As the kids get bigger, they have more sporting commitments, play dates, readers, homework and sometimes it's easy to skip the bedtime routine... it’s just 'get them into bed asap!'
It’s understandable to think that because it’s late and they’re tired, they will sleep. But whisking them from play/ activity to bedtime can actually deprive them of the very cues they need to make it smoothly into sleep.
Following the same routine nightly actually makes it physically easier for your child to fall asleep by giving their body cues to secrete hormones that induce sleep. If your child knows you're a stickler for the rules, they’re less likely to stall and delay, making bedtime smoother and more pleasant all around.
Below are my top 12 bedtime routines to help your kids sleep and stay asleep. Do as many or as few as you have time for. Often, we only have time for the bare essentials, but it’s really special when we’ve had the energy to successfully turn the evening witching hour into something quite magical.
- Bath time: Aim for a warm soak, rather than a crazy splashing.
- Brush teeth: This goes without saying really for health reasons, but over time it will also help to send their body "go to sleep" signals
- Wash face: More signals to tell your little one it's time to sleep.
- Toilet time and glass of water: One last chance to use the toilet before bed and to fill up a small glass of water. Having water bedside will help ward off requests for water later.
- Pick out pyjamas: Give your child a feeling of control over bedtime by letting them choose their pjs, but don’t let it become a delay tactic.
- Pick out books: Again, they’re in charge. Let them choose two or three books for you or for them to read.
- Story time: Read to your child or if they’re old enough, have them read to you. Avoid the "one more story" plea by establishing ahead of time how many books you'll read.
- Talk quietly: Chat about the day or engage in some creative thinking, like, have them "pick a dream" to decide what they’ll dream about tonight.
- Lullaby: Quietly sing or hum your child's favourite song or lullaby. My son recalls a French sleeping song we used to play in the car on long journeys when we lived in the UK. It still makes his eyelids heavy when he hears it now.
- Thanks or Prayer: This can range from a few simple words giving thanks, to a formal religious prayer.
- Say goodnight: To each other, the moon, the stars, the teddy bear… let your child lead the way.
- Snuggle and cuddle: Tuck them in and kiss them goodnight so you can both go to bed feeling warm and fuzzy. My youngest insists on a nose kiss every night.
What bedtime routines would you add to this list?