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Bedtime Routines for Kids: 10 Tips for Success

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Sleep is probably one of the toughest issues we face as parents. So many different issues come up… one last drink of water, having the right stuffed animal, it’s too hot/cold, too light/dark. Seems like these funny little ones can think of hundreds of reasons to prolong going to sleep. So how do we handle this as parents? Over the years, I’ve found that having a consistent bedtime routine has been crucial in getting my children to sleep with very little fuss. Find out how to build a bedtime routine that works for your family below.
We recently got a copy of Jonathan London’s new book, Sleep Train, to review from Penguin Young Readers. It’s such a sweet book with lulling rhymes and dreamy illustrations that follows a little boy’s journey to sleep. It’s the perfect book to incorporate into children’s bedtime routines.

Do you need help getting your child on the Sleep Train? Use these tips below to create a successful bedtime routine for your family.

Keep on Schedule
To start off, find out how much sleep your children need for their current stage of development. You can find that information out here. To determine what sleep and wake up times work best for your child, you can keep a sleep journal in a notebook. Note what time they start to get tired, irritable, or rub their eyes. Go back 30 minutes and that’s the time to start your nighttime routine.  You can also keep track of any sleep issues that present themselves in the sleep journal. These can be sleep apnea/snoring, night terrors, bad dreams, bedwetting, etc. These issues may be ones to address with your child’s doctor for help and treatment.

Clean and Comfy clothes
Daily baths aren’t something that works for every family. However, I’ve found that even a quick 10 minute shower does wonders to help kids relax and unwind. After they’re clean, they put on comfy pajamas. Try to stick with nonsynthetic fibers to allow breathability as they sleep. Long sleeved cotton pajama sets with pants are great for cool months. And t-shirts with shorts keep kids cool in warmer months.

Limit technology after bathtime, or for the 30-60 minutes before bed. The National Sleep Foundations suggests this technique to allow children’s brains to reset from the stimulation that technological devices provides.This stimulation prevents the brain from being able to fall/stay asleep.

Read a Book
One of the cornerstones of a strong bedtime routine is reading. You can read picture books to younger children or have older readers read aloud to you. Reading a book before bed helps children to calm down, focus, and relax. Snuggling together over a book allows children to reconnect with their parents after a long day of daycare/preschool/school. Read about the other benefits here. Check out this ultimate list of picture books for kids and this list of great chapter books for older readers.

Last Call
Prevent those bedtime requests for a little snack or “one last drink of water” by having a set snack time. Avoid too much liquids and foods that are too heavy. Many may opt to do this in conjunction with reading a book.

Bathroom Checklist
Brush teeth. Go potty. Wash hands. Not only does this provide children with reinforcement of good dental hygiene, one last pit stop negates any need to get up out of bed for a bathroom trip soon after being tucked in.

Snuggle Up

Bedtime can often bring about feelings of loneliness or insecurity for children as they are tucked in their beds, alone in their rooms. Help them to find a favorite stuffed animal, doll, or blanket to snuggle with. Sometimes, children may need a little extra reassurance. It’s times like these that they can be given one of mom or dad’s shirts to snuggle with. Sometimes just the scent of their mommy/daddy can help them to feel more safe and secure.

The Right Noises
There’s something about white noise that can help people of all ages to fall asleep and stay asleep. There are white noise machines that you can buy. But I’ve found that a fan on the floor (to avoid cool drafts) can provide a great source for white noise to help drown out ambient sounds from outside and around the house.

Ceremony of Love
I have a “routine” that I go through with each of my children when I tuck them in. For both, we say prayers and talk about what we’re thankful for that day. Then comes the eloquent dance of hugs, kisses, special handshakes, secret phrases, etc. For each child, it is different and directed by them. Then I tell them something wonderful about them. I feel it’s important that those moments before they drift off to sleep are filled with nurturing, closeness, and feeling good about themselves.

Stick With It
Sleep routines can be hard to get started, especially if you live a busy lifestyle or have reluctant sleepers. But consistency is key. And some kiddos will try to wear you down. They’ll ask for another drink after they’ve already had one. Or beg for “just one more book”. Although, it’s up to parents to analyze what needs their child has with these demands, I will say that “giving in” will only set precedence for similar requests.

You can find other resources on children and sleep here.
Storytelling: Bedtime Routine for Reluctant Children

And then some candid posts here and here.

Are you a co-sleeper? Get reassurance here.

You aren’t alone in your sleep struggles. Please feel free to message me at any time.

Disclaimer: This post and its contents should not be construed as medical advice. These suggestions should only be used on children that display developmental ability and readiness for such techniques.

Andie Jaye

Andie Jaye is a former preschool teacher turned stay-at-home mom of 3 kiddos. Her blog, Do.Play.Learn., (formerly named Crayon Freckles), focuses on creative learning and play ideas, as well as parenting topics. Andie strives to be honest in her approach and experiences in parenting to let other moms know that they are not alone in their struggle. In her free time, she writes children’s books in hopes of publishing someday.

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