Gone are the days of rocking your baby to sleep, but even now that your little one is a “big kid" snuggled into his or her own bed, having a nighttime routine is just as important as ever. Establishing a routine helps set the stage for a good night's sleep for your child and for you. At its best, bedtime is a calming ritual. At its worst, it's bedlam. Learn how to avoid chaos and bring on the calm.
Choose a bedtime
Before you decide what steps bedtime will consist of, choose a realistic and sensible time for the lights to go out. If your child is school-age and has activities or homework in the evening, be sure to budget enough time to avoid a rush around.
Consider the morning
While the bedtime you choose may work at night for your family's evening schedule, don't forget about the morning. What time does your child need to wake up? Be sure that the schedule that are you planning allows for enough hours of rest. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children ages 3-5 sleep 11-13 hours a night.
The key to a successful bedtime routine is consistency. Be sure that whatever steps and rituals you incorporate into bedtime are done every night in the same sequence. We know that kids thrive on routines, and knowing what’s coming next (day or night) will set expectations and help establish calm and order.
Here are some sweet and simple bedtime routines:
Dim the lights & cut the noise
Nothing cues the body and mind to relax like low lights and quiet. Keep your home low-lit and hushed as much as possible about a half an hour before bedtime to wind down the day. Put away loud toys and limit anything that could rile your soon to be sleeper.
Offer a snack
Do your best to eliminate reasons for your kiddo to hop out of bed once you have tucked him or her in. Thwart a possible "I'm hungry/I'm thirsty" escape from the bed plan by offering a low-sugar healthy snack and drink before toothbrush time.
Read a story
Choose a book (or a few) that are quick reads before the lights go out. Having some "bedtime themed" books in your collection helps set the mood for sleep. For your older toddler or preschooler, a must have is Goodnight Moon, and for your early elementary-age child, check out Sleepy Bears.
Tell a story
It's important that children build auditory skills in addition to literacy skills. Hearing a story is a fantastic way to hone those listening skills. Tell a good old fashioned fairy tale, or go on a whim and tell an original. Either way, your sleepy one will hang on your every word.
Sing a song
Maybe your child is a budding musician or just likes to hear mom or dad croon by the bedside. If your little rocker has a favorite song or lullaby, sing or hum it quietly. Odds are he or she will remember that tune for years to come.
Have a bedtime-only comfort object
Have a special stuffed animal or blanket just for bedtime, and be sure that it is on hand before the night time routine starts. You don’t want to upturn your home searching for “Mr. Whiskers” the stuffed cat while your child waits. Be prepared by knowing where your peaceful sleeper’s favorite nighttime comfort object is.
Catch up on the day
Parents are often disappointed in a child's answer when asking the open-ended question, "How was your day?" It's a big question for a small person. Try: "Tell me one thing that was special about your day today." Ask this and other simple, direct questions for a preschooler or early elementary-age child.
End on a positive note
Each night, tell your child at least one thing that you are proud of him or her for. Mention something he or she accomplished (scored a goal), is working toward (reading new sight words), or a kind act you witnessed (sharing with a sibling). Who doesn't like drifting off to sleep hearing positive affirmations?
Want to read more about bedtime?
Be sure to read Tips for Transitioning your Toddler From Crib to Bed!
Source: National Sleep Foundation
Photo Credit: Erin G.