When both of my children were born I was keen to get them in to a bedtime routine as soon as possible and we set about developing a nice calming bed time hour to settle them off in the hope that they would soon learn the difference between night and day and be sleeping all night long. Being honest though, although they both learnt to go to sleep on their own and bed time was never really a battle, they very rarely slept all the way through the night!
But there are lots of other benefits to a good bedtime routine and although you may initially get some resistance from your little one (depending on at what age you start), it is definitely worth the struggle!
My two children have always come out with all sorts of excuses not to go to bed but what they are always trying to achieve is more time with us and more of our attention. It can be tempting at the end of a long and tiring day to rush bedtimes so you can get some ‘grown up time’ before you collapse into bed, but spending a little bit of calm and focused time on your children at this time of day can be so important to them.
This time of day can be the perfect opportunity to create little habits or rituals that will form part of your daily routine and can create very special memories (make the most of it, they aren’t little for long, don’t forget that one day they won’t want you to tuck them in at night or lie in bed and have long cuddle anymore and that time may come sooner than you expect!)
Children can feel safer and more secure with structure and repetition in their lives. With an established bedtime routine they know what bedtime means and if you are firm but caring with them when it comes to this time of the day they will feel comforted by the familiarity of the process.
Children love repetition, how many times have you seen that same DVD (I must have watched the Gruffalo at least a 1000 times!) or read the same story over and over? The repetition of the bedtime routine, whatever it may consist of, lets them know what to expect and this makes them feel more secure and confident which makes it easier for them to settle. This in turn can help them learn how to relax and soothe themselves. These feelings of confidence and safety are great at bedtime as they can help disperse fears such as monsters under the bed, but they also spread into their daily lives helping their emotional development.
There is no perfect bedtime routine and even when you have a good one, there may still be times when bedtime descends into total chaos and you are tearing your hair out (I know, I have been there!) but at least if you have a routine, your family all know what to expect at bedtime and more often than not it will go as planned and be a special time that you spend together.
Establishing a good bedtime routine
It is entirely up to you what you include in your routine and how long it lasts but when you plan a routine for your children, make sure it is one that you will be able to stick to as it’s the consistency that is really important. Choose a time to start which will mean that you won’t have to rush and will give you enough time to include any little rituals that you want to. Once you have decided what time you want your little one to be settled make sure that about an hour before you start to encourage calm activities such as reading or colouring. Avoid any games that involve tearing around the house at 100 miles an hour or anything that you know winds your child up! It’s also a good idea to remind them that bed time is approaching. Once they are nice and calm move into your sequence, whatever it may be. We do: bath, brush teeth/wash face, nighties/pyjamas on, story time, cuddles and kisses and finally lights out.
I am convinced that having the bedtime routine has saved my sanity! But it has also been (and still is) a lovely relaxing, calm time of the day during which we have long cuddles and share special moments together. We also have little rituals that we do each night which have evolved over time as part of the routine. I am trying to make sure I fully appreciate all of these little things because as repetitive as they may seem right now, I know that they won’t last forever and I have no doubt that I will miss most (but definitely not all) of them one day!