Children love routines. They love doing the same little rituals every day. My daughter’s morning routine involves waking us up at 7am (on the dot!), climbing into our bed for a cuddle, and then climbing into her little brothers’ cribs to play. Our Saturday routine in the summer involves taking our daughter to the Soccer4U program with the Aurora Youth Soccer Club, then heading off to the Aurora Farmer’s Market for some sweets. Like children we also love our routines. My morning routine always involves coffee. We all love routines because the activities are familiar, we know what to expect next and they help us relax. Sometimes these routines seem silly, but I have fond memories of some of my routines as a child. On weekends I would wake my parents up, my dad would carry me downstairs on his shoulders and we’d make my mom breakfast in bed. Now if only my kids would do that every weekend! Regardless of what your family’s routines are, they are a great way to bond with your children and create lasting memories.
Routines are especially useful at bedtime because not only do they help us relax, but they send a message to the brain that sleep is coming next. This helps us get nice and drowsy even before we get into bed. If you have a child that resists bedtime or has a hard time falling asleep at night, a good bedtime routine will really help them drift off to sleep more easily.
Here is a list of things that should be considered when forming your child’s bedtime routine.
1. Include gentle, relaxing activities
You need to create a nice relaxing bedtime routine to help your little one drift off to sleep. Your routine could include activities like:
- A nice warm bath
- Brushing their teeth
- Bedtime stories
- Singing songs
- Playing soft music
- Talking about your day
- Prayer time
- Getting a glass of water
- Saying goodnight to their toys
Choose a few activities off the list that your child will enjoy. Bedtime routines don’t need to be any longer than 45 minutes so don’t let your children drag it out just to delay bedtime.
2. Keep your bedtime routine consistent
Once you decide on a good bedtime routine, try to keep it consistent every day. Your child will enjoy being actively involved in each step of the routine. As the routine becomes more familiar, they will begin to associate their bedtime routine with bedtime, and will naturally become sleepy.
3. Exclude electronics or high energy activities before bedtime
It’s important to turn off all electronics one hour before bed. Studies show that if children watch TV, play video games, or use the computer before bedtime, it becomes much more difficult to fall asleep. The blue light emitted from these electronics suppress the production of melatonin, which is like our body’s natural sleeping pill.
It’s also important to exclude high energy activities right before bedtime. Avoid having your children participate in vigorous exercise or rough housing during their bedtime routine. These activities won’t tire your children out; they will only rile them up and increase their body’s temperature which will make it harder to fall asleep.
4. Set a timer
If your child’s bedtime routine often goes longer than planned, set a kitchen timer so that you both know when it’s time to sleep. This will also help make sure your child goes to sleep at the proper time before becoming overtired. Once they become overtired, they have an increase in cortisol and adrenaline which is what gives them that second wind.
5. Avoid curtain calls
If your child’s behaviour closely resembles a “jack-in-the-box” at bedtime and they are constantly getting out of bed, try to anticipate what they might ask for. Before the timer goes off, get them a glass of water, give them another hug, and make sure you give them lots of opportunities to “tell you one more thing” before it’s time for lights out.
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