Any parent who has reached the toddler milestone will have experienced the classic tantrum and fighting bedtime. Now, your child may think they have a perfectly valid excuse for their behavior, but trying to navigate that as a parent is exasperating!
Nine times out of ten, your little one is acting out of emotion and tiredness. In fact, you may find that the most challenging part of your day is bedtime. Establishing a good bedtime routine early on can encourage healthy sleep patterns and allow your babe to get quality shut-eye in the process.
Here are our 10 top tips for establishing a good bedtime routine:
1. Stick to a fixed bedtime
We all know that when it comes to parenting, the one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t work! Our children are individuals and have their own distinct personalities from the beginning. So balancing that with routine can be overwhelming. However, you are the parent; therefore, you are the boundary maker!
Creating a fixed bedtime or a sleep window for your child will help establish a routine. Their body’s natural circadian rhythm – the sleep-wake cycle – will psychologically associate the routine patterns with bedtime. Plus, the better your child sleeps, the more effective their body can carry out essential functions and restorative processes.
For some parents, having a rigid time for bed works. However, when it doesn’t, the flexible approach may be your lifeline. Putting your child to bed when they aren’t tired may set you up for a fall before you even switch off the light.
2. Embrace bathtime
Warm, bubbly, and fun, bathtime is a magical place for a child. It is a place where brightly colored toys and your babe’s imagination can thrive. More than that, a warm bath has an incredible effect on your body’s temperature. As you quickly cool down after a bath, your body associates the feeling with nighttime.
Now imagine that you are a child. Establishing a bathtime routine early on will help your babe to fall asleep quicker in response to the bath-body temperature effect. Sleep will come easier, and your child is more likely to sleep for longer too.
It’s worth mentioning that not all children have the same response to a bath. Some will find the whole experience too exciting! If that’s your child, save bathtime for the morning.
3. Brush their teeth
If you can establish a tooth brushing routine with your babe from the start, you are setting them up for life. For some, this might sound too good to be true! But sticking with a routine will give your child the best fighting chance at developing good oral hygiene.
Dentists recommend that children should brush their teeth two times a day for at least two minutes. So building this into your child’s daily routine morning and bedtime will encourage good technique and save them unnecessary trips to the dentist.
Even babies can get involved! Sweeping a soft damp cloth or dental baby wipe over their gums will remove any leftover breastmilk or formula sugars. As soon as teeth start to appear, you can introduce a soft-bristled toothbrush, or an electric toothbrush to make brushing even easier.
Whatever you do, make the whole experience fun! There’s nothing worse than having a battle of wills just before bedtime. Sing songs, do a toothbrush dance, and show your little one how it’s done!
4. Final diaper change or toilet break
As most parents will know, there is nothing worse than stumbling around in the dark and having to sort out a nighttime accident! Overflowing diapers are one thing, and then there are saturated urine sheets. Parenthood is certainly not for the weak.
Encouraging your babe to use the toilet before they go bed will not only help develop bladder control, but it will likely give you and your child an uninterrupted night’s sleep. Well, in terms of waking up to use the toilet anyway!
If your little one is still in diapers, changing just before bed will give your child a more comfortable and less sore night all round.
5. Invest in a weighted blanket
Trouble sleeping affects so many of us from infancy to adulthood. Bedtime can be made more difficult by having a sensory disorder, overactive imagination, and separation anxiety. That’s where a weighted blanket comes in. With its deep pressure stimulation, your child will feel like they are receiving a warm hug all night long.
Safe and secure, your little one will fall asleep quicker and for longer. Meaning, they are less likely to wake up feeling tired. What’s more, due to the blanket’s weight, your child will feel more grounded as they sleep. The feeling of comfort will make bedtime feel like a welcome part of any child’s day.
Be aware not to use it with children under the age of 1 though. Primarily, weighted blankets (and other items such as loose blankets, pillows, and stuffed toys) can increase the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This is because items like this are capable of accidentally restricting the babies breathing.
SIDS can’t occur after the child’s first birthday, so once this has passed, speak to your pediatrician or doctor to decide the best time to use one.
6. Turn the TV off
Watching TV up to the point of bedtime is generally a bad idea. Not only does it overstimulate your child, winding down from a dopamine-fueled hour of cartoons takes time. Going straight to bed after experiencing a sensory overload will not do you or your babe any favors come bedtime.
So, switch screens off at least an hour before bed and do a calm activity together. Whether it’s reading a story, coloring-in, or playing soothing music, make the last hour before bed a joyful occasion.
7. Share your day
Do you know, the most favorite person in your child’s eyes is you? Getting to share parts of your day together will be a perfect bonding moment before bedtime.
You can talk about what they found fun? Who they played with at pre-school or what they found interesting. What did they learn? Whatever makes your little one tick is worth knowing about.
Then, give them a little insight into your day. Did you see their favorite type of dinosaur or favorite animal on your travels? What was the supermarket like? How was your day at work?
Reach into your child’s world for a moment. It’s a truly precious time to share together.
Not only is reading beneficial for your child’s development and language skills, but it is a beautiful time to share together. Allowing your child to use their imagination and see the world in new ways will enhance their childhood experience.
Snuggle up together as you both escape into a fairytale adventure. From the fantastic to the life lesson, you can develop a lifelong love of reading in your child’s formative years.
If old enough, let your child choose which book to read from a small selection each night. If they keep going for the same story, go with it! Repetition is a vital part of your toddler’s learning.
9. Gentle lullaby
When you become a parent, you have to let go of the things that hold you back or make you feel embarrassed. Singing may not be something you excel at, but your child will love you singing them a lullaby.
Ever since your babe was in the womb, they have been able to hear your voice. Now that they are here in the world, your voice is one of the most familiar sounds they know throughout childhood.
Familiar and soothing, your little one will love you singing them to sleep. Building this in as part of their bedtime routine will allow them to fall asleep with ease.
If you really struggle, play quiet music in the background as your little one drifts off. Feel free to sing along if you’re brave enough!
10. Say goodnight
Having a definitive end to the day is beautifully summed up with “goodnight.” Although your babe may not be ready for the final goodnight, saying it anyway brings everything to a close.
Letting your little one say goodnight to all their favorite toys, their pet dog, and then you will ease them into sleep mode.
It would be too assumptive to think that all children respond well to goodnight. However, building into your child’s routine will reinforce the idea of bedtime.
One model doesn’t fit all
All children are wired differently. Personality, character, and sense of self all dictate how well the routines we build into their lives will work.
If something you try doesn’t work, get creative. Think about what brings your child joy! If brushing their teeth is the biggest battle of your day, make it interactive. Get involved! You can even use your babe’s favorite toy to reinforce that dental hygiene is essential for everyone.
For most parents, saying the final goodbye of the evening can be the most challenging. So think about what makes your child feel comfortable – is it a toy, blanket or merely having a light on. Making your little one’s bedroom feel like a safe space will encourage better sleep development.
Lastly, don’t beat yourself up. The art of a routine all comes down to learning and persistence. You’ve got this!