15 Tips for creating the ideal bedtime routine for your child
Most parents know that establishing a bedtime routine for their children is important. But few parents realize just how crucial it can be. A good bedtime routine helps your child get the rest they need to grow and thrive, while a lack of routine can lead to sleep problems and behavioral issues.
So what exactly is a bedtime routine?
A bedtime routine is a set of actions your child performs before they go to bed each night. These actions help your child relax and prepare for sleep.
A regular bedtime routine can have many benefits, such as promoting better sleep, reducing anxiety, and preventing your child from developing sleep-disordered breathing, including sleep apnea.
Other benefits include…
Helping your child wind down
After a busy day of running around, playing with friends, and learning new things, children need time to wind down. A bedtime routine can help with this by providing a calming transition from the hustle and bustle of the day to the quietness of the night. This is especially important for children who have a hard time settling down on their own.
Promoting healthy sleep habits
A bedtime routine can help your child develop healthy sleep habits. A bedtime routine allows you control when your child goes to bed and how long they sleep. By sticking to a set bedtime and wake-up time, you can ensure your child gets the right amount of sleep each night. This is important because children who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to experience problems such as ADHD, anxiety, and depression.
Allowing you to spend quality time with your child
A bedtime routine provides a special opportunity for you to bond with your child. Bedtime is a time when your child isn’t focused on anything but you. You can use this time to read together, talk, or cuddle. This quality time is important for both you and your child and can help strengthen your relationship.
Preventing behavioral problems
Additionally, a bedtime routine can help prevent behavioral issues. A bedtime routine provides structure and predictability, which can be soothing for children. When children know what to expect, they’re less likely to act out. A bedtime routine can also help tired children avoid meltdowns by giving them a chance to wind down before bed.
How to create the best bedtime routine for your child to grow and thrive
Parents can do many things to establish a good bedtime routine for their children. The most important of which is to be consistent and do the same activities in the same order each night. This will help your child know what to expect and feel more comfortable as they wind down for bedtime.
Here are fifteen more tips for creating the best bedtime routine for your little one:
- Talk to your child about their day.
- Give your child a nutritious snack, such as trail mix, yogurt, or popcorn, or a bottle/breastfeeding, depending on your child’s age.
- Give your child a bath or diaper change.
- Put on the child’s pajamas.
- Brush the child’s teeth and have them use the bathroom.
- Read a calming book together (avoid scary stories or anything stimulating).
- Sing a lullaby or song together.
- Cuddle with your child or give them a gentle massage.
- Start your bedtime routine at the same time each night.
- Keep your bedtime routine short and sweet (around 30 minutes or a little longer if a bath is involved).
- Leave the room when your child is sleepy but not quite asleep (this helps your child learn to fall asleep on their own and not feel scared if they wake up and you’re not there).
- Keep your child’s bedroom dark, cool, and quiet (if your child is afraid of the dark and needs a nightlight, be sure to provide that).
- Limit your child’s screen time and exposure to blue light as bedtime approaches.
- Encourage quiet play close to bedtime (that is, no more running around).
- Avoid sleeping in on weekends (as previously noted, consistency is key).
What to do when your child resists their bedtime routine
Young children may experience separation anxiety around bedtime. And this may prevent them from wanting to settle down. In this case, you can introduce a stuffed animal or a comfort blanket to help the child feel safe and reassured when the lights go out.
Additionally, some young children may try asserting their independence when bedtime approaches. They may act out and become stubborn or defiant. If this happens, try not to react by forcing your child to cooperate. Instead, allow them to participate in the bedtime process by making some of their own decisions, such as choosing which pajamas to wear or which bedtime story to read.
When children reach school-age, encourage them to take on more responsibility during their bedtime routines. Have them do things like brush their teeth and put on their pajamas by themselves.
You should give teenage children even more freedom to manage their own bedtime routines because, at this stage of development, they should have a better understanding of their body’s needs. However, you should still curb sleeping in too much over the weekend, as this habit can throw off teenagers’ rhythms.
Bedtime routines can be extremely helpful for both children and parents. By following these tips, you can create a routine that works for your family and promotes healthy sleep habits in your children.
Dr. Meghna Dassani has practiced dentistry for over two decades and is passionate about the role dentists play in whole-body health. You can learn more at her website: MeghnaDassani.com.
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