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We’ve all seen the sitcoms where the parent is putting the child to bed about a hundred times. The excuses range from one more drink of water to one more bedtime kiss.
The reality is that at the end of a long day getting up over and over to put a child back to bed can be exhausting. So, what is the key to a successful bedtime? And by successful, I mean nurturing parental moments before the child drifts off to sleep in their own bed. Is there a magical formula for the transition to sleep?
First let’s talk about the why. Children between the ages of 5 and 12 need 10-11 hours of sleep (toddlers and babies need 12 hours).
Scientist believe that while we sleep, the brain sorts through and stores information, replaces chemicals, and solves problems. Sleep also boosts our immune system and helps with growth in young children. So, fitting in all those hours of sleep is important.
Being consistent with bed time and wake time will ensure that children get all those hours of sleep. It also sets a routine and children function best with a regular routine. Studies have shown that early and regular bedtimes help with behavior issues in school and at home.
1. This might seem like a no-brainer, but we should mention that screen time (TV, computer, video games) should end about a half hour before the bedtime routines. The light emitted from these devices signal awake time to our brain. By eliminating this type of light, our brain starts to get ready to sleep.
2. Baths or showers are another routine that can help with bedtime. It’s a relaxing activity that slows a child down and gets them ready for sleep. Kids are so busy and active during the day that taking a bath or shower is not only practical in removing dirt, but it also winds them down before bed.
3. Personal hygiene activities like brushing teeth, flossing, brushing hair, etc. are also helpful. Little ones like routine and if we learn from an early age that it’s ‘bath then brushing teeth then bed,’ their brains will anticipate what’s next.
4. Another seemingly obvious routine is putting on pajamas. But, there’s something comforting about wearing soft stretchy cotton. We wouldn’t put jeans on before bed and we also wouldn’t wear our pajamas to work. So, the brain associates pajamas with sleep. Our kids are getting comfy and getting ready for some shut-eye.
5. Music is an optional routine. We start playing soothing music around our house at bed time. Our kids are like Pavlov’s dogs when it comes to their music. You can see their eyes get heavy when it starts to play. We even bring their music when we travel so the bedtime routine stays consistent. White noise machines are also a great option for consistent bed time sounds.
We aren’t robots and neither are our kids. Sometimes just going through the motions of routines doesn’t help us in falling asleep. After the kids are tucked in their beds, we have some meaningful quiet time.
For our family, this is praying with the kids. This is a time to thank God for what we have and also lift up our friends and family in need. Bedtime is also a great place to establish a chatting spot with your kids. This is something that will pay off as they get older.
If it’s a consistent habit to have meaningful conversation before bed, they’ll know they can always share with us in this special place. Snuggling and reading books are also rituals that toddlers will especially appreciate. It’s that safe feeling that wraps around them before they fall asleep.
We have covered a lot about sleep and I know that kids don’t always ease into sleep. Sometimes there will be tantrums and sometimes there will be numerous trips to carry them back to bed.
But, remember you’re building a foundation for healthy sleep. When we see all the benefits, how can we not do all we can to help our kids get in every minute of sleep they need.
Now it’s your turn – what techniques have found work best for getting your littles to sleep?
P.S. For more info. on winding down before sleep, check out our post: