It’s that time of evening, folks. Let’s set the scene. The night is growing darker and there appears to be some tension in the air. It seems that the bright mood of daytime has transitioned into rising temperatures: the hours between 5-7pm, otherwise known as ‘the witching hour’ has arrived – the chaotic time of evening where the real fun begins.
Cue your exhaustion and stress of dinner preparation, homework, and bath preparation. Cue your toddler’s growing crankiness, irritability, and misbehaviour. If you’ve got a baby, you’ll notice the rubbing of the eyes and the fists start to flail around. If you’ve got younger kids, they may start fighting with one another.
And before you know it, it’s bedtime, otherwise known as one of the hardest and most challenging moments that a parent or caregiver can experience: when the kids should be asleep but are still running amuck like mini insomniacs. When you are starving and exhausted from lugging the kids around, yet you’ve lost track of time and missed that very important window…
And you desperately think - there’s just got to be a better way to make bedtime easier!
We got you, mama. If your patience threshold has reached its peak and you are looking for ways to send the kids to bed without resistance, drawn-out stalling tactics and little Houdini’s (that magically appear out of nowhere) - then fear not, parents, this blog article is for you.
But first, let’s explore what a bedtime routine is, and what the benefits are; and how to apply the five steps to a smoother bedtime routine for your kiddos!
5 steps to a smoother bedtime routine for kids
If you know that your child is not functioning at school or kindergarten due to a lack of sleep, is when you may need to create a workable bedtime routine. The good news? It only takes a few nights of practice to see massive improvements!
Our solution? The 5 Bs of bedtime: 5 easy to follow steps for parents - to create some calm at home and encourage the good bedtime routine habits - bath, bottle, brush, book, and bed.
what’s a bedtime routine
Let’s be honest. Once we become parents, our feeling of happiness becomes entirely reliant on our kid’s level of happiness, right?
So, what does this have to do with bedtime routines, and how do they relate to our kid’s happiness, you ask?
The answer: bedtime routines are a consistent, repetitive set of activities that are meant to be effectively carried out before bed every night. They help prepare your child for sleep by making them relax + calm down.
what are its benefits
A predictable routine is known to be essential for your child’s well-being as it teaches them to keep up healthy habits as they grow. It gives them a newfound sense of security. It boosts parent-child bonding time. It teaches kids how to self-soothe + fall asleep independently on their own. And finally –the habit of rest can help improve their mood, stress levels + settle their behaviour.
Even better - the benefits of a bedtime routine are known to weave into better readiness for school, better academic performance + social skills.
firstly … heed the early signs of tiredness
Here’s a tip before we begin - get the ball rolling when the kiddos are already showing signs of tiredness – before they start yawning.
After all, your child should’ve had plenty of opportunity to burn off steam during the day, right? So, you may have to stop allowing them to work themselves into a frenzy at night: or they’ll be too wired! Also, if you miss that window early, children may become overtired from being hyperactive + therefore will find it even harder to fall asleep - and may even become totally unsettled for the night + keep you awake!
stay consistent + time efficient
Secondly, your bedtime routine should last around half an hour, or a little longer if there’s a bath included. The mistake? Is when bedtime is delayed due to distractions. So, keep to the time limit to make it easier for yourself, and do these steps in order!
It is commonly known that the blue light from television + other electronic devices have serious consequences for sleep if used too close to bedtime. So, limit screentime after school at least a half hour before dinnertime, to limit distractions – parents included!
limit sugar intake
It is commonly known that foods and drinks that contain sugar keep our bodies awake at night. So, because our children’s bodies are still developing, giving sugary treats to them will commonly not only make them hyper; but may also lead them to have more cavities. So, try to keep evening snacks light and healthy, avoid fruit juices + biscuits and instead limit drinks to water. Limit eating sugary foods like breakfast cereals, chocolate, for daytime, when their bodies are busy moving + working off more energy!
avoid stimulating activity
Is your child prone to playing scary video games, videos, or bedtime stories before bed? If so, are you finding a certain visitor (or visitors) sneaking into your bed in the middle of the night, keeping you awake? Perhaps it’s time to change things up a bit + refrain from tv shows, videos or other mentally or physically stimulating activities before bed. To make your bedtime routine more effective, instead start winding down the household by dimming the lights and turning off screens. And … keeping a collection of gadgets that will remain downstairs will always do the trick!
The 5 B’s: of bath, bottle, brush, book + bed.
From the time the kids finish Kindy, come home on the school bus, or get picked up from their afterschool activities, it’s safe to say, your kid’s energy is on the verge of being exhausted and in dire need of slowing down! Which is why after their stomachs are full of dinner, it’s time to indulge them in a bath or shower: to get clean, relax their senses; and for you to reconnect with your kids + reflect on their day. Not to mention care for their skin (especially after spending hours outdoors in the sun or cold) and top it off some fresh pajamas to relax in!
Here's a tip: Getting lots of exercise, sunlight, and outdoor time during the day is commonly known to boost their need to relax + bathe and make them more fatigued: to help them sleep better at night!
Is your baby or toddler still saying those repetitive words, 'I'm thirsty', even before bed? For littlies this might mean they need more milk, (which commonly means they may be going through a growth spurt, just saying’) and for bigger kids, it may mean they need more water for hydration. (Especially after those high intensity school sport sessions!) So go on and prep their water bottle or give them a milky top up via a bottle or by breastfeeding.
As your kids get used to this allowance in their routine, you can even encourage them to help with drink prep, by thinking and planning what they might need in advance - according to their scheduled activities.
Here's a tip: If their tummies are a bit fuller, it may give them a better chance of sleeping through the night, with less nightly interruptions!
Brushing teeth and going to the bathroom are common self-care habits to teach our kids before going to bed. Much like the extra effort of keeping their tummies fuller, the idea of
boosting self-care awareness includes the healthy habits of hygiene: including brushing and flossing their teeth, blowing their nose, going to the bathroom (even if being toilet trained!) and brushing their hair: to link the positive elements of self-comfort and cleanliness – to reset and refresh before bedtime.
It is common knowledge that calming down the mind (minus digital gadgetry!) is a huge part of us being able to get into ‘rest mode’. So, perhaps it’s time to also apply this very important habit to your children by encouraging them to read picture books or chapter books. Better yet, reading with them boosts parent-child connectivity by discussing the book afterwards with insight, in a loving, calming tone.
choose a favourite toy
Tucking the kids into bed with a favourite blanket or toy, as in early childhood, many toddlers are gripped by the throes of separation anxiety. This is a good time to introduce a stuffed animal or comfort blanket for extra reassurance when you leave the room.
the magic of connection
Giving your child a cuddle and a kiss, or other elements of touch: such as massage, cuddling, and rocking, helps kids to feel safe and secure before bed. Making sure to give your child the space to talk about their feelings too, as it is also a great way to let go of the stresses of the day + can relax their minds for bed.
make gradual changes
Although you’re the parent in charge, listening to your child is also another important skill in order for bedtime to go smoothly, especially if a part of the bedtime routine may not be working for your little one, and may need to change.
So, try not to introduce more than one change at a time, and consider delaying these if there are other changes going on, such as moving to a new house or starting a new school.
As your child’s sleep needs change, try shifting their bedtime incrementally, or take the time to listen to their concerns + adapt your routine accordingly! Especially when they’ve hit school age, and they’re ready to take on more responsibility. If they’re keen, take the opportunity to encourage them to take an active part in the bedtime routine: by brushing their own teeth and tidying up their bedroom before bed. The greater the effort, the greater the responsibility!
Keeping the bedroom dark, cool, and quiet can also help your little one have quality sleep. If your child fears the dark? Use a soothing nightlight so your child can find his way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Even after bedtime, try to minimise noise levels in the rest of the house as it may keep young children awake.
give them a time boundary
By giving them a block or boundary of time, for example, letting them know that you’ll be back in 5 minutes to check on them, will also reassure them that they are comforted and safe.
sing them a lullaby
Finish the bedtime routine on a high by humming a lullaby or by singing a soothing song together like’ Twinkle, twinkle little star’, as it is so soothing for your kids to fall asleep to the sound of your voice. This should then culminate in a final goodnight kiss and turning off the lights.
Here’s a tip: By leaving the room while your child is sleepy, but not quite asleep yet, is also a great way for them to learn to fall asleep on their own, plus it will slowly train them to panic less if they wake up in the middle of the night and find you gone!
As your children grow, you will gradually see the results of having a consistent bedtime routine. By adopting the simple steps of bath, bottle, brush, book + bed, you will not only create some long-lasting habits that will enhance your children’s overall health + wellbeing; but cultivate more opportunities for deeper connections with your children too.
And always, always – if you aren’t sure about embarking on any new physical, mental, or emotional health regimen with your kiddos: ask a recommended health professional first!