How to help your kids learn to share a room


Having separate rooms for each child is growing in popularity, to facilitate privacy and clashing routines. While it might be nice, it’s not always feasible. 

For starters, many families with more than one child lack the space for each child to have their own room. Aside from this, there are other reasons for your kids to share a space. In the case of a toddler and baby room sharing will help them form a bond. It also teaches your toddler to share and show empathy.

However, with varying bedtimes, wake-up times, and more in between, it will take some navigating. Irrespective of the why, it’s up to you to ensure that room-sharing works for both of your kids.

If you’re thinking of teaching your toddler and baby to share a room, we’ve put together a list of how to help you navigate the challenges them with ease.

Setting the stage: The importance of learning to share

Sharing anything, let alone a bedroom might be a novelty for your children. Sharing is a developmental milestone, just like reading and learning to walk, it takes time.

Room sharing will inadvertently force your kids to share, not just a space, but also their belongings, and your time. It’s up to you to encourage sharing through language and cooperative activities. 

Use language that fosters patience, for instance, “It will be your turn soon”, and allow your children to take turns when making a puzzle or playing games.

When is the best time to start sharing?

The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends that babies should continue to room share with their parents until 6 months of age to prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Apart from this, there are certain practical implications. For starters, late-night feedings will be easier when the baby is in your room. It will also give your toddler time to get used to having a new sibling and having to share you with them.

After the 6-month mark, you could move your baby and toddler into the same room. But, it’s better to wait until your baby is mostly sleeping through the night. That way, you won’t have to deal with putting two kids back to sleep when the baby wakes your toddler.

Use the first 6 months of baby’s life to prepare your toddler for the inevitable room sharing.

Addressing Challenges

With toddlers, especially those who are not used to sharing anything, there may be tears, tantrums, and everything in between. Sibling rivalry is especially common.

Another common issue when toddlers and babies share a space is safe sleeping and childproofing. For example, some of your toddler’s toys may not be safe for your baby.

As a parent, you might face challenges with your kids’ different temperaments, routines, and needs.

How to store toys

Any toys that could be a hazard to your baby like toy cars, should be placed in bins/baskets and stored outside of the bedroom for maximum safety.

Childproof the room for toddlers and babies

Ensure all furniture is anchored to the wall or floor and cannot be tipped over. Avoid placing the crib or bed near a window and, if you can’t remove the curtain or blind cords, tack them up securely out of reach.

It’s also best to take precautions with electrical outlets and wires. Having a baby gate at the entrance of the bedroom will go a long way to prevent wandering or falls.

Will one crying wake the other one up?

Yes, it might. However, having a white noise machine or even two (one for each child) will help mask the noise. After some time, your toddler or baby will get accustomed to sleeping through any commotion – like the sound of whimpers, breastfeeding or you entering or leaving the room.

How to manage different sleeping schedules

Before making the transition to a shared space, you’ll want to establish each child’s independent sleep habits. The age and developmental stages of the toddler and baby can lead to different needs and routines. Balancing these needs requires careful consideration and flexibility in your parenting strategies.

Neither little one should be experiencing frequent night-wakings or other sleep challenges. Both of your kids should be able to fall asleep unassisted.

It can be helpful to get the baby to bed before your toddler. Babies fall asleep more easily and don’t often need to get up, toddlers do. Your toddler will probably need to use the washroom or get a sip of water.

All that extra noise could wake your baby up and you’ll have to start over. Put your baby to sleep around 7 pm and allow your toddler to stay awake longer. It will not only give your baby time to settle into sleep but, also make your toddler feel like an older sibling and give you one-on-one time together.

Make sure you lay everything you need for bedtime out beforehand though, like pajamas, undies, and a towel. Consider blackout curtains, they keep the room nice and dark so when your toddler heads to bed, they can’t see the crib.

It’s best to practice going to bed with your toddler beforehand so they stay as quiet as possible. Make it fun, role-playing staying quiet, tiptoeing into the bedroom, and softly getting into bed.

For your baby and toddler, establish a nap routine that allows the napper to sleep undisturbed. Perhaps your toddler could nap in your room.

Setting up a play area

Having a shared space for playtime is perfectly fine. However, you want to keep baby’s toys on lower shelves, for easy access. Encourage your toddler not to place any toys like stuffed animals or blocks into the crib. 

It would also be best to keep your toddler’s toys completely out of baby’s reach. Any buildable toys like train sets, should be built on a table, preferably in a separate room, so they can’t be knocked over. 

Dealing with sibling rivalry

When room sharing, sibling rivalry may become apparent. Your toddler might feel that they aren’t getting enough of your attention and care when you’re tending to their younger sibling.

Your toddler may also be upset if baby takes their favorite stuffed toy. That’s where teaching your toddler how to share and about conflict resolution will come in handy.

Teaching your toddler about sharing their personal space 

One of the best ways to prepare your toddler to room share is to let them know what’s coming and allow them time to get used to the idea.

  • Make it exciting

Even if your toddler is happy to share a room with their sibling, there is no harm in hyping it up further. Tell them they will be the big sibling, let them help with baby stuff like diapers and feedings, and make it known that they can teach baby things like how to play.

  • Let your toddler decorate

Not only their side of the room as we mentioned earlier, but even baby’s. They can pick out sheets, toy bins, artwork, and rugs. This will help them feel included.

  • Alleviate worry

Let your toddler know that you will be coming in to check on baby if they make noise, cry, or whimpers, and not to worry. If your toddler is woken up by their sibling, check on them, tell them everything is okay, and go back to sleep.

  • Set boundaries

Make it clear to your toddler through repetition that it’s not okay to place anything in the crib, like a blanket or toy, and that baby cannot be removed from the crib. 

If your toddler thinks baby needs something, tell them to get you first. When they do, use positive reinforcement, give them a hug, high five, or small reward (stickers and chocolate work well).

Other rules to explain to your toddler include:

  • Quiet time during sleep
  • Respect for the baby’s sleep space – No matter how curious, encourage your toddler not to wake up their sibling.
  • Teaching gentle interactions
  • Supervised playtime
  • No climbing on the crib
  • No sleeping with the baby, stick to your bed.

Creating a shared space

Privacy and alone time seem to fly out the window when kids share a room. For your baby, it may not be a significant issue, but for your toddler, it will be bothersome. 

Toddlers often value their personal space. Sharing a room may require teaching the concept of boundaries and respecting each other’s space.

To alleviate this, try to create a personal area for each one.

Designing a functional layout

Two kids should mean two of everything. A crib and a bed (that’s obvious), but also, two dressers, if you have the room, don’t forget to give your toddler a nightstand. 

Having each child on either side of the room will add to the feeling of private space, and minimizes nighttime noise. 

Some parents take innovation a step further by hanging a curtain down the center of the room. When it’s open, it’s time for company but when it’s closed each child will get a separate, private area.

Personalizing Their Own Spaces

To give your toddler a sense of ownership, allow them to decorate and organize their side of the room. For your baby, you have free reign to decorate it to your heart’s content. You’ll want to ensure that everything you need is easily accessible.

It may not be coordinated, or even aesthetically pleasing, but it will go a long way in helping your toddler develop a sense of individuality and self-expression.

Implementing Storage Solutions

Space is often an issue when kids share a room. Invest in space-saving multifunctional furniture. Cradlewise is a mini crib that can be used for up to 2 years of age, making it a great option for small rooms.

Loft beds are a great choice for toddlers because the space under them can be utilized for desks or play areas. You could also consider daybeds as most models come with drawers built for toys or clothing.

When it comes to kids, any transition or big change will come with its fair share of challenges, so give it time. Practice makes perfect, or as close to perfect as possible. 

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to room sharing. If you feel something is not working for your kids, you can always tweak the routine to suit your family.

It may take a week or more for your kids to adjust to sharing a room and a new way of getting things done. Remember, you’ve got this! Give yourself and your little ones some grace.


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