Bedtime can be both the best and worst part of the day for parents. We look forward to our kids going to sleep so we can get things done around the house, spend time with our significant other or have a little alone time, but we know that putting our kids to bed can be a battle.
One thing that can help take the frustration out of bedtime is a consistent routine. Toddlers can experience many sleep issues that prevent them from getting the rest they need. A bedtime routine can help ease the transition from being awake to sleeping peacefully.
Why a bedtime routine is important
A bedtime routine is important because humans love routine. It makes us feel safe and in control of our lives. Children especially like to be able to predict what’s going to happen next. Not only that, but sleep is one the most important factors in your child’s healthy development – right up there with healthy eating and physical activity. A bedtime routine helps your child get to sleep faster which gives them more quality sleep each night.
A bedtime routine allows your child to wind down from the day’s activities. Even if they are running around and playing right up until bedtime, once the routine begins they know that the pace is slowing down, the day is over, and it’s time to sleep.
If the same routine happens every night, your child knows what to expect. There is less of a chance of arguments, negotiations, and bribes if the bedtime routine doesn’t change.
When we don’t stick to our bedtime routine, we see immediate consequences. My daughter will become grouchy, stay awake much later than usual, and sometimes throw tantrums. It will take a few days of doing the routine again to get her back into the groove.
Before setting up a bedtime routine with your child, ask yourself these questions:
- What does your routine or lack of routine look like now?
- What parts of the current routine go smoothly? (e.g. reading books, putting on pajamas)
- What parts of the current routine are pain points? (e.g. brushing teeth, leaving the room)
- At what time are you starting your current routine?
- At what time are you finishing your current routine?
- What activities soothe or relax your child?
- What activities make your child energetic or argumentative?
Setting up a routine
Figuring out what works best for your child is a trial and error process. Younger children may need a nightly bath to wind down while older kids may benefit from an invigorating shower in the morning instead. Some kids may like to read for 20 minutes while others may prefer to listen to soft music or hear a lullaby.
You can customize your child’s bedtime routine using some of the activities below:
- Dimming lights or turning them off entirely and using nightlight
- Picking out and reading books
- Story telling
- Talking about high and low points of the day or sharing what they’re grateful for
- Rocking in a chair together or snuggling in bed
- Bath or shower
- Brushing teeth
- Picking out and putting on pajamas
- Soft singing/lullaby
- Essential oil on feet (lavender is relaxing)
- Backrub or massage
- Yoga or stretching
- Meditation or deep breathing
One thing that should not be a part of a bedtime routine is screen time. The blue light emitted by devices affects the levels of melatonin the brain produces. In fact, light is the most powerful cue for the circadian clock that helps our bodies tell the difference between day and night. Aim for no screens at least 30 minutes before bed.
Our bedtime routine for a three year old
We have used a variation of this routine since our daughter was four months old.
This routine starts around 7:00 pm and takes approximately 25-35 minutes.
Step 1: Pick up toys in living room, put stickers on behavior chair, and head upstairs for bedtime routine
Step 2: Bath, lotion and hair brushing and drying
Step 3: Teeth brushing
Step 4: Reading (Three books of her choice)
**Step 5: Hugs and kisses to other parent
Step 6: Pull-up, potty and drink of water
Step 7: Read one book in bed
Step 8: Kisses, hugs, nightlight on, light off, goodnight at door
**Step 5 only happens if both parents are home when the bedtime routine starts.
We stick to this routine every night. We have used a variation of it while traveling. We also gave this routine to the inlaws to use while we were in the hospital having our second child and it worked perfectly.
If you haven’t been keeping up a regular bedtime routine with your child, you should give it a try! Sticking to a routine can help eliminate some of the bedtime power struggles. More sleep for your child means more time to decompress for you. Everyone in your home will benefit from a bedtime routine.
You may also like:
Transitioning from a Crib to a Toddler Bed
Common Toddler Sleep Problems and How to Fix Them
Calming Breathing Techniques for Toddlers
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