6 Ways to Build a Bedtime Routine
Crying, begging to stay up late, asking for food, drinks, or one more story – bedtime can be a struggle for parents and children at any age! Family routines can help, but it is often difficult to know where to start. Start working with your child tonight and use these 6 great tips to really design a bedtime routine that works for the whole family!
1. Prepare for the routine during the day
Make sure kids are not napping too late. A toddler typically needs 6 hours of afternoon wake time before being able to settle down again for bedtime, and a nap at 4:30 in the afternoon would set that time at 10:30pm! Try to plan ahead and set nap or quiet times at the appropriate hours. Also be sure to feed children a meal or snack earlier in the evening that will carry them through the night. Your best bet – a combination of protein and carbohydrates, such as string cheese and a piece of whole wheat toast.
2. Establish the right environment
Bright screens, loud noises, video games, movies, and other distractions all spell trouble when it comes to falling asleep. Variations in light can also interrupt sleep patterns once a child does get to sleep. If a night light is needed for nighttime trips to the restroom or keeping “monsters” at bay, select one that is dimmer and less likely to keep a child up if he or she wakes in the night.
3. Offer simple choices
Children, particularly toddlers, have a tendency to do the opposite of what adults ask of them. They have so little control over things that they constantly seek things they can choose – so why not bring that into your routine and thereby remove some of the “battle?” You might try choices like:
One book or two?
Green pajamas or yellow?
Bubble gum toothpaste, or mint?
Lullaby music, or no music?
Come up with some ideas for your child that fall within your own limits for bedtime.
4. Resist the “stay with me” pout
No matter how puppy-eyed your child gets, don’t make a habit of lying down with or rocking he or she if you want them to be able to put themselves back to sleep in the night. Learning to fall asleep on their own will help them soothe themselves if they wake and keep them from crawling into bed with mom and dad!
5. Consistency is the real key
No matter how you look at it, consistency is the only real way to make bedtime work. You’ve got to commit to your routine and do it every night. If a child gets out of bed, you’ve got to put them back – over and over again! Giving in when things get hard will land you right back where you began.
6. Other useful ideas for “cracking a tough egg”
- Provide a transitional object like a pacifier, stuffed animal, blankie, etc. can continue to comfort a child after mom and dad have left the room.
- Practice and role play your routine – help your child understand their new routine by doing some role playing during the day, long before bedtime. Take turns “putting each other to bed” or show them how to go through the routine by practicing on a doll.
- Include some time for a “wind-down chat” with your child. Kids need time to release their thoughts and emotions at some point during the day, and a quiet few minutes with mom or dad in the evening can be just the thing to get them to sleep without all the “what if’s” running through their minds.
- Older children may benefit from a “you decide” type of bedtime. If the bedtime routine is not getting them to the point where they can fall asleep quickly, there is another method you can try. Go through your routine, take them to the bedroom, and let them know that they can play or read quietly until they feel tired. Let them know that they must stay in their room, however, and if the play becomes noisy or they leave the bedroom, it’s “lights out” immediately.
- Say goodnight to people and objects around your home. As in the book Goodnight Moon, sometimes it is helpful to tell everything else it’s time for bed before actually going to bed yourself!
Looking for more great parenting ideas? Try these tips for How to Help Your Toddler Listen!
Featured image via Better Homes Gardens.
Kayla Lilly is a photographer, writer, wife, and mama making a house a home in eastern Idaho. She met her mister while working at an amusement park and married him a year later after deciding there was no way to live without him. The amusement has continued as they’ve added three kids and a passel of pets to their lives while finishing college and starting a photography business. Drawing inspiration from the whirlwinds of marriage, parenthood, and the media, Kayla blogs at Utterly Inexperienced, and spends the rest of her time chasing chickens, organizing junk drawers, diapering toddlers, and photographing everyone willing to step in front of her lens.