telling.


Many of us struggle from time to time when dealing with our toddler or preschooler’s behavior. But this list of tools can be an effective way to help communicate with our little ones in a way that is respectful to all people involved. A special thanks to Sharyn Timerman for writing this fantastic blog post for us!

About Sharyn

Sharyn Timerman is Founder and Owner of The Early Years Family Development Centre Inc. Created in 1996, Sharyn specializes in the understanding of Early childhood behaviors. She works with young children in the home, staff training in the daycare system, private counseling for parents, evening seminars for couples, and a variety of workshops known as “Tools in your pocket”. She is a facilitator for women’s groups.

Sharyn is a faculty member of the Family Sleep Institute providing continuing education in the understanding of developmental stages of young children. In August 2012, entering into a new partnership, “The Parenting Toolbox” was formed  providing more services to the community and beyond, reaching other parts of Canada and the United States. Sharyn received her degree in Early Childhood Education from Vanier College, Montreal, Quebec while raising 3 children with her husband.

Share Your Comments With Us!

Did you find this article helpful or do you have some of your own ‘tools’ that you find are effective and yet respectful? Share with us in the comments below!










26 05, 2014

Tools in your Pocket: Surviving the Toddler and Preschooler Years

May 26th, 2014|Categories: Guest Post, Parenting Advice, Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep|Tags: , , , |

This two part series was written by Sharyn Timerman from The Early Years. You can learn more about her at the end of this post.

Tools In Your Pocket

Your toddler may be moving very fast. Before you have a chance to clean up one spill, he/she is already climbing onto the table looking for more adventure.

Your 2 year old is climbing on the table, again! What makes that table so attractive and how can you get him to come down without yelling?

Your three year old is having a major tantrum because you have said no to “cookie no.4!” Do you give in? Do you fear the next outburst?

Your 4 year olds playroom looks like a major windstorm swept through your home. Are you daydreaming about the day you will not repeat yourself 10 times to “clean up that mess or else…”

What if you had just the perfect “Tool” that could magically change behaviors?

What are “Tools in your pocket?”

When a situation is out of control, the in-laws are watching with a critical eye or a variety of other scenarios ,“Tools in your pocket” simply means realistic, developmentally appropriate methods that have been proven to work. There is no pressure or time-limit. Parenting tools are for you to be used, you can keep them in your pocket, use them 20% of the time, 50%, or 80% and the more they are used, the more natural they become . Even 20% guarantees more success than not using them at all.

Workshops, internet sites, t.v. programs and parenting books, serve to plant ideas in our minds of what we can do. How does one possibly put those really great methods, those fantastic words into practice in the heat of the moment?

Here are a few guidelines and tools that you can be ready to use at any time:

Can and Can’t

When you tell a child what they cannot do, tell them what they can do. “The sand is not for throwing, you can put it in the bucket or you can run your truck through it but you cannot throw the sand.” “Hands are not for hitting, you can be angry, you can stamp your feet but you cannot hit”.

Clear Instructions

Understand what it is you have to do. Be ready, sometimes we need to feel desperate to make a change. If you want your 4 year old to clean up their toys, let them know what you expect. Sometimes it is overwhelming for them when surrounded by a big mess. Give them clear instruction: “You pick up the red and yellow lego and I will pick up the blue and green”.

Silence is Golden

Sometimes silence is a good thing. Don’t make empty threats. Better to do nothing than not follow through.

Follow Through

If you warn your toddler that if he throws the sand again he is coming out of the sandbox, you are setting him up to “fail”. Children need to see that you know what you are doing. They will certainly throw that sand again when told not to. Here’s what you can do: Give him the information he needs.” “Sand is not for throwing, you can put it in your bucket”. Then your little guy throws it again. You say “I see you’re having trouble remembering, today the sandbox is finished, you get to try again tomorrow”.

Consistency is Key

Be consistent, say what you mean, mean what you say . If you take him out of the sandbox, don’t be blackmailed by his screams. Just leave the sandbox and go home.

Logical consequences

The consequence needs to “match the crime”. That means coming up with something that teaches and does not shame. Consequences should be reasonable, fair and logical.

If a child writes on the wall with crayons, we don’t say, “No books at bedtime” or “Go sit on the stairs”. This may be unfruitful since there is no teaching going on. Instead we can say, “Here’s the sponge. Start cleaning and I will keep the crayons in a place where they won’t be used for the wall.” The good news is that you can always present them with the crayons a week later and let them know they can try again.


Stay tuned for Part Two!

About Sharyn

Sharyn Timerman is Founder and Owner of The Early Years Family Development Centre Inc. Created in 1996, Sharyn specializes in the understanding of Early childhood behaviors. She works with young children in the home, staff training in the daycare system, private counseling for parents, evening seminars for couples, and a variety of workshops known as “Tools in your pocket”. She is a facilitator for women’s groups.

Sharyn is a faculty member of the Family Sleep Institute providing continuing education in the understanding of developmental stages of young children. In August 2012, entering into a new partnership, “The Parenting Toolbox” was formed  providing more services to the community and beyond, reaching other parts of Canada and the United States. Sharyn received her degree in Early Childhood Education from Vanier College, Montreal, Quebec while raising 3 children with her husband.





30 10, 2012

Taming Your Toddler’s Sleep Part 1; The Big Kid Bed Transition

October 30th, 2012|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep, Transition Tips|Tags: , , , , |

The Big Kid Bed Transition

Having a toddler is fun, crazy, and challenging all at the same time. I know, I have one. 😉 No longer are conversations one sided-we can chat about the weather, the birds, shapes, colours, what Elmo said or did that day. The baby is gone and the little person is starting to emerge.

But with this little developing person comes a new side with some tantrums and limit testing. Unfortunately this is part of their development and although it can be trying and tiring for us parents, we must seize this opportunity to begin to instill rules and structure now.

If not, then you make it that much harder on yourself later on.

So how does this pertain to your toddler’s sleep? Well, somewhere in the toddler years, usually between 2-4 years of age, two big changes happen that can affect sleep.

The first is that the toddler is moved from a crib to a bed. That’s where we’ll focus our attention on for this article. In part two we’ll take a look at the second big change and that is when they drop their last nap. Both of these changes can be fantastic or disastrous, depending on your child’s personality and how you approach it.

Need getting your child to sleep better at night? Download my FREE sleep guide and get started tonight!

Let’s start off with the big kid bed transition. Some children have no troubles making the switch and stay in their bed all night, right from day one.

You’ve never heard of those children, you say? Yeah, me either.

Just kidding. 😉 It does happen.

More popular though, are the stories of children who keep popping out of their beds at night to explore their new-found freedom. Usually the first few weeks are pretty good and then the child starts to either resist bedtime or get up through the night and walk around. It may be cute at first, but over time if they are putting up a fight every night, not falling asleep until hours later and/or getting up through the night, they will become overtired and Cr-Anky. And so will you.

Big Kid Bed Transition Recommendations:

Are they actually ready? Are you sure?

A 17 month old is going to have a much harder time understanding that they’re not suppose to wander around their room, than a 3-year-old will. If the reason for the change is to use the crib for a new sibling, consider purchasing a 2nd hand one, borrowing one, or using a bassinet for baby to give your toddler more time in the crib.

Climbing out of the crib = time for rules

Has your toddler suddenly turned into a monkey? Just because they are getting out, doesn’t mean you have to move to a bed! What it does mean is that it’s time for you to set some clear rules for them.

Repeatedly tell them to not climb out. Be firm, serious and consistent. If you can catch them in the act-even better. It will take some commitment on your part to do this every time they try it. If you think this is tedious now though, imagine what it will be like if they are in a bed and have the ease of just rolling out for a jaunt down the hall at 3 am. 😉

Big Kid Bed Transition Talk

Depending on your child’s personality, they may need quite a bit of discussion to get used to the idea and expectations. The more we can prepare them and reinforce the expectations in advance, the greater the chances of success will be.

Don’t let them smell fear. Keep it fun, positive and upbeat so that they are excited about the switch.

Read books about big kid beds, consider taking them shopping to look at different sheet patterns or pillows or even shopping for a new mattress if they won’t be going to a toddler bed.

When you have developed a plan of action, talk with your toddler about it in an age appropriate and positive way. You may want to use simple rules chart to help your child stay on track.

Make the chart colourful, fun and positive. Review the expectations everyday in a casual way and again before bedtime.

If you choose to do some method of positive reinforcement, make sure your toddler receives it immediately in the morning and not halfway through the day. If they don’t have a successful night, don’t make them feel bad about it. Instead praise their efforts and tell them that they have another chance the next night to try again.

The final big kid bed transition tip; keep your expectations realistic.

If you have a three-year old that has rarely slept through the night, then you can’t expect them to start doing it immediately once in a bed. You need to be committed to your plan long-term so that you can help change your child’s behaviour. If you aren’t consistent in reinforcing the new plan, then your child can’t be expected to follow it either.

Kids love to test us, and it’s by sticking to the rules that let’s them know where the boundaries are. But if you are consistent now, it will help for years to come with every new behaviour and emotional challenge that comes your way. 🙂

How did your big kid bed transition go? Need some tips now that you’ve started? Join me on my weekly Facebook Q and A sessions and chat with other tired parents!

If you find that you need more help with your toddler’s sleep than this article provides, consider purchasing a consultation to have private, one-on-one help to resolve the issues quickly!