Getting kids to sleep hassle-free is a dream of many parents. Just like any new routine, though, it may take time for all parties involved (i.e., you and your kids) to adjust to it. Start with the goal in mind, perhaps lights out by 8 p.m. or not get out of bed after the final book or song. Back up about two hours and start the new routine.
If your goal is to help your child turn over a new leaf with new sleep habits, it may be time to start with a different setting. There are several ways you can do this. You can purchase a Simmons mattress and new bedding that your child helps pick out. You can transition your child out of a crib or toddler bed and into a big bed. You can move the bed to a different wall for a new look or simply paint the old frame. Choose something dramatic that marks an end to old habit and a fresh start. Be sure to build it up to your child in advance by saying things like, “In two weeks, we’re starting your new bedtime routine. Aren’t you excited?”
Make sure your little one is physically tired on the first few days of the new routine. This will make their ability to fall asleep easier. Take them out for an extra long walk or spend time at the playground after school. If your child still naps, wake him or her up 15 minutes earlier. Your little one’s body should be ready for sleep at the end of a busy day. Whatever you do, however, don’t overtire them. Almost every parent has had the experience of an overly tired youngster throwing a tantrum. The goal is to hit the sweet spot of being tired enough but not out of control.
Long Wind Down
If your goal is for you to be walking out of your child’s bedroom at 8 p.m., then start the long slow wind down at 6 p.m. if possible. Make sure your child gets a filling, healthy dinner with no extra sweets or caffeine. Choose one 30-minute TV show at most for him or her to watch. Avoid computers or iPads or anything that involves active participation from your child. Turn off the overhead lights and turn on lamps. Close the blinds if it’s still light outside. Maybe play some soothing music at a low volume. The idea is to create a restful atmosphere that points towards slumber.
Many parents prefer that their kids bathe right after coming in from outside, but if possible, put this off until later in the night. Warm baths are relaxing, so don’t use up this trick too early in the evening. If your child likes to play in the tub, tell them that soap and shampoo comes first and then set a timer for playtime. Change the alarm to something soft rather than shrill and warm towels in the dryer to keep that comforting feeling.
Books and Songs
Kids love to snuggle with their parents and to have their full attention, so make sure that your child has yours during this transition to sleep. Leave your cell phone in the other room and focus on this special time. In the beginning, reading books and singing songs may take longer than you want, especially if you have a million things to do, but while you are establishing a routine, be fully committed. Choose a preset number of books you will read and songs you will sing and stick to it. Plan for a special exit song that you sing as you walk out of the room. Once out, don’t come back. If your child gets upset, use a tag team system if possible. Once Mommy has said good night only Daddy comes in and he doesn’t read, sing or smile. Switch off jobs as needed.
Establishing a bedtime routine takes work, but once it’s in place, everyone will sleep sounder and awaken more refreshed. Keep your eye on the prize, and it can be done.