Know the 6 components of and effective bedtime routine to help bedtime go more smoothly in your home. Putting your child to bed can be the positive experience you want it to be! You want more out of the last encounter of the day with your child and I am here to help you.
Setting up realistic expectations
As your child matures they will inevitably have nights where they will struggle with sleep. Significant changes in your family’s daily routines like getting sick, a parent being away on a trip, sleeping away from home and changes to daycare or school schedules can cause your child to struggle with sleep.
Having extra patience with our children during big changes will help them transition more quickly back to their normal sweet selves at bedtime. Once life settles down, or the worst of their cold symptoms subside, go back to being consistent with your bedtime routine. When life gets hard and changes happen, maintaining predictable routines will help your child to feel safe and secure.
If everything is relatively normal and no major life changes come to mind, take a look at your routine before bedtime. Let’s break down the 6 components of effective bedtime routines:
1 Consistent start time
It is a good idea to put your child down at the same time every night. If it has been a very busy day or you know they didn’t sleep great the day before, put them down earlier so they get some extra sleep. Outside of special occasions and holidays I do not recommend putting your child to bed late. A child who has gained their second wind has a harder time going to sleep. A consistent bedtime sends a clear message that there is a certain time everyday we go to sleep and there is no confusion about it.
2 Consistent length
For one child, 30 minutes should be enough time to go through all the steps you need to get your child ready for bed. Putting down two or more children will increase the amount of time your routine might take. An effectively soothing routine will wind down your child’s energy so you are putting them into bed fully relaxed. If the routine takes too long they might cross over from nice and sleepy to overtired and wired.
3 Predictable steps
Organize the steps in your routine starting with the most active like brushing teeth to the least like a soothing song. Doing these steps in the same order every time will be the most effective way to help your child get ready for sleep.
4 Positive tone of voice
At bedtime you are the expert in getting your child to listen to you. The language you use to talk about getting ready for sleep will vary based on your child’s age and verbal skills, but the tone should be friendly. Children at any age will notice the tone of your voice around sleep times and adopt the behavior you model for them. When speaking about sleep with your child putting a supportive spin on things will help them to build a healthy relationship with sleep.
If your child is difficult to put to sleep, try talking about sleep with your child more often. When your child clearly says, “no! I don’t want to go to bed!” continue to guide them through the bedtime steps while respectfully acknowledging that they don’t want to go to bed. It is okay to ask them what they don’t like about sleep and talk it through with them a little bit. This will help them to feel heard and hopefully relax.
5 Encourages child participation
Once your child learns the steps in their bedtime routine, don’t be surprised if they want to take full responsibility for certain steps. They may insist on a certain book, color of pajamas, or that they be the one to turn out the light. These are all positive signs they are getting on board with the routine and want to actively participate.
6 Establishes and maintains boundaries
Between time in front of screens, driving in the car, going the park and going out to eat, children get very stimulated. Build in about 15 to 30 minutes of wind down time. This is time at home where they can decompress and settle down for bedtime. By the time you are laying them down in bed you want them to be in a calm and relaxed state. Taking the time to properly wind down should help them to follow your instructions better and fall asleep easier.
The goal for your bedtime routine is to have your child get on board and be compliant with the rules because they know what to expect and they are happy to participate in the process. If you would like more support with your child’s sleep, contact me for a free 15-minute consultation. I will help you look at your child’s sleep issues holistically. Together we will look at your child’s sleep environment, sleep patterns, behavior and communication around sleep to make a plan that will work for your family.