Bedtimes routines are an essential cue to a child’s mind and body that sleep is drawing near. They can be implemented as early as day one, though most parents find it easier to begin them after things have calmed down a bit. Whether you already have a bedtime routine, or are looking to start one, it’s doesn’t hurt to see what is suggested and what you should know about creating one!
Duration: Routines should be anywhere between 20-30 minutes, though no longer than 45 minutes. Anything longer than 30 minutes and your child will begin to lose interest, get cranky, and start to give you a hard time. The only time when 45 minutes is acceptable is when a bath is included as part of the bedtime routine.
Where: At least some of the routine should take place where the child sleeps, whether that be their own bedroom, a shared room with a sibling, or mom and dad’s room for those that co-sleep. This lets them know that bedtime is near and that their room is a comfortable and nice place to be and spend time in. Remember to keep stimulation to a minimum by keeping the lights and voices low during this relaxing time!
Consistency: It is important to keep the routine consistent night after night so that your child feels secure in knowing what activity is next. Toddlers and preschoolers especially take great comfort in predictability. Like babies, they thrive on consistency and do much better with going to sleep when they know what is expected. Now that’s not to say that if you forget to read a story or sing a particular song one night that your child won’t go to sleep for you, but the more consistent you are with your routine, the more consistent your child will be with going to sleep for you without much of a fuss.
Creating a key phrase: Most parents have a short phrase that they already say every night to let the child know that it’s time for bed. Maybe you say “it’s sleepy time”, “it’s bedtime”, or “it’s nighty-night time”. Whatever your phrase, be consistent with it and continue to say each and every night, and also for naps, no matter what age your child is. While young children may not understand what you’re saying, they can begin to learn the sounds and tone of your voice when you say it and will come to realize that it’s associated with going to sleep. So if you don’t have one currently, then now’s a great time to introduce one!
What should be included in your routine? You should only include enjoyable activities in your bedtime and nap routines that will be performed every night and day, like feeding and reading stories. Do not include baths unless they’re given nightly and your child enjoys them.
Example bedtime routine:
6:45 pm Bath time
7:00 pm Pajamas
7:05 pm Story or two, songs
7:20 pm Nursing, bottle, or sippy cup/snack
7:30 pm In crib/bed, sleepy but awake!
Naptime routine: You’re probably thinking, “What? I’m supposed to do a naptime routine, too?” YES! A shortened version of the bedtime routine (say feeding, book, bed), along with saying your key phrase, helps to give your child those same essential cues that it’s time for sleep.
As you can see, creating a bedtime (and naptime) routine is easy to do, and it should be pleasant for both children and parents! This is meant to be a quiet time where you can peacefully enjoy your child’s company, and it’s certainly a great way to end your day with him/her!
If you’d like to learn more about what you can do to help your child sleep fantastically through the night, please register for my FREE “Sleeping Through the Night” webinar next Thursday, July 24th at 9pm. You will learn about the importance of sleep and the 7 important things you can do right now to get your child sleeping independently! Go to http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=EA58DF88814A31 to register for this free, informational webinar!
Or if you need more help with your little one’s sleep issues, contact me through my website at www.sleeptasticsolutions.com for a free 15-min phone evaluation where you can tell me more about your child’s sleep issues!