We’re often asked by parents how important bedtime routines really are. And the answer is very!
An important part of the bedtime routine is to find a consistent routine you can stick to. It should be a routine that works for you and your family – especially if you have more than one child – and it shouldn’t be too long, if it is, the sleepy little person you are putting to bed may well find their ‘second wind’ and bedtime will become even more of a battle.
Ideally you should spend some time winding down downstairs doing some hand eye coordination activities. You could try a crinkly book if you have a very little one, rolling a ball to each other if you have say a 9 month old, or perhaps a puzzle, duplo or sticker book if you have a toddler. If your child is older they could do some Lego or talk to you about any anxieties they might have from the day. You could also ask them to write in a journal, like a Happy Self journal, which is good for promoting mindfulness. No television or iPads; the light these devices give is enough to stimulate children and prevent their little bodies from preparing for bed. Any TV or screens can be used earlier in the day, but not as part of their bedtime routine. Then move upstairs for around 20-30 minutes. If your little one is under three, your routine can include a short bath, putting pyjamas on, a feed (if your little one still has one before bed) and stories or a song. If your child is older, they could still have a bath and then read a story together. If they find it hard to get to sleep, you could try doing some mindfulness together, or some breathing relaxation or stretching exercises.
The important thing is to put your child into their cot or bed awake. If you feed, rock or snuggle them to sleep, you may be creating problems for later down the line – or later in the night.
Children absolutely thrive on knowing what comes next. It helps them feel safe and secure. Toddlers who try to push the boundaries with “one more story” or “I’m thirsty” are likely seeing what they can get away with. And the truth is, they just aren’t equipped to deal with the responsibility of their parents giving into their demands and it makes them feel really unsettled – and that’s when bedtime can get out of hand.
Without a consistent routine, children feel anxious, but not only that, they don’t know where the boundaries are. That, in turn, provokes more anxiety, which prevents them being able to sleep. You’re more likely to need to intervene to help them to get to sleep and so bedtime and overnight turns into a vicious circle.
Keep your bedtime routine the same every night – even when you’re away from home – and the main thing is to enjoy it together. If it is becoming a fight or your little one is already overtired by the time bedtime comes around please get in touch, we’d love to help you sort out your sleep issues and help you all get more sleep.