As a mother of a three-year-old boy, I’ve had my fair share of nighttime throwdowns. Sometimes it would start right away, and he would refuse to clean up his toys in order to stay awake longer. Other times I would get all the way out of his room before he would have a massive fit and I would spend another hour trying to calm him down. This meant runs for water, extra trips to the bathroom and just one more story. Sigh.
The word that strikes fear into every child’s heart. It’s enough to bring on the fullest of tantrums, tears and all. It doesn’t have to be that way, and it shouldn’t be. Bedtime, while it won’t always be easy breezy, should be about bonding and relaxing with your child. The best way to make bedtime as smooth as possible is by setting up a bedtime routine.
Here are six ways to do this.
Set a time and stick to it
Children of all ages need a bedtime. Adults need at least 8 hours of sleep and toddlers and children need about 10-12 hours of sleep. I usually put my toddler to bed at 8:00 pm but we start to settle down at 7:30 pm. At first, it was difficult because he felt like he was missing something but eventually he would get tired on his own and even started asking to go to bed.
Give A Warning
Toddlers love to play and sometimes it’s hard for them to let go of play time. Give a time limit warning every 5 – 10 minutes starting an hour before bedtime. This helps it not come as a surprise and eases them into the transition. You can have them do a few things that let them know its almost time for bed. I usually have my son clean up his play area, pick out a story and run him a bath at the 10-minute mark.
Give Them A Bath
Giving your child a bath can create a soothing feeling and help to relax further. I’ll put some sweet smelling bubbles in the bath and wash my toddler from head to toe and comb his hair. Afterward, he gets to play for about 10 to 15 mins before it’s time to hop out and pick out pajamas.
Read a Story
Reading to your child expands their imagination and helps to create bonding moments. I let my son pick out either two short stories or one long story to read together. Sometimes he likes to pretend to read to me and shows me all of the pictures. We use silly voices and he likes to identify all of the different images and colors.
Give A Stuffed Animal
Kids often feel upset and anxious about being alone or missing out. To dissuade this give them a friend to sleep with. This will help them relax and not feel so alone. Even newborns can benefit from stuffed animals or blankets. When my son was smaller and would get restless at night, I would give him a small stuffed animal that smelled like me so he still felt like I was near him.
Keep Goodnights Brief
This is the part where a lot of parents run into trouble and have a hard time letting go. The room is clean, stories have been read, songs sung, kisses and hugs have been given. You get up, turn off the lights, close the door and hear “Mommy!”. The most important part is don’t go back in. Give them 10-15 minutes and if they are still hollering for you, go back in, explain that it is bedtime and then leave. Don’t linger. Don’t give in to begging, because then it will create a cycle that will be even harder to break. A lot of parents feel like they are abandoning their child and it may sound harsh, but the reality is, your baby is fine, they just don’t want to miss out on what is going on after they go to sleep.
These steps will help to create a healthy routine and sweet moments between you and your child. Will every night be easy? No. You will have nights where your child will absolutely refuse to settle down, but creating a routine will lessen the frequency of tantrums and create good sleep habits. It’ll also help your child fall asleep and stay asleep and will lessen sleep problems in the future while providing quality time. Once you get your own routine that works best for you and your child bedtime will be something that you look forward to doing with your child instead of something you both dread.