Bedtime Routines are often lauded as the only way for parents to keep the end of the day from feeling chaotic. Having a plan not only helps a parent rally for the end of the day, but kids also come to know what to expect next. In the same way a healthy bedtime routine is great for adults, it is the very same with children.
The 5 steps to creating the Best bedtime routine for kids are:
An Early Dinnertime
A Last Chance to Get Wiggles Out
A Calm Bath Time
A Reading Hour
A Night Light
First-time parents may scoff, but keeping a simple layout of how most nights should go in your home will save you from the extra gray hairs a directionless night routine with children will inevitably bring. Let’s count the ways these steps will help you and your kids out.
1. Get Dinner in Early
Eating together as a family is above and beyond one of the best nighttime habits to instill in your home. Scheduling an early, WHOLE family dinner time can be difficult depending on the busy calendars within the household, but worth prioritizing. Waiting until complaints like “I’m hungry” or “I want to eat now!” to start eating the last meal of the day is a recipe for a “hangry” disaster.
Setting an early dinnertime with the family can help your kids:
Come to the table moderately hungry instead of famished
Be more receptive to communicating about their day
Be more receptive to trying new nutritious foods
Have ample time afterward to digest
A dinner environment that begins moderately early may lead to a more content start to your bedtime routine, but it’s only the first step.
2. Time to Get Their Wiggles Out
Next, you’ll want to get your kids moving just one last time before the ideal calm of the evening takes place in the home. Getting their wiggles or sillies out after dinner has many benefits for your children, including moving any residual tension out of their muscles, improving digestion, and even helping stabilize their blood sugar. Easy ways to get your kids moving after dinner:
Go for a family stroll around the neighborhood
Go to a nearby park for a half-hour
Put on a few favorite songs they love to dance to
Put on a dance video to follow along to (that is age-appropriate, of course)
3. Bath Time
The secret to a calm and peaceful bath time is to keep the bathwater warm, the time in the bath short, and to make it a solo mission. Solo, as in, no siblings in the bathtub - if you can help it. If you have more than one child, bathing one at a time will help you keep the bathroom from looking like a splash pad by the end of the night and will help that child quiet down, breathe, and allow water to do what it does best besides clean- “improve mental and emotional health.”
Your older bathers that shower or bathe by themselves will have one of their final chances to exhaust their decision-making muscle in getting their own body clean. This frees up your time to maybe get some reading in with your younger readers.
There are a myriad of reasons why reading to kids and having kids read is important. Studies show benefits to reading to your children include better language skills, increased cognitive development, and even providing an outlet for empathy.
Now, why read before bed? Simply put, because reading makes you sleepy.
“For many [people], reading can be relaxing and enjoyable, which can put your mind and body in the appropriate mindset or mood to go to sleep,” Dr. Raman Malhotra, a neurologist and member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s board of directors. (On The Reason Reading Makes You Sleepy)
Here are some suggestions for all the readers in your household:
Pre-Readers: Display a few board books and have them pick one or two to read with them. Ask them questions on the images, colors, and shapes they see.
Emergent readers: Take out a few Learn-to-Read style books like Bob Books and have your emergent reader read one a night. If they stumble a bit with a particular one, repeat it the following night.
Independent Readers: Allow your independent reader at least 20 minutes of reading their favorite novel in bed. You may want to help them by setting up a special place to easily put their book away when they’ve finished it for the night, along with a reading flashlight.
Parents: Good quality literature is hard to find if you’re not sure where to find them. A great suggestion is to find a reputable list of books for each age range in your home, take out a few from the library for the week and see how your family enjoys them. A favorite book list that is constantly updated: Read-Aloud Revival. Also, try your hand at a family read-aloud every night. A simple chapter book that you read 2-3 pages from every night builds a strong parent-child bond, along with a host of other benefits. A very special benefit is creating a life-long love of reading.
5. A Night Light
Finally, it’s lights out. Perhaps you’re a parent that can close the door while your children are still awake and they find sleep soon after just fine. Perhaps you’re a parent that must sit by your children until they are sound asleep. No matter where on the spectrum you are, there are two things that you might consider to seal the sleep deal quickly.
The use of a night light or alarm clock with a night light function can be comforting. As a parent, getting in front of any darkroom fears can be alleviation for your little ones and provide them with a sense of safety.
Children that need a little more storytelling to drift off to sleep might thrive with a little nighttime meditation or visualization. Using these relaxation techniques can quiet their minds and bodies. A very tranquil and sweet children’s meditation series can be found on the Kinderling App: Bedtime Explorers.
If you have tried everything, and you are still finding most nights are sleepless for your child, it could be time to consider if they’re being given an optimal sleeping environment. Much like adults, something like a lumpy mattress could lead to your child’s restlessness. Ensuring your child has a comfortable and calming sleep environment on a proper mattress can be an important measure to take alongside these steps.
Bedtime is most definitely a rallying cry for many parents. Making an enjoyable routine out of it may be exactly what your kids have been craving but didn’t know how to ask. The great thing is that it’s never too late to start and it’s 100% okay to start small. Perhaps just pick up a good book tonight and see how that goes. You never know, it might just be the start of a new bedtime celebration in your home.