Are you thinking of moving your kids into the same room? Or maybe siblings are already sharing a room and you’re looking to make things run a little smoother? I’m sharing lots of tips for siblings sharing a room along with how we transitioned our boy and girl into a shared room as toddlers.
Why I love having these siblings share a room
We transitioned our kids to a shared room after our youngest was just over one year old and we moved into a much smaller apartment. I thought the biggest benefit of the shared space would be freeing up our third bedroom but I have loved a lot of other aspects of having my kids in the same room.
Mostly, I love what it has done for their friendship. Part of the kid’s blossoming friendship is them getting older, I know, but I saw a huge development in their friendship in the weeks after we moved them into the shared space.
I love how it keeps all the kids stuff in one room in our house (well, and the bathroom) so it’s easier to clean or grab something when I need it.
I love how we spend more time altogether as a family because both kids are in a shared space. Getting dressed, cleaning up, and putting away laundry all happens altogether because they’re in the same room.
I love how much more they play together now that they’re in a shared space.
I love listening to them chat before nap time and bedtime.
I even love when they ask me to leave because they’re working on something “by themselves” in their room :).
Having kids in the same room hasn’t been without it’s challenges, but there have been so many things I love about it.
Why you should (maybe) put your kids in the same room:
Here are a few of the reasons you might consider putting your kids in the same room.
- Necessity: If you have more kids than spare bedrooms, then they’re stuck in the same room no matter what. If this is the case, keep reading for ways to make the most of it.
- Space: Right now, we live in a three bedroom apartment but we chose to have our kids share a room so we have space for an office where Ben can study and I can work. I also have friends in the same living situation who decided to have their kids share a room and make the third bedroom the playroom. Instead of having a designated space for each child, consider a designated space for each activity (play + sleep).
- Relationships: Depending on the siblings, sharing a room can be a great way to foster friendship and interaction. I have loved watching my kids grow into better friends as they’ve shared a room and I love the bond they share over “their space” (instead of “my space” and “your space”). In addition to the bond over the shared space, just having that time right before sleep to talk gives siblings a forum for more personal daily communication.
- Less anxiety: studies have shown that anxious kids sleep better with someone in the room (or even the bed) with them. As kids get older and begin to be scared of the dark, having a sibling around can act as a great source of comfort when mom and dad are in their own bedroom.
- Problem solving skills: Sharing a space teaches kids to negotiate and navigate getting along more than when siblings are in their own rooms. They often deal with more compromise and learn to work out conflict, important skills in raising happy, functional kids.
- More “you” time: Let me explain myself here. I am convinced that sharing a room is EASIER for me as a mom, most of the time. I can put the kids to bed earlier and get them up later because they spend so much time playing together. You’ll see in the transition diary below (a quick 2 week journal of our transition to a shared room) that the kids spent a lot of time playing together when they should have been sleeping. This initially meant more intervention from me and less sleep for them but with a little adjusting I found I could put them to bed a solid 45 minutes before bedtime and have time to clean up the house and unwind from the day while they kept each other company before falling asleep.
When to make the transition to a shared room:
Avoid times of change
Avoid having siblings begin room sharing right when a new baby arrives (even if they are both older siblings). When a new baby arrives there is so much in flux in a family that you should try to keep as many things stable as possible. Consider moving older siblings in together a month or two before the baby arrives and give a new big sibling a few months to adjust to the newest family member before being asked to share his sleeping space with them.
Pick a time you can lose sleep
My biggest tip is make the transition when it’s okay for everyone to lose a little bit of sleep. The week before or after a new baby arrives? Not ideal. Right before a family vacation? Not ideal. In the middle of a school or work week? Again, not ideal.
We transitioned during summer before Ben went back to school and both kids were at home with me without regular commitments in Boston yet. If you don’t have a summer break or another natural time for the transition, consider a Friday evening so you at least have two weekend days to get sleep issues sorted before the regular week starts up again. Even if both kids are at home with you, the weekend will likely mean you and your husband have a little more support + flexibility.
Problems you might face when sharing a room:
- Juggling two different bedtimes
- Keeping baby safe from older kids toys
- Giving each child the space they need (in a new shared space)
- Teaching each child appropriate roommate behavior (ie: not being loud when the other one is sleeping, never waking up the sibling)
- Kids playing instead of falling asleep
How to start the transition to sharing a room:
Explain it to both kids
Be sure to sit down and explain the change to your kids before it happens. Frame it as a fun, exciting development and help them feel included. If they aren’t eager to share rooms, consider making it more exciting by helping them decorate the space or give them control by asking if they’d like their bed “here or there?” Helping them make decisions will help them feel ownership over the situation and have them be more likely to go along with it.
Consider staggering bedtimes
I talk to a lot of moms who make sharing a room work for their kids by staggering bedtimes. It means putting the younger to bed first (or whoever falls asleep first) and then teaching the other child to be quiet when getting into bed a few minutes later.
For us, staggered bedtimes gets rid of the parts of sharing a room that I love the most so we’ve kept our kids going to bed at the same time. Adelaide usually falls asleep first and Lincoln listens to an audiobook or plays with cars in his bed for a few minutes after she’s asleep.
Care less + Put them to bed earlier
The biggest struggle with transitioning to a shared room for us was how the kids would play together after it was bedtime. It took almost two hours to get down for naps that first week and everyone was SO tired from not getting enough sleep those first few days.
I tried policing their playing initially but it was so endearing to listen to them chatting together that I just started putting them to bed earlier than I needed to, to account for the extra time they’d be playing and chatting. Sometimes we’d even put them in their beds earlier than that with books and a lamp on so they could unwind and read for a few minutes before lights out.
Now, once I put them to bed, I let them chat and play on their own until they go to sleep. The exception is when one sibling is particularly tired and I can tell they would like to go to sleep but can’t with all the commotion. In this case I step in and call for a bit of order, with my biggest threat being to have the loud child sleep in the pack ‘n play in the office. They like sleeping together so much that this usually nips behavior like this in the bud.
Some nights though, it just means the kids keep each other up later than I’d like and everyone is a bit tired the next day. But after a few weeks, things generally run pretty smoothly.
Give them some privacy
It is important for your kids to have space that is their own within this shared space. Maybe it means a high shelf for an older sibling that the baby can’t reach. Maybe it means teaching them to ask permission before climbing on the other’s bed. Maybe it means separate night stands or desks.
Right now, our kids don’t have much in the way of privacy or personal space in their room but I do try to give them time playing separately each day (one in the living room and on in their room) so they aren’t overwhelmed from always being together. I also found they get along better in a shared room when I am maintaining one on one time with each of them everyday.
For us, their beds are their only personal spaces in the room and other than their clothes, their blankets and “love books” are the only personal items. As they get bigger we’ll consider ways to differentiate toys and give each child a bit more personal space but with two toddlers, this works really well for us.
Our Shared Room Transition Diary:
Here’s a little background on our kids before I share our day-t0-day room sharing transition.
Adelaide and Lincoln were 14 months and 21 months in August when they started sharing a room. They were both sleeping in cribs. Prior to this, except a few times when traveling and the three days after each was born, they have always slept in their own space. They both sleep with white noise, blackout curtains, and security blankets.
At the time of the transition they didn’t have night lights and they didn’t fall asleep to audiobooks (now, at almost 2 years and 3.5 years, we often use both)
Tuesday, August 8 (day 1):
Put Lincoln down for a nap at 11:30.
Tried to put Adelaide down in the same room at 12:30. She cried and woke up Lincoln. I took her out, put Lincoln back to sleep. And eventually just put Adelaide down at 2:00 after Lincoln woke up.
Nighttime: We put Adelaide down first. When we thought she was asleep we put Lincoln down and she sat right up in her crib. We put both of them back down and they put themselves to sleep!
Wednesday, August 9 (day 2):
We put them down for naps at 12:30. They played. They giggled. They cried. I kept going back in when they were crying after a few minutes (every half hour or so) until THREE PM when they finally went to sleep. They woke up at 4:30.
night time – I put Adelaide in her crib at 7:20 and put Lincoln down at 7:40. They didn’t really cry but have been talking and standing for over an hour. I go in every half hour or so and lay them down and remind them it’s time to go to bed.
Thursday – Saturday, August 10-12 (days 3-5):
We visited my parents and kept them in separate rooms. They both slept well.
Saturday Night, August 12:
We got back to our apartment just in time for a quick bedtime routine. Adelaide went to bed first at 6:45and once she was quiet for 20 minutes I brought Lincoln in. I put her down first only because she was SO tired and Lincoln needed a bath.
Once I brought Lincoln in she rolled over and the two of them played and shrieked until 8:30. I went in every 20 minutes or so and asked them to lie down. At one point I got Adelaide more milk in her bottle and Lincoln water in a sippy cup.
Sunday August 13 (day 6):
Nap time on Sundays is always a mess because we have church for three hours in the afternoon. We tried putting Adelaide down first and 45 minutes into her nap it was time for Lincoln to attempt an early nap. Within three minutes he had started talking to her to wake her up. We got her up, and he napped alone in the nursery. I think next Sunday we’ll do separate rooms for naps if only because we don’t have an hour and a half for them to play and chat before falling asleep. Also, because it’s earlier naps they aren’t super tired and could easily play until it’s time to go to church (but then they are exhausted and cranky while we’re out).
nighttime: Because of the napping disaster we put them down a little before 7. They played and talked for over an hour. At one point Adelaide started screaming and had gotten her leg stuck. Lincoln was almost asleep at this point and to calm her down I got her out of her crib and brought her into the kitchen. We gave her a little more milk before she went to sleep.
Monday, August 14:
Nap time. I started Adelaide’s nap a few minutes earlier, just because I put her down with her bottle and then got Lincoln ready for his nap.
Tuesday – Friday, August 15 – 18:
naptime: play for 45-60 minutes before falling asleep
bedtime: play for 45 – 90 minutes before falling asleep I go in every 20-30 minutes and remind them to lie down, occasionally refilling a bottle of milk or a sippy of water.
Sunday, August 20 :
slept in separate rooms at moms house and napped in separate rooms before church
Monday, August 21:
napped in separate rooms at moms house – put in cribs in the same room at 6:15 pm – everything quiet by 7pm. I went in once to give adelaide more milk. they just played and put themselves to bed.
Average Day, the following June, 10 months later:
Adelaide wakes up first, around 6:15 am and I give her a cup of milk and some books in her crib. By 6:45 Lincoln is usually also up and playing in his room. He’s since been transitioned to a toddler bed so sometimes he’ll come out of his room. At this point I’ll walk him back to his room, explaining that it isn’t 7 am so it’s still time to be sleeping. I ask them if they’d like to sleep or play and they choose play. I get Adelaide out of her crib (asking if she’d rather play in her crib or her room and she always picks room). I let them play until just after 7 when I get them for breakfast.
For naptime now, Lincoln has almost entirely stopped napping so we’ll put them both in their room at about noon. Adelaide with a cup of milk and Lincoln with some designated toys for quiet time. I will put up the black out curtain (that only partially works), turn on the white noise, and also turn on an audiobook. Usually Adelaide falls asleep and Lincoln plays quietly. If they keep each other up playing I’ll ask Lincoln to read books in his bed until Adelaide is asleep. We might consider letting Lincoln do quiet time in the living room or have Adelaide nap in a pack n play in our bedroom so that Lincoln is free to be a bit louder during quiet time and I don’t risk Adelaide waking up.
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