1. Toddlers
  2. Sleep
  3. Sleep environment

Getting kids to sleep away from home

0-4 years

Getting kids to sleep away from home can sometimes be tricky, especially when they’re sleeping in a new place like a child care centre or a relative’s home. Here are some things you can do to help your child feel comfortable about sleeping away from home.

Babies and toddlers sleeping away from home

Maintaining your child’s usual sleep routine can make bedtime less stressful. It can also help your child to adapt to new sleeping conditions. If you explain to toddlers what’s going to happen in words they can understand, it can really help too.

Preschoolers sleeping away from home

At this age, knowing what’s going to happen can help your child feel safer and happier. Give preschoolers as much information as you think they can handle about:

  • where they’re going
  • who’ll be looking after them
  • where and when they’ll be sleeping.

You can make it fun by drawing pictures of what’s going to happen or by talking about the person your child is going to visit. Showing your child photos of the person or speaking with the person on the phone might also help your child with sleeping away from home too.

It can be hard to stick to sleep routines while you’re travelling, but it often helps to follow your child’s usual bedtime routine. It’s OK if you can’t do everything the same. Just use the parts of the routine that you can do – for example, reading two stories and giving your child a goodnight kiss. 

Maintaining your child’s sleep routine

Having the same bedtime routine can help babies, toddlers and preschoolers to settle more easily away from home.

It’s a good idea to describe your child’s sleeping habits to carers so they can keep your child’s routine the same. This might include things like a bath before bed, always reading two books, or singing quiet nursery rhymes together before bedtime. If this is the first time the carer has looked after your child, you might like to leave some notes about what time you normally do things – for example, ‘Bottle-feed at 6 pm, bath at 6.30 pm, and bed at 7 pm’.

If your toddler or preschooler has something special like a teddy, rug or favourite pair of pyjamas, it might also help to pack these for overnight stays.

If you feel confident your child’s carer understands your child’s needs, you’ll also feel happier and less stressed. Most child care centres will follow your child’s regular feeding, sleeping and play routines. If you notice changes in your child’s routine when your child comes home, talk with carers. Just as you would make sure your child’s sleep environment at home is safe, make sure you’re confident your child is safe when sleeping away from home.

Sleeping at home after child care

Your child will probably have been quite active during a day at child care, and might be more tired than usual at the end of the day. Sometimes children sleep longer after they have been in care and might settle easily once back at home.

If your child is overtired and difficult to settle, spend extra time helping your child slip back into your home routine.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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