A predictable bedtime routine is key to a successful going-to-bed part of the day. It sets the stage for your child to sleep, and we all know how important good sleep is – for your child and for you. A consistent routine not only helps your child know what to expect and takes the guesswork out of bedtime for parents who are themselves ready for wind-down, but it also aids in signaling to your child’s body that it’s time to settle down.
Here are some healthy components to incorporate into any variation of a bedtime routine.
A painless bedtime starts before the actual routine even begins. When the late afternoon hits, try to limit screen time and activities that might wind your children up. (Active playtime to tire them out should come before this period of time.) Consider getting even young children into the habit of going around the house with you and picking up things that aren’t where they belong. This can help both prepare for the day ahead and begin the transition into calmer evening activities.
Bath or shower time serves a dual purpose. Of course, it gets your child clean from the day’s sweat and dirt. But warm water can also help prime the body for relaxation. A bubble bath with a few drops of lavender essential oil or vanilla scented soap can further support relaxation and is an activity that clearly sends the message that bedtime is around the corner. And don’t forget getting teeth clean! Consider brushing teeth right after a bath (or even before) so that everything that needs to be done in the bathroom is done, minimizing the back-and-forth between rooms.
Setting the mood
Setting the mood includes making sure that even an hour or two before bedtime, lights are dimmed and there are no wild activities going on. But setting the mood can also mean a little bit of a parent’s silliness. Consider incorporating a fun ritual like an “I’m gonna get you” chase before bath time. While this may seem counterintuitive if you’re trying to cut down on rowdiness, the laughter and instant bonding that happens will set the tone for both parent and child for the rest of the routine.
Taking care of business
If your child is potty-trained, make sure to remind them to use the toilet before they get in bed. Also ask them if they need a little drink of water and remind them gently that now, not after they're in bed, is the acceptable time to take care of their thirst. This should help cut down on getting out of bed, which is patience-draining for any parent.
Winding down together
Spending a bit of time together before the separation of the night can help make Baby feel safe and secure, which in turn should help them wind down more quickly and fall asleep more easily. Rocking them in a chair with a lullaby and a favorite blanket, reading a book together, or a backrub in bed are all soothing ways to say goodnight. Let them talk to you if they need to. Freeing their little mind and heart from the troubles or triumphs of the day will also help them ease into restfulness.
Leaving while they're still awake
Try to leave your child while they are still awake so that they can fall asleep on their own. This way, when they wake up during their sleep cycles, they won’t have to rely on your presence to fall asleep again.
No matter the specifics of your family’s bedtime routine, keeping these six things in mind and incorporating them into your routine the way it works for you should help create a personalized bedtime routine that fosters a peaceful, effective transition into slumber.
About the author:
Shifrah lives in Tallahasse, FL with her husband, four children, two cats, and dog. In the midst of mothering and writing, she enjoys reading, lifestyle photography, sewing, going to the beach, and documenting it all in pocket scrapbooks. She drinks her coffee black.