Kids are tough!
Whilst gorgeous, cute and totally undeniably lovable, they’re also messy, stubborn little tantrum throwers that are completely unpredictable. Every day with your child, especially if they’re a toddler, you discover there are new rules!
Peanut butter sandwiches are their favourite? Not today Daddy, they’re basically poison and should be thrown on the floor to prove that point!
Favourite toy is that weird, squeaky piglet thing? WHAT IS THIS RUBBISH MUMMY? How dare you not know that I love Green Monkey today?
**So much fun!**
Babies and toddlers are actually a lot more predictable than you think. And despite the tantrums and strange, seemingly random preferences they have each day, they LOVE routine. Yep, I dared to say something crazily controversial, but it’s true!
I’m sure you don’t yet believe me, so let’s take a look at the words written by the Raising Children Network in their article Family Routines: How and Why They Work:
“Why routines are good for children
“Some children like and need routine more than others. In general, though, routine has the following benefits for children:
- An organised and predictable home environment helps children and young people feel safe and secure.
- Routines built around fun or spending time together strengthen relationships between parents and children. Reading a story together before bed…can become a special time for you and your children to share.
- Daily routines help set our body clocks. For example, bedtime routines help children’s bodies ‘know’ when it’s time to sleep.
- Routines can help promote a feeling of safety in stressful situations or during difficult stages of development.
- When children reach adolescence, the familiarity of regular home routines can help them feel looked after. Predictable family routines can be a welcome relief from the changes they’re experiencing”.
The Raising Children Network go on to discuss the health benefits of routines, “Children in families with regular routines have fewer respiratory infections than those in routine-free homes. This might be because routines contribute to healthy habits like washing hands. Routines might also help reduce stress, which can suppress the immune system”.
Do you believe me now?
OK, so now that I’ve driven that point home, let’s take a look at HOW to create the perfect bedtime routine for children.
It starts with the WHAT
What exactly should be included? Good question, I’m glad you asked.
But I might start by telling you what NOT to include. It may seem obvious, but anything your little one hates needs to be left off the list.
Told you it was obvious.
The last thing you want to do is annoy your baby right before bed. If they hate bath time, leave bath time out. If they hate books, no story time. If they hate songs (or maybe just your terrible singing), don’t sing. Perhaps use Little Rockers Radio lullabies instead!
This is not the time for inciting temper tantrums. Regardless of what you have read or been told about what HAS to go in a bedtime routine, if your child hates it you should leave it out. Here are some common and uncommon ideas for winding down:
- Bath or shower
- Bottle/warm milk
- Tooth brushing
- Bedtime imaginary play – put dolls and toys to bed before you start the bedtime routine, so you can encourage your little one to be quiet during the routine.
- Story telling – Make up a story with your little one, which ends with the main character going to bed.
- Hide and seek – Not the traditional game! Depending on your childs age, get a plastic tub, fill it half way with rice, and hide a few objects in the rice. Give your littlie a list of the objects that they need to find. To make this an even more calming experience, use a lavender essential oil to fragrance the rice.
- A quiet hub – Use a teepee, some cushions, and some soft toys to create a cosy little reading corner. Make it fun by turning the lights off and reading by torchlight. Just don’t let them fall asleep there!
- Colouring – I know the skills are still forming, but colouring and drawing can be a very calming and therapeutic activity, which allows your cherub to focus on one activity and not be overstimulated.
There are lots of things you can do, and as long as they don’t overstimulate your little one, they can be included in the routine.
Now for the WHAT NOT
Now I’m by no means the perfect parent. My child is as addicted to television as every other child (despite what parents might tell you about theirs not enjoying TV). But before bed, it’s a no go.
There’s a reason the recommendations for no TV before the age of 2 are in place. Screens are overstimulating, and the worst time to be overstimulated is….you guessed it! Bedtime. So no TV, video games, iPad or smart phone games. None of the fun stuff please!
And sugar. If you watch what your child is like after having too much of that sweet goodness, you’ll know why it’s a terrible idea before bed.
Now that I’m finished being the fun police, let’s move on.
How long it should be?
If you’ve read Goldilocks and the Three Bears, you’ll be familiar with the saying, “it was just right.”
“Just right” for bedtime routines, as it turns out, is between 20 and 30 minutes. Why?
It needs to be long enough for a proper wind down to bed, but not too long that your little one starts to become overtired and winds up again. So that sweet spot between 20 and 30 minutes seems to be perfect for most children.
Also, as parents it’s nice knowing you have that amazing, calming time with your child before having some time to yourselves.
Now it’s over to you. What does or what will your little ones bedtime routine look like? If you need to make changes, go ahead and do it. You’ll be surprised by the difference it makes to the dreaded moment of putting your little one into their bed and saying “nigh nighs.”
This article is written by Bianca Ritchie, Founder and Chief Sleep Nerd, Hush-a-Bee Sleep Consulting.
Bianca is currently offering a free Facebook Masterclass, the Hush-a-Bee Sleep Project, for anyone to attend who would like to find out more and ask questions about settling your bub. It covers:
- 22 Ideas to help you and your child create the best bedtime routine
- How to establish an effortless schedule that works for your whole family
- My 5 key musts for creating a serene and calming sleep environment for bub
- Putting your child to bed awake – and WHY it’s so important (this is at the core of what we teach parents in our paid programs!)
- The 10 most common sleep props that are sabotaging your child’s sleep
Visit the GROUP HERE to join