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"How to Establish a Positive Sleep Routine for Your Child: A Complete Guide for Parents"

Updated: Mar 6



Ok so you have decided to start a sleep routine for your child. Get ready! As you are probably aware setting any kind of routine comes with the initial fight back. The key to setting it up is perseverance!!


If you give up at the first sign of emotion, you are not only undermining yourself, but you are sending messages to your child that if I “kick off” I will get my own way. So, buckle up… it’s going to be a bumpy ride!



So why do we need to ensure our children are getting enough sleep?

For kids, getting the recommended amount of sleep on a regular basis is linked with better health, including improved attention, behaviour, learning, memory, the ability to control emotions, quality of life, and mental and physical health.


How much sleep should my child be getting?


Chances are when your child is or was between the ages of 4 months to 2 years a sleep routine was already set up. But now that your child is older and has more independence its equally as important to get the routine sorted.

This will feed into your child’s need for predictability, and in turn helps them feel safe and secure.


So, what are the steps for creating a routine?


Here are 9 key steps for a stress free bedtime...


1) Have a consistent start and end time.

A relaxing night-time routine will typically take between 30 and 45 minutes, or 60 minutes max. Plan to get started early enough so your child will be drifting off to sleep by a certain time.

2) Keep the lights low.

Low/dim lighting will help your child to relax and get them ready for sleep.


3) No Screens!

TV, phones, tablets, and laptops can engage your child’s brain into thinking its time to play/watch. Avoid screens at all costs.


4) Begin with a bath.

Warm water and bath time have a soothing effect, making them especially good at sending the signal that it's time to start quieting down.


5) Change into pyjamas.

Putting on PJs is another simple way to tell your child that it's getting close to bedtime. Get them involved in the decision making. Lay them out on their bed before bath time!


6) Offer a snack.

If your child is hungry, they will not be able to sleep, why not have a snack whilst playing a relaxing game.


7) Brush teeth.

Brushing teeth before bed is a good idea to help protect their teeth through the night getting rid of all that residual food before bed. It also helps with your child’s routine.


8) Read books or do another calming activity.

Snuggle up in bed and read relaxing stories, it’s important that these books are calming and aren’t activity focused. If you need any tips look through our blog post about amazing books (HERE)


9) Create their perfect relaxing bedroom

Maybe your child likes to choose a favourite soft toy, maybe they like calming music? Whatever they do like make sure this is all set up before they go in their so that they know it’s time for sleep.


Our routine as an example

6pm: time for bath


6:15pm : snack and family boardgame or card game – keep it light and fun, nothing to overly competitive.



6:30pm: brush teeth


6:45pm: in bed for a story. Night light is on in room, calming sleep promoting music is on lightly. (if you’re not sure there are plenty of these on YouTube why not try this? (HERE)


7:00pm: Check who loves you. – We use this as a calming sleep promoting goodnight where we gently stroke his back and list all the people he knows and say “Granny and Grandpa loves Monkey, Nanna and Grandad loves Monkey” etc always ending with "I love you too the moon and back, and all the stars in the sky infinity times"


7:15-7:30pm: stay in the room near the door sitting quietly – I used to take a book, as boy sometimes it took forever!


7:30pm asleep!



It’s important that if the child wakes up or gets out of bed you do not engage in lengthy conversation, you just reaffirm its sleepy time and that they are safe and that you love them. Keeping your voice low and calm.


We keep the light’s dim in the rest of the house so that if they do come downstairs, they are not overstimulated by bright lights.



Remember the Four P’s



Persistence, – like anything if you adapt, change, or alter your routine in the first few weeks you are defeating yourself. A child needs to know the boundaries and if they think you will crumble, they will push you even further.


Patience – It may take your child time to get into the new routine set a time frame where you are going to rigidly stick to the routine. I suggest 2-3 weeks.


Plan – allow your child to be involved in the routine. Make a chart that has steps, we used to have a chart where our child was a frog and the lily pads were the bedtime routine steps and they’d move the frog closer to their bed each time. When the frog was in bed it was time for them to go to sleep.


Peace- keep everything calm, if you are calm, you promote calmness in your child, remember children are learning and mirroring you all the time. If you seem sleepy and ready for bed, they will!


Conclusion


So that's it all i can offer... it may work, it may make your head explode. But we used the same routine for 2 years and then altered it slightly as our son got older and we do not have any issues whatsoever at bedtime.


If you do try it let me know if it works!


Please remember that this blog is written through personal experience, it in no way guarantees to work for every child but is built on the principals of Positive Parenting.


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