Sleep is critical to everyone, but for your little ones in particular, it is vital. After all, their bodies and minds are growing at a magnificant rate, and they need lots of sleep to facilitate this. Of course, actually getting them into bed and asleep can seem like a daunting challenge. Fear not! Here are some strategies you can use to improve your bedtime Bedlam in a gentle way, taking back control whilst instilling a solid routine and promote healthy sleeping patterns for the whole family!
Set a routine
First of all, little ones love routines. They may not seem like they do, but actually children do respond well once in a consistent routine. Now, I'm not saying they have to be set in stone, and if it gets to one minute past 8 pm, the whole thing goes to pot. However, getting them into a solid routine can help take the drama out of bedtime and get the little ones to fall asleep much more quickly. They need steps to wind down just like us.
A good bedtime routine includes brushing of teeth and a quick wash/bath if that is something you do each evening. It can also help to have set stages to follow such as getting them in their PJs at a particular time, heading upstairs a bit later, and then lights-out after that and so on. You decide the order of things and make sure you follow the same order each night, nomatter how tedious (especially with under 5s) so your little knows what to expect next. Giving them consistency and therefore... Security.
A good bedtime routine will also provide you the opportunity to spend some quality time with your little(s) by reading them a story and tucking them in each night. An activity that is not only important for sleep but can be a valuable method of bonding with your child. Working parents in particular carry alot of 'Mummy guilt' so snuggling up with a story is the perfect way to balance out a heavy work schedule with fitting in quality time.
Make their bedroom a fun place
Next, if you are looking to reduce bedtime drama to a bare minimum, then it may be worth considering making the kid’s bedroom a fun space. This isn't as tough or expensive as it sounds, there are all sorts of products out there like the Cuckooland’s Kids bed collection that can assist you in your success. In fact, they even offer beds that are shaped like teepees and treehouses, all of which are currently on offer, who doesn't like a good bargain?
Now, it's not just getting the bed right that will help you achieve a fun space that your kids will enjoy spending time in when it's come to bedtime, but the lighting too.
Of course, most kids aren't too keen to be in the pitch black dark, so using a trusty nightlight, or dimmable overhead light/lamp can help you create a restful ambiance while still providing some light to calm them . You can even get smart bulbs now that you can change the colours and brightness of from an app on your phone, something that the kids will love to do and you can work into their bedtime routine.
Make bedtime fun
Now, you may be thinking that if bedtime is too fun, this will only wake them up more, but hear me out! Making bedtime fun for your littles is more about getting them on board with going to bed and ticking off tasks in the bedtime routine rather than having them run around the house and be super active.
What this means is that it can be a good idea to do the more mentally active stuff earlier in the evening like homework or clubs, and then have some time, later on, to relax in front of the TV, or with an audiobook.
Of course, it's not a great idea to allow them to be on their phone or tablets straight before bed either. Studies show the blue light from these is known to stimulate the brain and actually wake us up more, something that you certainly don't want to be doing just before bedtime.
Also, it can be hugely helpful in getting your child off to sleep to use soothing techniques at bedtime. These will vary from child to child depending on their preferences but in particular, a white noise machine can be helpful in cancelling out sounds from the rest of the house whilst soothing them off to sleep. Similarly, some children respond well to relaxing ambient music, or even a lullaby from Mummy or Daddy.
Now, in one of the sections above, you will note that doing physical activity just before bed is a bad idea because it will wake the body up. However, it is also the case that if the kids aren't getting enough exercise during the day, it could be affecting their ability to fall asleep at night.
With that in mind, scheduling in regular exercise in the afternoon or early evening can be an excellent way to make bedtimes easier. A reasonable walk home from school instead of using the car may work, as can attending an active club like dance, gymnastics, or football. You can even try watching one of those kids show together that include music and dance moves too.
Regular to rise
Of course, the best motivation to get your kids to sleep without much hassle is knowing they have to get up at a regular time each morning. Something that can be pretty easy to do when they have school the next day but not as easy in the holidays.
Of course, you don't want them getting up too early either and coming into you at 4 am all bright eyed and bushy tailed because that will interfere with your sleep as well.
With that in mind, it can be helpful to set a period in the morning that your littles are allowed, and expected to get up in. If you find they are getting up earlier than allowed them to wake up and play with toys in their room, and even provide some healthy snacks, so they don't get peckish. While, if they are struggling to get up by the time set it may mean they need additional sleep and so bedtime should be brought forward to adjust for this.
Use the return technique.
Lastly, if you littles are being genuinely terrible at bedtime, and I mean getting out of bed regularly, crying, and generally being uncooperative, it can be hugely helpful to take a leaf from Super Nanny's book and use the Return Technique.
The Return Technique is a smart strategy that can be used over a series of a few nights to aid little ones to realise that bedtime MEANS bedtime. How it works is that when they get out of bed for the first time, you say back to bed, pick them up, put them back into bed, give them a kiss goodnight and leave. Then, if they get up a second time you only pick them up, put them in bed, give them a bedtime kiss, and leave. Then, if they get up again, you reduce it down to just picking them up, putting them in bed and leaving, and continue to do this stage until they get the message.
Of course, a technique like this can be hard to implement for both the parent and the child, but it's a matter of long-term gain, over short-term upset here.
After all, the idea is that as a few nights go by, your child will learn that the place they should be is in bed, and this will increase their chances of getting to sleep. An action that will hopefully make everyone life easier at night and more productive during waking hours. If you begin to crack you risk starting this process from scratch as your little will realise there's still a way out of bedtime. So everytime you're about to cave in and go back to old habits, remind yourself why you're doing this and how vital a good night's sleep is to both of you!
Going to be putting any of these ideas to the test? Please pop back and share how you got on in the comments 👇