A healthy sleep routine is essential at any age. A bedtime routine eases the transition from being awake to being asleep. With calming, comforting activities, your child will feel more secure and ready for bed. Sleep associations are strong, and with consistent use, your child will come to expect the routine, making bedtime transitions easier for everyone.
A child’s sleep routine can be simple as long as it is consistent and predictable. Your child’s bedtime routine will change as they age, but the basics should stay the same. Quick and easy or long and relaxing, it’s your choice what you do to make your child ready for bed.
Developing a sleep routine for your child is easy: simply choose a few calming activities that will help your child wind down before bed. It can be as simple as putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, going to the bathroom, and reading a story, or you can involve bathtime, snuggling, songs, or even massage. Follow these tips to build the perfect bedtime routine for you and your child, adjusting activities for age as necessary:
• Set a consistent bedtime: Your child’s body will learn to get ready to sleep at a certain time if you stick to a consistent bedtime, making the transition to bed easier.
• Tell your child bedtime is approaching: Give your child a warning that you’ll be starting bedtime in a few minutes. If they’re playing, suggest they get “one more time” and then it’s off to start your routine.
• Stop screen time: Screen time should end at least 30 minutes before bed. Do not allow screen time in your child’s bedroom and especially not in bed.
• Limit food and drink: Avoid giving your child food or drink just before bed, and don’t send your child to bed with a drink, especially milk, formula, or juice, which can cause cavities as they sit on teeth all night. If they insist on a drink, give them water.
• Brush teeth and use the potty: While you’re running bath water, encourage your child to use the potty and brush his or her teeth, offering assistance if necessary.
• Start a warm bath: A warm bath will raise your child’s body temperature slightly and induce sleepiness. Plus, they can keep playing for a few more minutes with bath toys.
• Put on pajamas: Help your child dress for bed in comfortable pajamas. If they are old enough, encourage them to choose which pajamas they’d like to wear.
• Choose a comfort item: If your child sleeps with a special blanket or toy, ask them to choose which item they’d like to take to bed.
• Keep bedtime in your child’s bedroom: Once your bedtime routine has begun, keep it all in your child’s sleep environment. Avoid adult bedrooms or trips to the kitchen or living room for snacks or toys once you’ve gone into their room.
• Read a story, sing a song, say a prayer: Enjoy a few minutes of bonding over a favorite bedtime book, especially ones with a bedtime theme. Lullabies and prayers or meditation are also a good option during this time.
• Put your child to bed: Take a few minutes to snuggle or talk about your day if you’d like. Encourage children to fall asleep on their own by saying goodnight and leaving while they are still awake.
• Stay consistent: Whatever elements you choose to make part of your bedtime routine, stick with them. Keeping the same routine every night makes it easier for your child to settle into bed, giving his or her body cues that it’s about time to go to sleep. Avoid wavering on bedtime rules to cut down on stalling.
This article is originally published on Sleep Help Institute. Visit their website to learn more about healthy sleep for parents and kids.