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My 2yo son slept in a sleeping bag (see image below) until around 1½ years old, then he didn't like that anymore so we switched to using a blanket. He moves around so much while sleeping that the blanket usually isn't covering him at all. This hasn't been a problem so far during summer, but now the cold season is coming and we think he'll get too cold at night. He's already rather cold in the mornings -- with cold hands and cold feet -- so the current mode of operation won't do.

We're not tucking him in "English style" with the blanket going under the mattress, but average "European style" where it's just draped over him. He's very active and dislikes being restrained, so "English style" is not an option.

I've learned to stay underneath my blanket during sleep, but I have no recollection how I learned it -- can we somehow "teach" him, or does it only come naturally with age? How can we keep him under the blanket?

What we're already trying:

  • We are re-covering him several times during the evening until we go to bed ourselves, and sometimes again during the night if we're up for any reason.

  • We are dressing him in warmer pajamas and socks to keep him from getting cold at night, but we can't comfortably dress him warm enough in winter. If we dress him warmly (so that he wouldn't become too cold without the blanket) then the blanket makes him too warm and he wakes in a sweat, so we avoid that.

  • We are trying to find a sleeping bag that fits his current size (92cm) but seem to be rare in these sizes; apparently they're only popular for infants but not so for toddlers. Even if we find one, there's a risk that he'll reject it, just like he ended up doing half a year ago.

example of a sleeping bag

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interesting question! We're having the same problem, but our son (nearly 4 years, about 100 cm tall) still has sleeping bags, but it now gets more difficult to find them large enough. How tall is your son? –  BBM Oct 2 '11 at 21:38
is the placing of children/babies in sleeping bags common in Europe? In the USA it's normally crib/cosleeping-> small bed-> normal (twin) bed. –  William Grobman Oct 2 '11 at 21:41
@WilliamGrobman: I think this (tinyurl.com/3p99nek) is the type of "sleeping bag" he's referring to. –  Sarato Oct 2 '11 at 22:06
@Sarato Very interesting. It reminds me of Gerber gowns (tinyurl.com/3k4xsd3) but with heavier fabric and closed bottom. –  William Grobman Oct 2 '11 at 22:20
@WilliamGrobman: if I'm referring to sleeping bags (we're in Europe here), then I'd definitely talking about those like in Sarato's comment and they are worn in bed as a replacement for the blanket which gets easily lost at night during moving/turning/.... I hope you don't think our children have to sleep on a camping mat on the floor or in a tent in the garden ;-) –  BBM Oct 2 '11 at 22:20

9 Answers 9

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Until she was 5, my daughter would sleep on top of her blanket with her pillow on her feet. She knew about sleeping under the blankets (having seen us doing it), but just wasn't interested.

Dress them warmly and let them figure it out on their own.

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+1 billion for letting them figure it out. Altho, i get the impression that this child is teeny, and 'figuring it out' means mom & pop getting up 4000 times a night. –  monsto Oct 3 '11 at 18:40
+1 billion from me too. My daughter sleeps on top of her covers a lot. She kicks off the blankets after I put them back on her at night. She used to sleep, curled up in a ball, with her blanket curled up in her hands. No amount of struggling worked, and she was fine. Now that she's 3 1/2, she sleeps under the blankets if it's quite cold. If it's a little cold, no blankets. Doesn't hurt her at all. So I don't worry about it. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 4 '11 at 17:53

The cold will likely teach him quickly. If there's no negative to wriggling, what will stop him? I'd consider dressing him less warmly and seeing if that helps. Maybe he's too warm at night with warm pajamas and a blanket.

That said, obviously don't freeze him; start slightly less warmly and work your way down.

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Halo sleep sacks come in sizes all the way to 5T if you are looking for large enough sleeping bags. I like the fact that these have holes for their feet in case they get out of bed at night. I do think that children will naturally learn that if they are cold, pull the blanket back up, but perhaps that comes a little later. I really believe in natural consequences within reason, of course and the natural consequence of kicking off the covers is that you may wake up cold and need to put them back on. As long as it is not freezing, it should come about naturally with no harm to the child.

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I agree about natural consequences, and I'm sure he'll learn eventually. I hope to avoid being woken in the middle of the night because he's cold and hasn't learned it yet - can you also offer any specific tips on that? –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Oct 3 '11 at 19:45
Sadly, my experience is that the process of letting children learn for themselves is often harder for us adults than it is for the children. I would always rather err on the side of not hovering and doing for them because of the long range consequences of always doing it for them. If your child wakes cold, tell him that all he needs to do is pull his covers back up, perhaps at first accompany the statement with actually doing it. It is a relatively safe platform to learn some consequences - if I kick my covers off, I may get cold... if I am cold, I should pull my covers back on. Good Luck! –  Erin Oct 3 '11 at 20:11

Assuming your house isn't really, really cold at night, having a blanket is a matter of comfort, not of health or safety. Some children (and adults!) prefer it very cool when sleeping. At 2 years old, your son probably can understand the concept of a "warm blanket."

Therefore, I'd recommend providing a blanket and if he wants it, he'll mess around with it until he figures it out. (I suppose you could show him a couple of times how to pull it up and provide tips before going to bed if you want). That's basically what we've done. My two year old daughter sometimes decides to re-cover herself and sometimes not.

And remember, you don't get a cold from being cold; you get it from a virus, so cold season coming up isn't relevant.

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Regarding temperature and catching colds and other illnesses, you might find this question interesting. –  Beofett Oct 7 '11 at 15:24
With "cold season" I was referring purely to the temperature, not the illness. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Oct 7 '11 at 16:59

When my little one was kicking off her blanket I sewed a strip of velcro to the blanket and the sheet. It keeps her from accidentally kicking it off, but is easy enough to get off when she needs to. Its a little extra work, and might ruin the sheet/blanket for other people, but it might be worth a try :)

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We use both the sleeping bag and a blanket for our 1 year old. That makes him used to having the blanket, so when we stop using the sleeping bag, it will be less of a change for him.

This has worked quite well with our first kid, which is 4 years now. We sometimes have the problem with him kicking off the blanket, but that is only when it is extra warm, so he gets too warm with the blanket on. Then we tries to find a thinner blanket, or just a sheet he can use instead.

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We had a similar issue. We don't use blankets but duvets and the way we tried to manage this was to buy some braces clips and elastic from a haberdashers and improvise some makeshift ways to hold the duvets in place without having to tuck them in too firmly.

You don't say whether you little one wakes you up if the cold bites. If it's any consolation our children still manage to unravel themselves from their bedclothes and if they get cold they probably wake up and tuck themselves back in again.

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We still get this for both our sons, with the youngest we give him feetie pajamas (the ones with attached coverings for the feet), so even if he kicks the blankets off he'll still be somewhat covered. Plus the feeties tend to be very warm, so he doesn't always need a blanket. Although what helps is my wife and I have very different sleep patterns, and get up and different times during the night so we just make it a point to check on the kids and recover them. Space heaters in the room, in winter, help as well as the central air we have. The older one is harder because he never liked feeties, so we just dress him warm and try to recover him.

I don't think you can train them, my boys both are active sleepers, I've seen my oldest change positions to be at a right angle to where he was when he went to sleep. If the cold doesn't stop them, and it hasn't yet, we just try to keep the room comfy for him.

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You should get him a real sleeping bag, lay it on top of the covers then place child in.

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Your answer would be improved with the addition of details and references. Please see How to Answer. –  Karl Bielefeldt Feb 16 '14 at 18:21

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