Bedtime doesn’t need to be a battle. Nighttime routines can help kids transition from the waking world to the quiet night peacefully and easily. But it doesn’t need to be boring. Some of the best-loved family traditions and cherished memories are made when preparing for bed. Here’s how to make your bedtime fun for the whole family.
Create a cozy sleep space:
Allow your toddler some choices in pajamas or sheets and blankets. Having a bedroom they’ve helped plan can give them a sense of ownership and an investment in the sleep area. Would your child do best with a few stuffed animals or a special pillow? These items can be a “security blanket” for your child.
Create a routine:
Kids thrive on structure and routine. If they know what to expect at bedtimes, you’ll have less of a hassle on a day-to-day basis. Your family’s bedtime routine might include:
- Ambience – Turn off the television, dim the lights and play some quiet music. The more calm the setting, the more likely your child is to start winding down.
- Bath – a warm bath – maybe with some soothing scented water or wash – makes a good transition
- Snack – You’ll want to time this right – the best time for a bedtime snack is about an hour before lights out. Avoid any sugary snacks, or those containing caffeine. Carbs will trigger the release of sleep inducing hormones, crackers, whole grain bread, or dairy products. Don’t forget to have your child brush his teeth afterwards!
- Reading – start a tradition of reading to your child every night before bed. When they get older, you may want to have a set number of minutes for independent silent reading before lights out. You can even tuck into bed with your child and read a few pages of your favorite book!
- Final bathroom break – if your child is potty trained (or is in the process), take one last opportunity to got to the bathroom before bed. If your little one is still in diapers, check to see if you need to do one last changing. A comfortable baby is more likely to stay asleep.
- Talking about the day – Don’t be afraid to lay with your child as they are dozing off. Talk about the good and bad things that happened that day, or what they are hoping will happen the next day. Some of the best conversations with your kids will happen laying side by side in a quiet dark room.
No matter what routine you create, make sure it’s calm. This isn’t a time for roughhousing or jumping around.
Avoid bedtime battles by sticking to your routine. When children know what to expect half the battle is won. Be sure your child is getting enough daytime exercise. Sometimes just an afternoon of playing in the sunshine can create an easier sleep time.
Create some fun:
Occasional fun-time bedtime routines as your children get older might include …
- Indoor camping: Throw some sleeping bags on the floor, make a fire in the fireplace or turn on lanterns around the room, and camp out in your living room. Tell campfire stories, sing songs, …
- Family game night: Once everyone has gotten the essentials done (bath, snack, teeth brushed, etc.), choose a game everyone will enjoy. Board games and card games should be short, fun (the 3-hour Monopoly game may not be the best choice), and age-appropriate.
- Family movie time: Choose a movie together, and once everyone is bathed and ready for bed, snuggle on the couch and watch the film together. Dim the lights and share some popcorn.
- Pajama walk: Get everyone in their pajamas, and take a walk around the neighborhood. Your child can expend any excess energy, and arrive home ready for bed. Even a baby in a stroller will usually be ready for sleep after a quick walk, and you’ll sleep better after a little exercise and fresh air.
Written by Michelle, childbirth instructor, lactation consultant, and mother to 4 busy kids
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2016. All rights reserved.