My daughter used to go to sleep nicely. Sometimes, such as when she is overtired, she cries herself to sleep. But this week she learned how to open doors. It is wonderful in terms of development - but now she wont stay in her room to go to sleep. Last night she woke up and played for over an hour outside of our bedroom, waking me up. How do I encourage her to stay in her room?
There seem to be a couple of things going on here. First off, let's look at some associated issues already answered here on Parenting:
How to handle a tot who does not want to fall asleep - the accepted answer covers off some key points on bedtime routine and the falling asleep process, and one of the other answers looks at timing and the 'right' amount of sleep for your child.
How can I get my son to stay in bed at bedtime discusses a four year old, so some of the points aren't directly relevant, although as soon as your child understands enough words, I definitely recommend Jay Bazuzi's "three C's of going to sleep":
In another answer to that same question, cabbey makes some good points on exercise and afternoon naps, as these have an effect on how fast children get to sleep.
Torben's question How do we keep our child in bed is probably the most useful for you. There are a range of answers from gating the room, controlled crying, having a consistent routine, filling the bed with enough toys to make it a pleasant play environment so the child plays there until they fall asleep etc., but Torben's own answer about what worked for him was very simple:
I believe thease are those situations where you just have to be consistent and patient. Escort her back to her room and her bed every time she comes out from there. Eventually she accepts that this is the way thing go is your household.
You are an anchor in the world for your child. Everything else is changing and moving, which is great, that's what life is, but you are always there, a safe harbour whose plain presence is the most assuring thing in the world.
And then you took that small human and thrown him into a jail. Sure, there's some plushy stuff or whatever, but that's not toys, that's bullshit for adults. And the doors are locked in this fearful place, and you, that anchor, have walked away.
And you wonder why does your child try to get closer to you :(.
If she is coming back to your bedroom (or close to it?), she wants to be closer to you to feel safe. No matter how some architect designed your house. Let her.
Children have a need for closeness of parent, it's a developmental epoch in their life. As they grow older, they disengage, but please do not force them.
If she's coming back and closer, she hadn't had enough of your presence. Give it to her, and when she has enough, she will disengage naturally. You will notice it by her going to 'her room' to sleep instead of prolonging the evening in order to not to have to be taken there.