Toddlers & Preschoolers Sharing a Bedroom

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello, I would like to put my almost 4-year-old girl and just turned 2-year-old boy in the same bedroom. They would like to be together and we have an extra room. But, I'm not sure how to handle the different bedtimes. The older girl usually falls asleep 60-90 minutes later than her brother. We could put her brother to sleep first and then bring his sister in to the bedroom after reading books with her in another room. However, I don't think there is any way we can get my daughter to be completely quiet when she comes into the bedroom. My daughter is very chatty when she falls asleep and we usually sit with her for a while so she can unwind and relax as she falls asleep. Her brother is a decent sleeper but the disruption of a parent and his sister coming into the room would certainly wake him. 

    I have read the posts on this topic on the website but I am looking for strategies that you have found worked putting two kids in the same room. Both kids are still in cribs although we will probably take the front railing off my daughter's crib some time in the next year. My daughter is a very restless sleeper and we've delayed moving her to a bed since it's likely to make her sleep worse if she can easily get out of bed during the night.

    Both kids wake up occasionally at night but I think we could probably quietly get one or the other back to sleep in the middle of the night without bothering the other child too much. 

    This sounds a lot like my kids (6 y.o. girl, 3.5 boy). I was worried that bedtime talking would keep my son awake, or vice versa, but I’ve found that it’s very hard to wake either of them at that point in their sleep. If they wake each other up, it’s usually past 3 am or in the morning. I know every kid is different, but my daughter is a very light sleeper and wakes at the drop of a hat, but has yet to be awoken by her brother’s loud chitchat when she has occasionally fallen asleep before him. She also gets quite loud at bedtime and he’s never woken up. I read to both of them and he usually falls asleep while I’m reading, and then I chat quietly (well, as quietly as possible, ha) with my daughter for awhile until she’s settled down a bit. Bedtime hasn’t really been an issue since they’ve started sharing, it’s more the MOTN but that’s a story for another thread, ha!  

    My two (two years apart) have been in the same room since the baby was 4 months old. When they went to bed at different times, we would do all of the older one's bedtime routine outside the bedroom and only go in the room as the very last step when we were ready to get right in bed. He would talk and be loud, especially in the beginning. Usually the baby slept through it. Sometimes she woke up, and we would have to put her back to sleep too. The baby was also a bad sleeper in the beginning and would often wake up crying in the middle of the time. Usually the toddler slept through it, but sometimes he would wake up. It was challenging for the first couple months. But now they've been in the same room for two years and they're both great sleepers and regularly sleep through each other's shenanigans. Good luck!

    This sounds just like us. Younger boy is a light sleeper; older girl is a heavy sleeper. We have them in the same room. In the end, we set one bedtime for something in the middle, around 7:30-8pm, consistently. We did this partially out of necessity since my son had separation anxiety and didn't sleep well in a room by himself. (We used to lay in his room until he fell asleep, then sneak out, but I heard that makes abandonment issues worse.) My daughter initially didn't like the earlier bedtime, but we eased into it and now it is no problem. I have seen a lot of research that shows Americans generally get too little sleep, and brain health is boosted by an hour more sleep than you think you need. Of course, son goes to bed later than we'd like, but he's still napping at daycare. Finally they sometimes sing and talk to each other before falling asleep, which encourages unsupervised sibling bonding. It's adorable to listen to when it doesn't get out of hand, when we have to step in and remind them it's bedtime!

    You may be surprised at what little brother can sleep through... it's worth a try. I have had our 2 boys (3.5 years apart in age) share a room at more than one juncture and it has a way of working itself out. Put little brother to bed first, then do the bedtime routine with big sister in another area, read books and snuggle on mom and dad's bed or the sofa or wherever, and then she will learn that she needs to be very quiet when you both go into their room for sleeping. You can sit quietly with her in the dark, but basic instructions of "shhhh... no talking" might just be enough. Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


2 y.o. climber & 4 y.o. sharing a room

Sept 2008

We moved in w/ my in-laws about a month ago (my husband's in school) and now our kids have to share a room for the first time. In this transition, my 2 y.o. started climbing out of the crib and crawling into her 4 y.o. brother's bed to poke him & whisper ''wake up.'' My son does not like this and complains that he doesn't want to sleep with his sister, nor does he like having her poke at his head while he's asleep. So, I've resorted to sitting in the room to ''guard'' his sleep & to make sure she doesn't climb out, which she does the moment I leave the room. So, I have to wait until she's asleep, which has been taking longer & longer (90 min!). Bedtime has shifted from our strict 8PM back at our old home to 9:30PM namely b/c my 2 y.o. will NOT go to sleep. We don't have another room to separate them, so I don't know what to do. The worst part of this is that even though she goes down at 9:30, they end up waking each other up in the morning around 6AM. (All those messages about kids not waking each other up is untrue in our family--they certainly wake each other up EVERY TIME if we don't pull out the crying one within a minute!) They're both overtired, esp. my 4 y.o. who goes to preschool, and my son now keeps getting bloody noses from being tired (which, of course, happens in the middle of the night & wakes up the 2 y.o. not to mention the rest of the house)! I am considering getting a crib tent to lock her in & begin the Cry-It-Out, but I also believe that she's ready for a bed, but am afraid that getting a bed will only exacerbate the problem. The crib tent seems like it'll just be a bandaid solution. Please, does anyone have any advice?! I didn't find much on this climbing out + shared room problem on BPN. Julie

Put them to sleep in different bedrooms (one in theirs and one in yours) and then move the child in your room to the other room as soon as asleep. Also, drop the nap for the younger. Sounds like she is done with it if she can stay up until 9:30 at night regularly.

We had to move into a one bedroom situation when our girls were 20-months and 44-months and they lived that way for the next nine months. It took a few months for the situation to settle down. They got used to it and slept through each others noise. I was finally able to have them fall asleep in the same room (went to bunk beds when the elder was four) without problem. -anon

Can you put the 2 year old to bed with the older one? Like both in the same bed? Sounds like the 2 year old is ready to move. I know it's unconventional here, but our two sleep together in a full size bed (they are 3.5 yrs and 20 months). Sure, they stay up playing for awhile, sometimes the little one gets up, but we just go in, say no, tuck them in, and walk out. It's great! They are really cute; they tend to fall asleep back to back. They wake up a bit earlier due to the little one waking his older siseter but are not allowed to get out of their room until we get them. Shared a room as a kid..and loved it!

2yo and 4yo are keeping each other awake

Dec 2007

I recently moved my 2 yr old into my 4 yr old's BR. We will be moving to a smaller house soon and I wanted one less stressor when we got there so I did it now. We talked about it for several days before I actually did it. The 2 yr old is still in her crib so she is contained. My 4 yr old previously had a good routine and used to be asleep by 8:30 or 9, the little one would ''talk'' with her animals until around 10 before drifting off. Now, if they aren't crying, they are playing - until at least 11:00!! At bedtime, I read several of their favorites, we say our prayers and ''kiss-kiss'' goodnight, then I leave....until/unless it gets out of control, then I poke my head back in and say firmly, ''goodnight''. Last night, my older one pulled every last thing out (toys, books, clothes)--looks like a tornado hit the room. She must be rebelling. I know she is not happy that the little one won't just lay down and go to sleep when she is ''supposed'' to. Even with no naps, they are still up! I feel so guilty - I thought it was the right thing to do and maybe it is, but wow, it sure doesn't seem like it right now. HELP!! Is this just a phase? How long before they adjust? How shall I handle things? ANY and ALL advice is welcome!!! Household needs some peace

Our two kids share a room and we put the younger one to bed first. The older one doesn't go in until the younger is already asleep, so that they don't chat with each other. We've also hung a curtain between their two beds so that they don't see each other when they wake up and immediately start bugging each other. good luck

Hi. I remember this! We have 3 kids, now 14, 10 and 8, and while they each have their own bedrooms now, for many years, they all slept together (in our last house, they were all in an 8'x10' bedroom!). With the age differences it can be hard - the younger ones need to get to sleep much sooner, but the older ones can cause more drama, etc. Here's what we did. Ikea has these great beds that can turn into either high or low loft beds, bunk beds, etc. (now they all have various heights of their own loft beds). The oldest was in a high loft bed with his dresser and desk underneath and fabric all around that he could close off for privacy whenever he wanted. The middle gal was in the top bunk, and the youngest, by far the wildest in our family, was in the bottom bunk. We started the youngest in the bottom bunk right around 2 years with those removable side panels. The nighttime routine consisted of lights out after one of us reading a good story - we did a lot of greek myths so that everybody was engaged - and then I sang a few songs (they each got to pick one) and then we plugged in a lovely bedtime music cd, all quiet classical piano, that even now they each have a copy of in their own rooms. After listening to it many, many times as they go to sleep, the very act of listening to it now truly puts them to sleep. We even use it during late night road trips and they fall asleep immediately!

When they first began to share one room, one of us would have to sit quietly in the room, often at the foot of the little one's bed, to ensure that things remained calm, but soon they were all pretty well trained to only use a whisper voice once lights were out.

By the time my oldest was 11, it was clear that sharing a bedroom with his younger siblings wasn't so fun anymore, but my youngest still misses sharing a room with his brother and sister, especially at nighttime, and not bc of the wild nights, but bc of the sweet feeling that they were all together.

I encourage you to try a few new routines that are calming, and don't be surprised if you have to engage yourself with their bedtime for a little while longer, but it will smooth out and then you'll be set once you move. Good luck! Julia

Sleeping problems - 4yo and 21mo share a room

Aug 2006

I have an almost 4 yr old and a 21 mo old. They share a room. We have taken to putting them down at the same time (around 8) and just deal with the fact that they talk for an hour. We have going to bed problems and middle of the night pblms. The going to bed pblms involve the talking and the 4 yr old gets up A LOT. Finally they settle down (btwn 9-10pm) but the little one will wake up, usually between 12-2am and scream until she gets her ''mommy'' and gets to be in bed with my partner. this usually wakes up the older one, who then insists that I sleep with her. I'm not sure how to intervene, as we can't really let the little one cry it out given the older one is there, and I'm not sure we'd do that/that'd work anyway. Where to start? Thanks for any thoughts, advice. I feel that if they each had their own room it'd be much easier and that isn't an option anonymous

I feel your pain - it's hard to solve sleeping problems when kids share a room, and it seems like most of the advice you get about sleeping problems is very difficult to implement with two in the same room.

We just went through ''bed time boot camp'' with our four year old and two year old. We started on a Friday night, so we would have a whole weekend to work on it before the chaos of the regular school/work schedule descended. (A long weekend would probably be even better). We purposefully scheduled absolutely no activities for anyone after 5 p.m. every day - no friends over for dinner, no going out, no late playdates. Both parents committed to doing absolutely nothing but focusing on bed from 6 pm to 9 pm - no one person checking e-mail or doing dishes while the other reads the stories as our usual. I bought Weissbluth and studied up. We talked through it ahead of time with our kids - bedtime rules are lay down, close eyes, be quiet, stay in your bed and go to sleep. (that's to deal with the talking for an hour, and we had getting out of bed problems too). Set a bedtime (for us all done and lights out - no books in bed, etc. - by 8:30. Sticker rewards in the a.m. for following all the rules, three stickers wins you a trip for an ice cream cone. Can't say it's perfect now after about five days of ''boot camp'' and two weeks of less intense but still focused bedtime attention, but it's much, much better. If this doesn't also lick the middle of the night problem, you might have to tackle that separately. Can the adults crash on the sofa or guest bed for two or three nights so you can put them to sleep in separate rooms and administer tough love on the little one without waking the bigger one? Good luck! Need my sleep, too

Oh - I hear you. We went through the same thing with our 4 yr old and 2 yr old when the youngest decided he was done with the crib and moved to a big boy bed (they've always slept in the same room). I can say that 5 months later, they both fall asleep nicely by 8:45 - but it took 5 months.

A few things I tried:
- incented big brother to 'help' his little brother fall asleep. we started a star chart and when he got to 5 he gets a sweet treat. The 'help' was to lay in bed quietly and not engage the little one by playing, jumping on beds, talking, etc. If the older one stays quietly in bed, the little one gets bored and falls asleep
- reading special stories to each one. the little one gets toddler books and the older one gets his big boy stories
- letting the little one cry it out when he cried at night. I'd take the older sleeping one into my bed when it happened and let the little one fuss it out. it only took a few nights then they slept peacefully together.
- when the playing/staying up got really bad, I'd take the older one into my bed and he'd fall asleep there. I basically had to separate them on 'bad' nights. Some nights I'd even take the little one to my bed for him to fall asleep. Then I'd always switch them back to their beds after they fell asleep so they'd wake/sleep in their regular beds/room.

Throughout all this adjustment, I stuck to the same bedtime routine. It took awhile, but finally worked out. Really the magic trick was to be consistent and separate them when things went awry. Good luck! Julie

First, I have to recommend the book The Baby Whisperer. Our kids too share a room and we had fears of suffering what you are going through, but fortunately for us it never came to pass. Here's what I would do differently. I would not do anything that

I'm not willing to do night after night for months or years like let them sleep outside their beds or separate you and your partner. If the baby wakes up for mommy, she can have anything but. send daddy in, with a bottle maybe. don't take her out of the crib. Let her stand, hug her while standing beside the crib. the Baby Whisperer advises that you put her down each time she stands up. I've found that letting her stand on her own while I rub her back until she lies down of her own accord is better. Of course the other child will wake up (although I've been amazed sometime at what our son will sleep through) - here mommy may be able to help settle her back down. Apologize to her for the disruption, explain that this will pass and that we all just need to be patient while baby gets through this stage. I might also tell her at bedtime how things will be different - if baby wakes up tonight - she will not be removed from the room, etc, etc. You may try to arrange the room so that they cannot see each others beds clearly so that baby doesn't have to watch mommy comforting the other child.

Whatever approach you use, you should try it for a week because the moment you change the routine they will raise bloody hell the first night, less hell the second and then it will get better. Stay calm and prepare to be (more) sleep deprived in the short term for your longer-term gain good luck

Our children have always had to share a room, and it certainly was difficult when they were the ages yours are. One thing that helped us, tiring though it was, was not to bring any (weaned) child who had awakened into our own bed. Even if it was exhausting to spend 30 minutes sitting on the floor beside the children's beds to get them back to sleep, it paid off in the long run because they no longer come into our room at night unless there's a true problem. Now that they are older, they sometimes climb into each others' beds when they are frightened, but at least that doesn't leave the two of us wiped out at work the next day Sleeping better these days

We have 2 daughters who also share a room. Similar problems have occured and we've dealt with it by ''starting'' the older one in our bed and then transfering her to her own bed once the younger child is asleep. It's worked fine for us so far. anonymous

Firstly, if the 21mo is still in a crib, move her into a regular bed. That way, when she wakes in the middle of the night, she can come to you rather than screaming for you to come get her! That way she won't always wake up her older sister in the process -- and she may not wake anyone else either. When we moved our older child to a bed at about 26 months, I (finally) started sleeping through the night, even though he didn't! He would just come quietly into our room, snuggle up next to me and go back to sleep without waking me. I wished we'd made the switch a LOT earlier (and indeed, our second child never slept in a crib at all).

Secondly, consider putting the younger child's bed in YOUR room. That's how we've arranged things with our kids, now 5 and 2, and it works pretty well. It does have the drawback that we can't move freely around our bedroom or turn on lots of lights in there after our daughter is asleep, but space-wise it's the best fit, and talking or other interaction between the kids is not a regular bedtime problem. (Usually, one parent puts one child to bed while the other parent gets the other child down.) Plus, when the younger one does wake up and need to come into mom's bed (typically not until early morning now), she doesn't have to go even so far as the next room so it's very quiet and fuss-free. Good luck! Sleeping Through

Bedtime disruptions for 2 and 4 year old sharing room

March 2006

We have two boys, 4 and 2. They have shared the same room since birth. Recently the 2 yr old started pulling ninja moves and leaping out of his crib. So instead of using a crib tent (my idea) we decided to bite the bullet and go for a big boy bed (my husband's idea). Our 2 yr old is barely 2 - he can't even talk yet.

Well, 2 weeks later we're still trying to get our normal bedtime routine back. We used to do stories at 8, and beddie bye by 8:15-8:30 with no fuss from either. Now the 2 yr old runs around like a maniac until at least 9. His older brother would happily sleep, but can't because the little one is jumping all over.

So we're all getting frustrated. I don't know how to get the little one to calm down and lay/stay in his bed. Will it eventually work?? Is the little one too young? I am desperate to put his crib back together and get the crib tent. My husband and I are not getting any time together at night as we both fall asleep right after the kids. Our together time (previously 8- 9:30) is gone. I want to stay committed to this because the 2 yr old eventually has to go to a big bed anyway. But I need some hope that this will end and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Help! tired in berkeley

Start earlier (no toddler needs to be up past 7:30-8:00pm, they need 11-12 hours of sleep each night!)and stick with a routine that doesn't change.

After dinner, there is a relaxing warm bath, keep the toys and splashing to a minimum. Right into jammies and a family story time (each child picks a book). Then, to bed by 7pm-7:30pm. Toddler comes out of room, he goes right back in, no conversation, just a ''goodnight''. Then the parent leaves the bedroom. Repeat until both children are asleep. Should be less and less effort each night. This method has worked for me (nanny to 2 girls in the '80's and now to a 6 year old) and I was surprised to find that it is also used by one of the tv nannies! Try it, and good luck! Not on tv but I know what works~

We have four kids, the youngest are 2 & 4, similar to yours. When my dh is home, he reads and rubs the back of our 4 yr old until he's asleep, while I rock the 2 yr old. When dh works late, I lay between both boys until they are asleep (it takes maybe 20 minutes and is the sweetest part of the day, this power to end the day happily and cozily). I don't think it is reasonable to expect your 2 yr old to lay quietly and put himself to bed, especially now that he has this cool new bed and a newfound freedom to explore while big brother is sleeping. You can try the crib tent but now that he's used to roaming he may protest loudly (who could blame him, now he knows what he's being deprived of). You could create a peaceful routine of quieting the house down, reading stories, and snuggling until he's asleep, and still have an hour of couple time. shannon

I have the same exact situation with two boys aged 2 and 4 who share the same room. When we moved our 2 year old to a bed (because he could already climb into his crib and we figured it was just a matter of time before he jumped out), he quickly figured out that it was really fun to get out of bed. We have two tactics, mine and my husbands, both with the same underlying message: It is bedtime and under no circumstances will he get out of going to bed. No more fun time, just bed. So if my husband puts him to bed, he used the fear tactic, i.e. he ordered my son to stay in bed. His voice is sufficiently scary that my son understands that there is no getting out of it. I do not have a scary voice, so I just use peserverence. He gets out of bed. I grab him and put him back in and tell him he has to sleep (no songs no cuddles, just put him back and leave the room. Repeat, 20 to 50 times if necessary. After a while, he gets bored, realizes he is getting nowhere, and stays in bed. If this doesn't work or I am getting sick of it, then I tell him that if he doesn't stay in bed, I will close the door. He leaps out of bed, so I put him back in bed and close the door for one minute. He screams. Open it and tell him to get back in bed or I will close the door again. This is usally extremely effective and I rarely have to repeat more than once. Basically, you have to send the signal to the child that you mean what you say, in whatever manner you feel comfortable. Remember, you are the adult and you are in control.

With my older son, I apologize for the noise and closing the door, and I explain to him that his brother is a baby and we have to teach him. And I thank him for his understanding and praise his good bed habits. He is usually very cooperative and falls asleep without fuss, even with the 2nd leaping out of bed.

After about a month of fussing, my second son rarely acts up and we have a calm sleep routine again. Good luck and be firm. Remember, if he cries and screams, it is NOT because he is hurting or are even particularly upset. He is using his repetoire of tools to see where the boundaries lay and whether he can win the bedtime fight. Make sure that YOU win!

Since your smaller son can't seem to manage the freedom that a big bed represents, I'd return him to his crib. When he's ready to manage the larger bed and not be overtaken with excitement by the freedom it offers, he'll go to sleep without so much effort. I would return to the older system, allowing your older son to get his sleep and you and your husband to have a little bit of down time at the end of the long day. It's only temporary, and worth the effort of setting the crib back up. Once again, I'm reminded about trusting those great parental instincts. That's what they're there for. Sweet dreams

3yo twins with different sleep patterns

From: Grant & Heidi

I have three year old twin girls. One is a very good sleeper and goes down very easy. the othe fights going to sleep at night, is afraid of the dark, continually gets out of bed, experiences night terrors and will get up in the middle of the night and scream for no apparent reason. When the latter happens, we can usually pick her up and she'll got right back to sleep. I also have another daughter that is 5 and also a very good sleeper. We have considered putting the two that sleep well together and give our difficult sleeper her own room. The twins do not seem to want this so how do we deal with the problem sleeper. We are worried that the other child is not getting the proper sleep and may be learning bad sleeping habits.

From: Elizabeth

I can't really tell from your message where your twins are now sleeping in relation to each other, but maybe if you put both of them in the same bed, like a futon mattress on the floor, things might get better. The presence of the good sleeper can help the problem sleeper. Good Luck!