“It’s time for bed, kids!” dad yells. Surely, those little ones are immediately and obediently trotting up the stairs to brush their teeth (without getting water everywhere), button up their jammies and settle in for a peaceful bedtime story…
Maybe for some people, yes. But usually the call for bedtime feels more like the start of an epic battle of wills: kids avoiding their soft beds like a caffeinated chimpanzee who’s allergic to sleep, and parents wrestling their little ones down even if it means bribery. “Tomorrow you can have a cookie for breakfast if you go to bed!”
It doesn’t have to be this way, though… Here are 5 tips to get into a routine so that bedtime becomes less like a battle and more like a blessing:
1. Make their room clean & calm before bedtime
It’s tempting to design bedrooms with fun in mind. Parents add paintings and pictures that stimulate energy and enthusiasm in their children. But while fun is fine and good, it’s equally important to design your child’s room with bedtime in mind.
What does that look like?
For one thing, consider purchasing blackout curtains. They send a clear signal to your child that it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep. Then there are items like noisemakers, night-lights and rocking chairs that are rarely, if ever, used during normal daytime activities.
Be intentional about designing bedtime into the bedroom.
2. Use storytime or other activities as a signal
In addition to the physical layout and design of the room, habits like storytime serve as a helpful bedtime signal. When it’s time to settle down, pull out a few books in a special place in the bedroom and position their water bottles or milk/formula bottles next to the books.
Other activities to signal bedtime include singing songs, playing a game to clean up the toys or writing/drawing together in a family journal. These activities, done consistently at bedtime, develop into good habit forming triggers for your children.
3. Ask the children about their day
The writer of this article has a habit of tucking their kids in then kneeling down to ask the same question every night: “tell me about your day?”
Though only four and two years old, the children love being asked about their day and spending quality time with their parents. It’s a routine they look forward to and are more eager to get in bed for every day.
As an added benefit, asking them about their day and then pushing for more details like “what did you enjoy about the park?” help kids develop greater attention to detail and communication skills. It also makes it safer for you to ask children about their lives as they grow older and become more resistant to casual conversation.
4. Don’t let hungry tummies in bed
We’re human. We all get a little grumpy when we’re hungry. Now combine the average adult-level of “grumpiness” with the child-like inability to express your feelings…and combine that with being worn out from a long day of play. What do you get?
A very hungry, very grumpy child who won’t go to bed. Remember our caffeinated chimpanzee who’s allergic to sleep analogy? Yeah.
Make sure children are adequately nourished before bedtime to avoid hungry toddler hysteria.
5. Consistency is the golden standard
No matter what practices you choose to adopt for developing a bedtime routine, the most important element of every routine is consistency. If you read a book, sing a song or ask the children about their day once, they might enjoy it. But you need to engage with them in these activities intentionally and consistently to make for long-term bedtime blessings.
“It’s time for bed, kids!” dad yells.
It’s been three months since the parents redesigned their bedrooms with sleep in mind. They’ve also been reading stories and asking the kids about their day every night. While the routine is never perfect (because we’re dealing with wonderful imperfect human beings here), bedtime is easier now.
In fact, it’s even, dare we say… enjoyable.