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How to get your toddler to stay in bed with the rapid return method

Medically reviewed August 2022
rapid return sleep training method Naytal

It can be hard to get your toddler to stay in bed and even harder when they keep trying to leave their room. Toddlers are curious by nature and often want to explore their surroundings. This can lead to them trying to escape their bedrooms and suddenly appearing in front of you like a little jack in the box.

Here we share top tips for getting your toddler to stay in bed, with the help of the rapid return method.

What is the rapid return method?

Rapid return is a gentle sleep training method that can help toddlers (from 18 months) and older children who struggle to stay in their bed past bedtime and keep trying to leave their room. In being consistent with this method for a few weeks, your toddler will eventually grow tired of trying to leave their room and will begin to sleep through the night.

Rapid return works by essentially taking the fun out of leaving their bed and returning your toddler to their room without much interaction. Ultimately, you want to make their little bed escapes as dull as possible.

This method can also be used with reward charts or bedtime passes.

Need help with your baby's sleep? Speak to a baby sleep expert

How does the rapid return sleep training method work?

The rapid return method involves returning your toddler to their bed as soon as they escape. You should do so without much interaction or fuss. It is important to remain calm and matter-of-fact during the entire process.

How to practice the rapid return method at home:

  1. Each time your child does not want to stay in their bed and leaves their bedroom, you return them to their bed immediately.
  2. The first time you take them back to bed, do so by holding hands, walking or carrying them to their bedroom. Then give them a hug and tell them it is time for bed.
  3. After their second escape (usually not their last!), calmly return your toddler to bed without much verbal interaction. Simply say goodnight without any extra hugs or discussions.
  4. If your toddler has stamina and attempts a third escape, return them to their bedroom in an almost robotic, stoic type of behaviour. This time without any verbal or physical consolation.
  5. Repeat the last steps for any subsequent escape.

Top tips for getting your toddler to stay in bed:

  • Once you have used the rapid return method a few times, your toddler will likely get the message that it is time to sleep in their bedroom.
  • Try to remain consistent with this strategy and do not give in, as this will only reinforce the behaviour you try to change - remember that your little one is simply trying to push those boundaries
  • If your toddler cries, you can reassure them from the doorway that you are nearby, and they are safe
  • You mustn't discuss extra treats, drinks etc. as this may serve as a reward for leaving their bed
  • With particularly persistent toddlers, this may need repeating as much as 50 to 100 times, so be prepared for your little one to test your limits

Safety tips for using rapid return with toddlers

When using rapid return with your toddler, consider the following safety checklist:

  • You can install a safety gate across their door or stairway and any spaces unsafe for your toddler to walk into
  • Make sure any furniture like drawers or wardrobes is safely secured to the walls in their bedroom
  • Lock any windows your toddler can access, especially those in their room
  • Use safety clips to secure any cords or blinds
  • Make sure any cables are safely hidden or secured
  • Use safety plugs or covers for any electrical outlets
  • It's also best not to leave any objects lying on the floor

Want to speak to someone about your toddler's sleep? Book an appointment with one of our sleep consultants at a time that suits you to get specialist advice with any concerns.

Miriam, Sleep Consultant

Miriam is a qualified Baby and Child Sleep Consultant who feels passionately about helping other mums experience the benefits of good sleep. Her approach is gentle, relationship-centred and research-informed.

Sleep advice