Bedtime can be a challenging time of the day for both parents and children. Specialists agree that children need steps each night that are predictable to help them transition into sleep. Nighttime routines ease the transition by making your child feel comfortable about what to expect at the end of each day. By setting a routine, parents can allow their children to respond to cues that will help them move from playtime to bedtime more smoothly. Setting a plan can help make evenings less stressful, for everyone!
Time to Wind Down
Routines for bedtime begin in the evening before your child’s head even touches the pillow. It is suggested that transitions to sleep are more difficult if the activities leading up to bedtime are high energy, such as running around or even watching TV shows or movies that are high action. Begin to lower your child’s activity level and prepare for relaxation through quiet play.
Create the Bedtime Plan
The idea is to have a bedtime routine that works best for your child. This routine will set the foundation of events that you and your child can consistently follow in the same order each evening. As your child grows, the actual routine is likely to change, but the basics will remain the same.
There is not one routine that is going to work for all children and families. Bedtime routines should be a combination of what is practical and personally preferred. So parents, keep this in mind and decide what is going to be best suited for your child. What matters most is that the routine is consistent.
Depending on your child’s age, verbal cues and reminders of steps might not be beneficial. The use of visual charts or checklists are suggested so children can see what is coming next. The process of creating a routine can be interactive and can provide an opportunity for your child to be involved in “owning” his/her bedtime. This also helps to instill a sense of responsibility in your child. The intention is that as children grow, they will be able to go through the checklist with less and less facilitation and be able to complete the bedtime routine on their own.
Again, there is not a one size fits all routine! Below are some suggestions of options to consider in the creation of your child’s bedtime routine.
Activities to Consider in a Bedtime Routine:
- Cleaning up: Have your child put away toys or help clean up play areas from the day. This can help signal and provide a cue that playtime is over.
- Snack: Depending on dinnertime or what parent’s prefer, a light snack and drink before bed can help satisfy nightly hunger.
- Preparation for tomorrow: Part of the routine could include preparing for the next day. This could be setting out lunch box, picking out clothes, or gathering school materials. (This makes the morning run a little smoother too-BONUS!)
- Bath time: A warm bath helps regulate your child’s temperature and can help signal relaxation to induce sleepiness.
- Brushing Teeth: This is important for your child’s hygiene and can be another step in the ending the day process.
- Pajamas: Having your child pick out the pajamas for the each night can be fun activity. However, parents should try to limit their child’s pajama options to two or three choices so that it does not become a daunting task.
- Picking out books: Let your child choose a book or two, again establish the number of books they can choose so you can avoid the “ one more book please.”
- Reading: Reading of books should be done in the child’s sleep environment
- Bedtime yoga: There are benefits to nightly yoga for children. These relaxation stretches and movements help your child’s body wind down.
- Quiet music: Music can be played while the child is going through other steps or can be played quietly as the child drifts off into sleep. Some children have difficulty falling asleep if it is too silent, quiet music can be a great way to provide some background noise and it is suggested that the music have no lyrics.
- Picking favorite stuffed animal or doll: Your child may have a favorite teddy bear or doll they prefer, this can be comforting to have when falling asleep.
If parents take turns with bedtimes, they should have a similar style as to continue with the routine. While this does not mean parents need to follow identical scripts, response styles should be similar. If you have more than one child, it is suggested that bedtimes be staggered in time. This way, each child can benefit from a calming story or goodnight cuddle. It might also be a good idea for parents to switch off in their roles in the bedtime routine, that way each parent will get some alone-time with each child before the day is over. Once in bed, keep the lights low. Saying “goodnight” should be short and could include talking about how the day went or what is going on tomorrow. Telling your child something he or she did during the day that you were pleased with will help to send your child off to sleep on a positive note!
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!