During the long summer months, your child’s bedtime routine might have been interrupted by later bedtimes, vacationing, or sleepovers. But now that school is back in session it’s time for bedtime routines to fall back into place.
Psychologists say it is important to do the same thing every night so that your child’s brain will identify these actions as triggers for sleep. If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to creating your bedtime routine, here are some suggestions.
Keep it calm
You wouldn’t be able to go right to sleep after a jog around the block or a spirited conversation with a friend. Your child is no different. He or she can’t go and go and then be ready to lie down and go to sleep.
In order to create a bedtime-ready environment, put on soothing music and turn off the TV and electronics an hour or two before your little one is supposed to be in bed. This will help your child realize that playtime is over and it’s time to be calm.
Display the routine
Children handle change and new rules much better if they feel as though they have some control over the situation. Making a chart or giving them a checklist of each bedtime action gives the child a role in the process, and still keeps them on track.
Girl in the Garage has a free bedtime routine printable that offers children a visual representation of each action on their bedtime checklist. The chart could also be helpful for those children who have not yet learned to read. Even if they can’t read “put on your pajamas,” the picture tells them what to do next.
Once you have established a routine, it’s important to do that routine every night in the same order at around the same time. This will cue your child’s body and mind to wind down and prepare for sleep. Reading or singing softly to your little one are also great ways to slow everything down and spend some quality time with your child.
Books like The Going-to-Bed Book by Sandra Boynton and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague both use rhyming text and silly animals to give examples of the right and wrong way to go to bed.
Give them support and rewards
Children often put up a fight at bedtime because they are anticipating separating from you when they are most vulnerable. So, it’s important to reassure your child that you are right in the next room and you are always there for them.
If that’s not enough to allay their bedtime anxieties, then give them some tools to keep them from retreating to the comfort of your bed. Allow them to keep a flashlight in their bed or give them a special stuffed animal that is just for bedtime.
And if all of that doesn’t work, there is always bribery. Well, let’s call it a reward system. Create a star chart and let your child put a sticker on the chart each night they sleep through the night without help. When they get a certain number of stickers (make it something attainable) then supply them with a small reward. This might just give them the incentive to go to bed on time and without a fight.
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Jessa is the Editor-in-Chief of Hooray for Family and the mom of three energetic children. She has a BA in Mass Communication/Journalism from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and is a long-time resident of Central Texas. When she isn't writing and editing, she enjoys playing board games with her kids, teaching Sunday school and channeling her creativity into craft projects.