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Sleep Training Help for Your 2.5 to 5 Year Old

Updated on August 24, 2011
Lily Rose profile image

I am a mom of two beautiful girls (10 & 12). We love to read, play, cook, shop and have fun together. Raising good people is a top priority.

Trouble getting your two-and-a-half to five-year-old to sleep?

The average child between 2- and 3-years old needs about 10 ½ hours of nighttime sleep and about 1 ½ hours of nap time each day, whereas 4-year olds need 11 ½ hours at night and 11 hours for 5-year olds. Usually by 4 kids no longer need that afternoon nap, but can definitely benefit from a few (like 45) minutes of afternoon “quiet time.”

It can become a challenge for parents of preschoolers to remain calm and comforting with their child who, at this age, still needs a lot of sleep but has become very clever at devising ways to try to evade it. Discipline is necessary here, while at the same time making sure they are warm and cozy is also crucial. During that stage where they are staring to outgrow the afternoon nap, you’ll have to do some adjustment to the sleep and wake schedule to get your child on track and it’s important to introduce that afternoon quiet time to replace the nap or you’ll likely experience some sort of meltdown around dinner time.

She clearly missed her sleep window - and fell asleep standing while playing with toys on her bed!
She clearly missed her sleep window - and fell asleep standing while playing with toys on her bed!

Remember this: "Sleep begets sleep" – just because she’s going to sleep an hour earlier does not mean that she’ll wake up an hour earlier! 

If your child goes to preschool, you’ll have to be sure to adjust his sleep (nap) schedule according to the class’s nap schedule, but there are aspects of his sleep that you can – and should – control, such as:

  • Be sure your child is waking up somewhere in the 6:00 to 7:30 am window.
  • When your preschooler stops napping (at around four years old) make sure she has some late afternoon “quiet time”, and her bedtime should be moved to one hour earlier than it’s been. So if she’s been going to bed at 8:30, start making 7:30 her bedtime.
  • At around five years old, bedtime can be extended to 8:00 pm, and your child should sleep until 7:00 am – if this wake up time is too late due to early school hours, then you’ll have to adjust the bedtime to be sure he gets eleven hours of sleep each night. 

Preschool-age kids can be very clever when it comes to hiding when they are sleepy and this can make it hard for parents to get their sleep schedule right.  Just as you would a baby, watch for those typical sleepy cues:  yawning, rubbing of the eyes, perhaps thumb sucking, and of course crankiness.  Sometimes you may notice that your child seems to get a “second wind” – this typically means that you missed his sleep window, so begin getting him to bed 30 minutes earlier than you have been.  On that same note, if you notice that your child begins falling asleep in the middle of your bedtime routine, or if she’s falling asleep the second you turn out the lights, these are signs that you’re putting her to bed too late, so bedtime should be moved by 15 to 30 minutes earlier.  

For more information and tips on sleep training at different ages, check out my other hubs (and you'll find a couple of limks just below in blue.)

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    • Lily Rose profile image
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      Lily Rose 6 years ago from East Coast

      Thanks for visiting, Susie!

    • SUSIE DUZY profile image

      SUSIE DUZY 6 years ago from Delray Beach, Florida

      Good tips. I will pass this on to my children.