There’s nothing sweeter than little ones sharing a bedroom. My two kids have shared a room for about a year now and it’s been a lovely, special, (even hilarious, at times) bonding experience for them.
Room-sharing can be tricky, though. In fact, a National Sleep Foundation poll found that kids sharing a room sleep slightly less on average than those who sleep independently. But that’s not a reason to separate children, it’s just an indication that room-sharing needs a bit more thought and planning in order to really work.
Here’s how to give your kids all the benefits of sharing a bedroom, while protecting their sleep in the process.
One important piece of joining sleeping spaces is to get two children’s sleep schedules to work hand-in-hand. If a baby and preschooler are sharing a room and the preschooler naps during the day, bedtimes might be slightly different: a good baby bedtime is 7 or 7:30 PM, but a preschooler who naps often won’t be tired until 8 PM or even later. In this case, you might want to bathe and put PJs on both kids, put the baby down to sleep and have some quiet reading time with your preschooler before tucking her in.
Once a preschooler stops napping (or before the age of about 2-and-a-half, regardless of napping habits) the two children’s bedtimes can most likely be the same — in fact, 7:30 PM tends to be a healthy bedtime for kids through young school age (especially because kindergarten brings early start times). It’s nice to have both kids go through their routines together, even if their needs are slightly different (one takes a bath while you feed the other, or you read to the older sibling while the baby plays on the floor in the bedroom).
Choose the right time
If you don’t have a choice about when children move in together, you can make it work at any point. Ideally, though, wait until the younger sibling is sleeping almost through the night to make the move. It’s stressful enough to wake with a baby during the night — worrying about waking a toddler or cutting her sleep short in the morning can add to that stress.
Practice quiet voices
Does your preschooler like to shout at the top of her lungs to announce she’s awake for the day? Climb into her bed during the day and show her what it looks and sounds like to wake in the morning. Use a whisper voice and show her how to make her way quietly out of the room to find you.
Make the room special for both kids
Moving one child into another’s can be an adjustment in thinking, not just logistics. What was once the private sleep space of one sibling is now shared — that can take a little time for both kids to embrace. Spend time making the cribs or beds of each of your kids special, and designate shelving with toys and books for each kid. Talk about what it’s like to share a room and let each sibling share some ideas for how to make it work.
Embrace white noise
In general, room-sharing siblings get used to sleeping through each other’s cries and call outs in the night, but it still helps — especially for early morning wake-ups — to have a white noise machine or a low fan to muffle sounds.
Get your kids to bed early
Since room-sharing kids tend to skimp on sleep a little (talking before falling asleep or waking each other in the morning), in our house we go with an early bedtime. No one is perfect — we still have late playdates or dinners out that push bedtime back a bit, but overall they go to bed around 7:30 PM. Doing this allows the kids to chat (adorably) for a bit, each in his or her bed, and still catch up on any of the precious sleep they might have missed from the previous days.
For us, the benefits of room-sharing outweigh the drawbacks — it just takes a little extra planning to protect their precious sleep.More On