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How To Establish A Good Bedtime Routine For Small Children

Written by: Nadia Edwards, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

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Establishing a good bedtime routine can be tricky for families with children of all ages. If you start introducing a loving ritual early in life, your children may be more likely to stick to it later in life. Establishing a routine that keeps your household running smoothly can be a challenge at first, the key is to keep it personal to your family and unique values, once established many parents report enjoyable evenings with strengthened bonds.

Dad reading a book for his soon before bedtime

Establish a consistent bedtime routine

We all need sleep in order to function well. An important part of your nighttime routine is establishing a consistent bedtime. Enough sleep is vital for your success and the success of your children. Set yourself up to experience life's victories by planning for enough rest.

Seek to start your kid's bedtime routine at the same time every day. For instance, if your bedtime routine takes approximately 30 minutes and you would like your kids in bed by 9 o'clock, you'll want to start your bedtime routine around 8:30 PM. In addition, having a regular wake time each morning and in proportion to bedtime is fundamental.

Tip: There is a wide variation in sleep needs, it is crucial that you find your own and your child(s) individual sleep needs and not get caught up in how much sleep they/you ‘should’ be getting. Logically, if you are trying to sleep more than you biologically need, you will find it difficult to fall and stay asleep. In saying this, the chart below gives a good starting point to explore your families overall sleep needs and agreed bedtime and wake times.

Chart with information in regards of naps and sleep for children in diffrent ages

Set up a sequence of activities

Set up a sequence of activities you do right before bedtime each night. That way, your kids know what to expect and when it is time to transition to bed.

Connection saying goodnight can be hard for most kids, especially if they have been away from you that day, boost connection by carving out some regular one-on-one special time at any time of the day, but as part of the regular nighttime routine can be a game-changer.

  1. Agree on the time e.g., 10 minutes

  2. Set a timer

  3. Make sure of no adult distractions so you can give 100% attention

  4. Allow your child to pick and lead the play

Chores encourage everyone, even the youngest ones to get involved in the evening chores, clearing the table, filling up the dishwasher, or taking out the rubbish. This means it is not solely left to parents and caregivers which is a big frustration in many homes.

Silly Play is different from special time play. This is specifically to get the belly laughter going, horsey on parent's back, blowing raspberries on tummies, trampolining, roughhousing, bike rides, pillow fights, etc. A fun reward after chores are done.

“Your primary aim with the bedtime routine is to bring your child down from a super alert awake state by activating the calming brain chemical oxytocin and the sleep hormone Melatonin.” (Sunderland 2008)

Bedtime routine essentials:

  • Calm Parent

  • 3-5 relaxing steps

  • Ideally lasts between 2 and 30 minutes long

Possible bedtime routine steps:

  • May contain a bath/shower

  • Washing face & hands

  • Potty / toilet / diaper change

  • Brushing teeth or wiping gums

  • Pajamas

  • Soothing music or white noise

  • Prayers, affirmations, or a gratitude list

  • Soothing dance

  • Rocking

  • Chat about your day or what you are doing tomorrow

  • Simple yoga/body stretching

  • Deep breathing

  • Muscle relaxation

  • Massage / positive touch

Read to your child right before bedtime

Choose a shorter book if your kids are younger. Your children will soon look forward to storytime and recognize this as a signal that the day is ending.

Say goodnight in your own special way

Your children will remember the evening routine for a lifetime. In addition to providing structure and a way to lower the stress level in your home, your evening routine will show your kids that you love and appreciate them.

My special way to say goodnight

“Here is my necklace, I have worn it all day. All my love is in it and will be with you all night,” and I give my Daughter my necklace, I do the same with my son and my watch.

Multiple bedtime routines for multiple children

If you have multiple children of different ages, it is still important to establish a routine. While your children will be going to bed at different times, you can still use those times to bond with each other and wind down for the evening. Plan your routine to accommodate multiple bedtimes if necessary.

Older children can also help

The important thing is that everything gets done orderly and that your family takes time to be together and enjoy each other.

Bless your family by establishing a bedtime routine for your children

Stick to it in the beginning, and you'll soon notice that the routine is second nature. Automatically, you'll be bonding every night and getting everything done with a minimum amount of stress. Begin experiencing the order and peace that you deserve by starting a nighttime routine today.

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Nadia Edwards, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Nadia Edwards is a registered Early Years Practitioner and expert Sleep Coach for children (birth to 12 years of age). Nadia guides parents who are struggling with unsustainable sleep challenges, her approach is holistic, creative and nurturing so everyone can get the sleep they deserve and feel joyful.



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