Common concerns


Sleep needs change as children get older. It helps to have an idea of how much sleep your child needs as this will be different depending on their age. All children are unique and some will need more or less sleep than others.

Daytime naps can help prevent young children becoming overtired. However, these should be scheduled to ensure your child does not have a prolonged nap in the late afternoon which is too close to bedtime. Sleep Foundation publish informative, up-to-date research about topics related to sleep and health.

Sleep advice

How to Help your Child to Develop Good Sleep Habits

When babies are put into bed drowsy but not asleep, they are more likely to learn to ‘self- soothe’.  This means they will be able to fall asleep independently and also go back to sleep when they wake during the night.

For those who have been soothed until they fall asleep this becomes a habit and they may become dependent on this routine to fall asleep and when they wake during the night.

By establishing a good bedtime routine which helps your child to settle to sleep and to stay asleep will support them to develop a healthy independent sleep pattern.

During the day

Encourage your child to be active during the day and spend some of the day outside. This will give them exposure to natural daylight and help them to feel tired at the end of the day so they will have a more restful sleep.

Food and Drink

Encourage a healthy diet with regular meal times.  Avoid a large meal too close to bedtime. Having a light snack at bedtime will ensure your child is not hungry and can help them to settle to sleep e.g. a drink of milk and slice of wholemeal toast.

Caffeine has a stimulant effect and can prevent people from feeling tired. Caffeine is found in tea, coffee, chocolate, cola, fizzy drinks and energy drinks. These should always be avoided in the afternoon and evening and should be limited throughout the day.


It is important to decide on a bedtime which is suitable for your child’s age. Putting them to bed at the same time each night and waking them at the same time each morning; including at weekends will strengthen their body clock and help them to develop a regular sleep and wake cycle.

The Bedroom

To help your child get a good night’s sleep there may be changes you can make within their bedroom. The room should be a comfortable temperature being neither too warm nor too cold. A quiet, dark, calm environment with toys tidied away will encourage sleep. Use a nightlight if your child is frightened of the dark. Where possible reduce any external noise within the household.


Learning to dress independently is an important life skill. It gives your child a sense of achievement to master a new skill.

First your child will be able to help you as you dress them. They will hold out a foot for you to put a sock on and push their arms through their sleeves. Next they will learn to undress. They will be able to take off socks, pyjamas and anything without fastenings.

Then they will learn to put on clothing without fastenings. Then they will be able to take off and put on their clothes with some help with fastenings. Finally they will manage fastenings by themselves.

Tips and advice

Involve your child in undressing and dressing.

  • You can do this when they are babies. Talk about what you are doing. Name body parts. Sing songs about dressing. Follow the same routine. Your baby will get to know what is coming next. Be playful. Put their socks on your ears or on their hands. Let them make a choice about what to wear. “Do you want the blue t-shirt or do you want the red t-shirt?”.

It is much easier for your child to learn how to undress.

  • Let them practice taking clothes off first. Practice as part of your child’s bedtime routine. Make sure to give you and your child plenty of time. Once they can undress you can work on dressing

Loose-fitting clothing is easier to manage than tight fitting clothing.

  • Start with pyjamas or clothes that are too big. Make it fun. Let them dress up in your clothes and you try to put their clothes on. Once your child can put on baggy clothes they can try tighter fitting clothing.

Make sure your child is in the right position for the task.

  • Sitting on the floor, on a chair or on the bed can help. Your child will feel safe. They won’t be wobbling around and will be able to use their hands.

Children learn in different ways so you might need to vary your approach.

  • There are different ways you can help:
    • Physically assist your child. Put your hands over your child’s and help them to get dressed.
    • Show your child. Put your clothes on at the same time as your child and show them what to do.
    • Tell your child. Talk your child through the steps. Try each of these ways to find what works for your child.

Please remember that some children cannot look and listen at the same time.

If your child is struggling it can be tempting to take over – don’t! Give your child time to work it out for themselves. Give them lots of encouragement and hints if you need to.

If needed, talk them through what to do and only step in if they get really stuck. It is often better to practice these things when you are not in a rush. Weekend mornings are better than when you are rushing out to nursery/school/work.

Instead of automatically correcting a mistake (e.g. twisted collar or button incorrectly matched) why not encourage your child to look in the mirror and get them to find out what’s wrong. You may need to ask them some questions to help them work it out.

Take your time and be consistent. Learning a new skill takes time. Persevere with giving support until you feel that your child is making progress. Practice, practice, practice! Give your child opportunities for practice every day.

Link to backward chaining video


Toilet training is challenging for everyone. Some children get it in a matter of days, but for others it can take longer.

Practice and Patience; as with all new skills this task will take time to learn. Don’t expect your child to master it straight away. Break the task down into its separate parts (e.g. managing clothes, wiping or washing hands etc).

Teach one task at a time with you helping with all the other tasks.

It is important your child feels secure when they are sitting on the toilet. Using a toilet step or a sturdy box under their feet will make them feel safer. It also helps them to be in the right position for pooing. A toilet seat insert can help your child feel safer too.

There is lots of help available. If you have questions about toilet training then speak to your Health Visitor. Nursery staff have lots of experience with this too so might be able to help. If your child is older then the school nurse will be able to help. If your child starts having accidents once they are toilet trained it is important to take them to the GP.

Potty and toilet training

Bottom wiping

When teaching a new skill we often start at the beginning. This can be challenging for children who are struggling to master a skill. One way of learning a new task while giving your child a sense of achievement is to use the backward chaining technique.

Backward chaining has been found to be particularly useful when learning self-care skills. It can also be helpful when teaching younger children and those who have difficulty learning new skills. So what is backward chaining? You start by breaking the task down into small steps. You teach your child the last step first, working backward from the goal. You complete all of the steps except the last one and have your child practice the final step. Your child will enjoy the success that comes from completing a task. Once your child has mastered the last step you complete all of the steps except for the last two. You teach your child the second from last step and they then complete the last step themselves. Even more success! You continue like this until you are teaching the first step and your child is completing all the other steps.

This is a particularly useful technique to use when teaching a child how to get dressed or undressed.


It is important at any age to master handwashing.

This video may help to encourage the task

Eating meals

Children begin to develop self-feeding skills from birth. It is common for children to have difficulty using cutlery to feed themselves. It usually takes until a child is 7 years old before they can successfully use cutlery to feed themselves without being too messy.

Picky Eaters

Using Utensils

For lots of children, meal times can be a frustrating and messy experience. Many children find it particularly difficult to co-ordinate the use of a knife and fork. This can impact on your child’s confidence. As with handwriting, good positioning at the table is important. Ensure your child sits tucked into the table, with feet supported (use a footrest if necessary), and back against the chair.

Using a knife and fork

By 5 years a child is learning to spread and cut with a knife. It is often not until they are around 7 years of age that a child can use a knife and fork together to cut up food and are truly independent with self-feeding.

Sitting at a table

It is important to consider where you child sits to eat. It affects their stability and balance to allow them to use their hands effectively, just as it does for writing. Otherwise we put a lot of effort into sitting and this can distract (even subconsciously) from what we are trying to do. It also impacts on the social aspects of meal times, as well as the skill development. For many busy families today mealtimes can be a great time to catch up on everyone’s news; it is a good way to help your child learn the social skills of sharing and listening to others.