Sometimes I think I lucked out in the sleep department with my kids when they were babies. They were fantastic sleepers and both started sleeping through the night by six months. As they’ve gotten older though, it has become harder to actually get them to go to bed. Our youngest is two and goes to bed around 7 p.m. We let our four-and-a-half year old son read books and relax in his room until he falls asleep around 8:30 p.m. I have found that the older he gets, the harder it is for him to want to go to bed. He literally would stay up all night and play if we let him. Toddlers love routine because the predictability of knowing what comes next makes them feel safe and secure. Part of the reason why my son thrives in school is because of the set schedule that is followed daily. He knows what to expect and when changes are coming. My husband and I started practicing a bedtime routine when my son started Pre-K last summer. Here are some tips that have been working with our children to make bedtime a littler easier!
Have a family dinner together without TV, cell phones or tablets. Get your kids used to sitting and having conversations without the distraction of an electronic device. Not only does this allow everyone to be present, but also it gives you the chance to reconnect after being away from each other all day. Screens before bedtime also make you more alert and less tired which makes it harder to fall asleep. Our dinners last no more than 30 minutes and after we have all finished, we let them go in the living room and play for a bit while my husband and I clean up the kitchen. We also keep the TV off and dim lights around the house to start the transition of calming down for the night.
Brushing teeth should begin as early as 18 months when they have the majority of their teeth. This signals that mealtime and snacks are over so there is no negotiation for them later in the evening. We cut out all foods and drinks an hour before bedtime to prevent accidents. A nice, warm bath with a few drops of lavender oil definitely calms children down and eases them into bedtime. After bath time, keep your children in their rooms so they know bedtime is near and playtime is over. Try and avoid letting them play or run around, as it will only stimulate them more.
In our kids rooms they each have a white noise machine and a sound machine. I swear that as soon as I turn it on, they know bedtime has come. We get them dressed in their pajamas, brush their hair and make sure they have all the stuffed animals and blankets they need to feel comfortable. I love reading to my son at night (or letting him explain a picture book to me). It gives us a chance to connect one on one without any distractions. We lie in his bed and talk about what he had for lunch, what he learned at school, etc. Doing a few breathing exercises or yoga poses at night can also help older kids unwind and relax if they are passed the age of wanting to read a book.
Bedtime routines do not have to be boring. Make them fun by letting your child pick out a special book, his own pajamas, brushing his own teeth etc. The more independence they have, the more it won’t seem like a chore to them. Sleep associations are incredibly strong, so be sure and stick to the same routine every night if possible. Try not to make your nighttime routine too complicated. It should be simple and stress free. Besides, you don’t want to spend half of your evening pulling out elaborate tricks to get your toddler to sleep!
Do you have any tips for making bedtime a little easier? Share them in the comments below!