Could What I’m Feeding my Toddler be Keeping them Awake?

Written by Kristen Yarker. Posted in Blog

Could What I’m Feeding my Toddler be Keeping them Awake?

There are a lot of old wives tales and urban myths about foods and food ingredients either helping or hindering sleep. However, there isn’t strong evidence connecting specific foods and sleep – either preventing sleep or causing kids to fall asleep (and stay asleep).

Here’s a roundup of the most common foods that we hear are connected with sleep.

A Glass of Warm Milk

A glass of warm milk is a classic trick to help kids fall asleep. However, it’s unlikely that it’s the milk itself that makes kids sleepy. What’s more likely is that it’s the routine that gets kids ready for sleep. Kids thrive with routines. It signals to them what’s about to happen next in their world and it tells them what’s expected from them. This includes bedtime routine.

If you choose to have a bedtime snack, have a bedtime snack every day. Serve your child’s bedtime snack in the same place every day (I recommend sitting at the table). Join your child while they are eating and have a conversation. Don’t talk (negotiate) about having two more bites. Instead enjoy the opportunity to connect, perhaps telling stories and talking about your day. Then brush teeth and continue with the rest of the bedtime routine.

Sitting to eat together is an opportunity to connect with each other and wind down from the day. It’s a fantastic way to get kids prepared for falling asleep.


Interestingly, when it’s tested in scientific studies, sugar doesn’t cause kids to be more active. Yet, countless parents can tell you that sugar makes their kids “hyper”. If your little one is having difficulty falling asleep, try keeping sugary treats as occasional daytime foods (as opposed to evening foods) and see if it has an effect on your little one's sleep.

Artificial Colours

There is mixed evidence in scientific studies about the effect of artificial colours and the preservative sodium benzoate on kids’ behaviour. Some studies have found that there is no effect on kids’ behavior. Other studies have found that some kids don’t react to these foods but some kids do react. The way to find out if your child is a member of the group of kids who may react, is to eliminate all foods with these additives from your child’s diet for a period of time and see if there’s a change in their behavior. Label-reading for these foods can be challenging. So, if you’re thinking of testing your child’s reaction to an elimination diet, I recommend working with a dietitian to make sure that you’re catching all food sources and still making sure that your child’s getting all the nutrition that they need.

Food Negotiations

Waking up hungry in the middle of the night can be a side-effect of battling at mealtimes with toddlers who are picky eaters. No-one loves a negotiation like a toddler! Unfortunately, they can enjoy winning the battle so much that they ignore their feelings of hunger, resulting in waking up in the middle of the night because they’re hungry.

While it feels awful to hear a child tell you that they’re hungry, resist feeding them a snack in the middle of the night. Feeding snacks in the night rewards kids for not eating at mealtimes. Also, it role models eating snacks in the middle of the night (which we don’t want to encourage). Instead, focus on removing the battles at daytime meals and snacks. How to remove the battles? Well, that’s what I share with parents at my blog. Come check it out!

Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD is known as The Dietitian who Transforms Picky Eaters into Food-Confident Kids. Answering the question: “How do I get my child to try new foods?”

Time Change and Sleep

Written by Sleepdreams. Posted in Blog

Here are some things to help your baby or child to sleep better with the time change this Nov 4th, 2012 as clocks are turned backwards one hour:

  1. 1.Start moving your baby’s sleep schedule by say, 10 to 15 minutes backwards. So if you are normally putting your infant to bed at 7:30 pm, on Nov 4th that would be a shift to 6:30 pm. Start moving it back in 10 minute increments 6 days before the 4th of November. Older children can move back in 15 minute increments 4 days earlier (good luck with Halloween!)
  2. 2.Keep a regular schedule e.g. napping times, eating times, and getting to bed time (accounting for the adjustment period).
  3. 3.Use the natural light to wake up – open the blinds when it’s wake up time.
  4. 4.Get out into the natural light early in the day, this helps set the circadian rhythm.

Helping Your Picky Eater to Eat

Written by Sleepdreams. Posted in Healthy Kids

Appropriate sleep, especially in the early stages, is influenced greatly by nutrition. Getting more calories into your baby will help them sleep longer through the night. For parents of toddlers, there can be nothing more frustrating than preparing a meal and placing it in front of your child, only to hear “Yuck! I’m not eating that”. A picky eater can quickly turn a happy mealtime into a power struggle, and often the parent loses. Give your child some extra sleep help and try these tips:

  • Eat with your child. Try to eat with your children as much as possible so that they can watch your modelling of how to interact with different foods. By the time a 6 month old is ready to have solid foods, they have probably watched their mother eat at least 600 times.
  • Let your child be messy. Especially  infants. A great rule for those new to eating (6 months and beyond) is that once you give them food, you do not take it back. This involves cleaning faces and hands during meal times or scraping a face with a spoon in order to retrieve food that has spilled out of the mouth. For the little ones that are very sensitive, this can be quite alarming and may cause them to be quite defensive orally. There really is no mess that a bath cannot fix.
  • Offer a choice between two items. This can be as simple as asking if a child wants pasta with sauce on top or on the side for dipping. Or let a child choose between two possibilities for lunch. But keep it within your limits as a parent.
  • Involve children as much as possible in the kitchen. Baking is a great time to include children in the kitchen, as long as you grade activities to their abilities. If you have toddlers or preschoolers, let them pour ingredients into the bowl after you have measured them out. Take turns stirring the dough. Let your children help set the table. If you are worried about plates being broken, make that your job and get your children to place utensils, napkins, and cups for everyone.
  • Allowing dips. There is something to be said about the power of a dip. Vegetables are eaten. Eggs are devoured. You can be creative with dips. Like above, penne noodles can be dipped in sauce. Turkey can be dipped in gravy. Fruit can be dipped in yogurt. You can also give another ‘choice’ by asking if they want sauces put ‘on the side’.
  • Make food fun. Sometimes food just has to be fun. And it should be. Meal times are a time when family units can come together and discuss their days. So show your children that meal times can be fun. Have “Green Food Friday”, when all the food at the table is as green as possible. Or have breakfast food for dinner.
  • Present food in new and different ways. Take cheese. Cheese is a food that can be cubed, grated, melted, presented in sticks, sliced or even cut into a fun shape with a cookie cutter. Sandwiches can be cut into fun shapes as well using a cookie cutter. Let your child pick which cookie cutter to use, and help them to cut it if they have not yet developed that skill.

Remember that some children need a food presented to them at least ten times before they will feel comfortable enough to eat it. If your child is extremely picky, remember that force-feeding will never solve the problem, but will only make it worse. If you have concerns regarding your child’s eating habits, talk to your family doctor about your concerns. You may need the help of an occupational therapist to help you make mealtimes a positive experience in your house. 


Many Healthcare Plans Cover our Fees

Written by Sleepdreams. Posted in Blog

As Registered Occupational Therapists specializing in sleep for infants and children, many extended health care plans recognize and cover the cost of our services. Sleep is an activity of daily living and falls within the scope of practice of Registered OT's. Ask your extended health care provider if they cover Occupational Therapy services. If your health care coverage includes an expense account then OT services should be covered within that umbrella of registered health care providers. Our OT's are registered health care providers and specialists in sleep.

Private Practice Fee Survey

Alberta College of Occupational Therapists

College of Occupational Therapists of British Columbia

Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists

Getting our Kids more Active

Written by Sleepdreams. Posted in Age Appropriate Activities

Appropriate sleep for your baby or child can be encouraged with proper exercise. Help your toddler or child to get more sleep by getting them more active. Kids need to be moving more. A sedentary life at an early age hinders a lot more than just your child’s ability to get a good night’s sleep.

Extensive research has been done on how much activity small children should be getting. The research comes from CSEP, The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (do you remember ParticiPACTION in school?) in conjunction with Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute and Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (CHEO-HALO). They have been concerned regarding the sedentary lifestyles that many of our youngsters seem to be living. As a result, the first Canadian set of physical-activity guidelines for the early years, outlining just how much infants and toddlers need to move for optimum health and development, was released in late March 2012. The guidelines include the following:

  • Infants should be physically active through interactive floor-based play several times a day both indoors and outside.
  • Children aged one to four should accumulate a minimum of 180 minutes a day of physical activity in different environments. Five year olds should get at least one 60-minute bout of sustained energetic play per day
  • No screen time for children under the age of 2 and it should be limited to less than one hour per day for children aged two to four.

Here are a few tips and ideas to get your infant, toddler, and preschooler moving:


The main activity for these little ones in their early days is TUMMY TIME. In order to be most successful with this, parents also need to be on the floor in tummy time as well so that their baby is able to receive comforting face-time. Having one or two toys on the floor in order to entertain an infant is also helpful, and remember that many short periods of time spent in tummy time is better than one long, and often unhappy, stint in the prone position. As infants grow and gain more skills, some toys that will engage them are:

  • activity floor mat
  • blocks of various sizes
  • balls and stacking rings
  • push-toys
  • activity tables

Most parks have swings that are infant-safe, once your baby has mastered the skill of sitting on their own. Additionally, most babies love a change in environment to crawl around in, or stand at, and parks can be a great place to solidify skills, such as pulling to stand and cruising. 


This is a great age to start checking out the various community centre and drop-in programs that are available in your area. A different environment will give your toddlers the chance to practise the gross motor skills that they have already learned in their home-environment. Walks are great as they will give lots of opportunities to talk about what you see, as well as work on expanding communication skills. Puddle jumping and splashing is always a hit, just ensure that boots and rain gear are being worn. This is also the age when a run-bike (i.e. bike without pedals) can be introduced, as long as your toddler has been sturdy on their feet for some time and is wearing a properly fitted helmet. Once your child has mastered using a run bike, start doing short cycling trips with them and watch their confidence soar.


Most preschoolers love the chance to be in control, so take advantage of that and play “Simon Says”, ensuring that the movements are active in nature. “Dance parties” are great to have on those rainy days. Just put on the music and start dancing. Take turns making up new dance moves and imitating each other. The playground is a great place for your preschooler to be active, as well as to learn balance, eye-hand coordination, and many other skills that they will need throughout life. And they will love having an adult on the playground with them.