Science of Sleep and Toddler Development

Written by Summer Hartman


What is the most important thing to remember about teaching and helping families is to bring peace of mind and sleep to each family. How do sleep and brain development work?

CDC says: “How the brain grows is strongly affected by the child’s experiences with other people and the world. Nurturing care for the mind is critical for brain growth. Children grow and learn best in a safe environment where they are protected from neglect and from extreme or chronic stress External with plenty of opportunities to play and explore.” End of quote.


Toddlers can be the most fun and frustrating humans ever created. You look at this perfect little human they are screaming at the top of their lungs because the size of the fry is to short or too long. What the Heck!! They make no sense. So, why is this happening? What is going on when they are throwing such fits.


Science saysDr. Dean Burnett, a neuroscientist (and author of the Idiot Brain, and Guardian columnist who moonlights as a stand-up comic), says that the early days of brain development are fascinating because all of the connections needed throughout life are forming and coming together. 


The brain doesn’t grow in the exact same way as the rest of the body. A kid can master crawling through repetition, but that doesn’t mean they will grasp the concept of why they need to put on shoes.


What toddlers do understand is that when something is different than the day before, it sets them off. “All the connections in their brains aren’t made yet,” says Dr. Burnett. “When their expectations aren’t met, toddlers have lost control. They don’t know how to react, so they get distressed and sound the alarm bells because you’ve given them a red sippy cup instead of the green one.” End of quote.


This makes sense to me that your toddler would be throwing this fit because he expects the same thing each day and if we veer from the norm this would be the behavior. Why do I start with this subject first when teaching sleep?


It’s simple, we have to learn why they behave the way they do to understand their sleep patterns.


Between the ages of 18 months and 24 months your toddler is willing to pick up and help it’s a learned behavior. They are happy to help. What happens around the 2.5-year-old and 3-year-old mark? Why do they stop helping?


Science says: According to Dr. James Doty, trained neurosurgeon and Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (or CCCARE) at Stanford University School of Medicine and author of Into the Magic Shop — this is typical behavior.


It starts to fade when there’s more social interaction. It may be that now, they’re in an environment where they see other people either not behaving in this fashion or they start learning how to be more selfish.” You knew it — it’s society’s fault!”.


Dr. Doty has some ideas on how to help your kid keep their sense of understanding, compassion, and fairness. Three steps: Promote emotional intelligence, model it, and let them know it’s ok to fail.  End of quote.


So, would a routine be beneficial for a toddler?


How do we create a consistent pattern? Let’s look at the daytime schedule. In daycare your child knows what to expect each day. The teachers have a system. This allows for fewer fits because your toddler knows what to expect. Every day they walk in and put their backpack in the cubby, and then they go sit down on the gathering rug this is done every day. This is a consistent routine.


Toddlers around 18 months move to one nap a day. Nap duration is between 1-3 hours each day. I like to suggest parents have naptime after lunch. This routine can last until 5 years old.


For more information please reach out to



We Look Forward to Working With Your Family

Please Complete this form and we will contact you with further instruction.