With summer coming to end, are you dreading the return of the nighttime bed routine? If you’re like me, the established bedtime routine has given way to a more relaxed summer free-for-all, with bedtimes creeping later and lazy summer mornings full of time to catch up on precious sleep. With school right around the corner, it’s time to establish a healthy bedtime routine for your child.
There is no one-size-fits-all bedtime routine. Every child and every family is different. It is important to consider what works best for your family when establishing a routine. In general, bedtime routines should include all the things your child needs to do before going to sleep, i.e., washing face, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, having a snack, or a drink of water.
In addition to the above nighttime necessities, bedtime is the perfect opportunity to build special family time into your day. With such busy schedules, it’s important to make time to connect before the next day begins. Consider creating several quiet, consistent bedtime rituals to help your child calm down and transition into a more relaxed state.
Here are some calming bedtime ritual ideas to get you started:
Snuggle with your child as you read their favorite book. Touch is an amazing way to bond with and calm your child. Reading time additionally helps children learn new concepts and boosts language and pre-reading skills. Making bedtime stories a consistent part of your nighttime routine will help to plant the seed for a lifetime love of books and learning.
Play a quiet board game together. (But remember nothing too stimulating or time consuming). Unlike video games, board games facilitate the face-to-face interaction that strengthens family bonds. For toddlers and preschool aged children, try My Very First Games First Orchard. This cooperative game fosters social skills, an understanding of game rules, color recognition and counting skills. Games like this promote calm family fun to end the day and are an excellent reward for finishing the rest of the bedtime routine in a timely manner.
Encourage your child to talk about their day as you tuck them in at night. Just like adults, young children experience stress and anxiety. A nightly check in about their day gives children the opportunity to discuss feelings, relay stories about school, and express any concerns they may have. As a parent, use this opportunity to listen and ask questions. You will be amazed about how much you will learn in 10-15 minutes of active listening.
Play calming music for your child and have them concentrate on their breathing. While it is common to play music to calm babies, research shows that people of all ages sleep better after listening to soothing melodies. Playing music before bed also has shown to decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. As a result, listening to music at bedtime increases the average amount of time spent in quality sleep. Deep breathing exercises are also an excellent addition to any bedtime routine. Breathing deeply calms the central nervous system, decreases the heart rate, drops blood pressure and signals the brain into a state of relaxation. Modeling and practicing deep breathing with your child at bedtime will help them fall asleep more quickly and will also teach them to calm themselves when they are anxious or stressed.
Ultimately a successful nighttime routine does not necessarily depend on what you do, but how you do it. Create a calming environment, limit distractions and remember consistency is the key. Whatever you decide to do, start early, make a plan and stick to it. With a little work, bedtime can become a calm, happy time for both you and your child.