Bedtime routines and rituals are important for most children in establishing positive sleep patterns and in developing a sense of security and stability. Establishing a bedtime routine can also provide predictability and a comforting, familiar pattern. It will teach a child to calm down, relax and get ready to sleep.
Some parents are uncomfortable with cry-it-out methods and some (including myself) still practice bed-sharing. It’s not impossible to create a healthy bedtime routine without tears or having your child sleep in their own bed before they are ready. These 4 secrets can be applied to any sleeping arrangement:
Set a reasonable bedtime.
Choose a time that provides your child with an ample amount of sleep and one in which you can consistently provide. Take into account necessary activities such as daycare pick-up, supper and play but also remember that later bedtimes may create tired, cranky children. The saying goes, “A child that goes to bed early wakes up early and a child that goes to bed late wakes up early.”
Incorporate activities that are relaxing for your child.
Not every standard calming technique works for every child. For example, if bathing is stimulating or frightening for your child, it is probably a better idea to do it at another time of day rather than right before you want your child to calm down and go to sleep.
Keep the routine short and sweet.
It should realistically only consist of four to six steps that can be completed in a reasonable time frame, not drawn out into hours on end each night. Reading a favorite book, brushing teeth, having a glass of water and singing a song can all be calming, soothing activities for a young child to perform each night routinely. Hugging and kissing family members is usually also an integral part of the process.
Use visual schedules.
Making understandable and structured visual patterns can assist the routine by providing reminders and consistency. Draw or print out the routine using simple pictures that your child can follow along with it. If you feel like getting fancy, you can laminate it and have your child use a whiteboard marker to check off the routine as they complete it.
There are those nights or times when circumstances prevent your child from getting to bed at their usual time. Be sure not to shortchange this process when this happens, but keep in mind that each step can be shortened significantly in order to prevent long frustrations at a time when everyone is tired.
Establishing healthy bedtime routines is a crucial part of your child’s development. If left to their own devices, most children would rather stay up half the night so as to not miss anything – it is up to us, as parents, to create these habits and encourage our children to adopt healthy sleep patterns. This can be done through consistent and calming bedtime routines.