Sleep is so important. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t have so many articles and books and blogs on how to get our kids to just go to sleep already! A big part of getting into sleep mode is setting the stage that the day is over and it is time to rest. No parent wants to spend hours getting their kids into bed. A good bedtime routine contains just a few basics that can be performed almost anywhere. In my opinion, it should take less than ten minutes. It can be made longer if you are all having fun playing around, but it can be pared down even further if needed. There are four main components to a good bedtime routine.
1) Pajamas. It doesn’t matter what the pajamas your kid wears are, as long as an outfit change takes place. This physically shows our kids that we are serious, they are changing activities from day time to night time. Pajamas need to be appropriate for the temperature of the home and the child so they are comfortable at night. Keep in mind little ones aren’t the best at keeping blankets on, or shouldn’t have them at all. So they might need warmer pajamas than adults do. Most importantly these clothes need to be comfortable and safe. Nothing that will tangle up at night, and nothing that will cause them to wake up uncomfortable. Other than that- I say whatever makes your kid happy. They are more likely to want to get into their pajamas if they are ones they like. I don’t find this to be the time to argue about texture, fit, or appearance. Who really sees kids when they are sleeping? No one, so who cares what they look like. My son loved one set of pajamas so much he wore them long after they technically fit. He was comfortable, so I didn’t care. He says something is too itchy, it’s gone. They are the ones who have to wear it for 12 hours or so, they know what they want.
2) Hygiene. I don’t believe in doing bath as a part of the bed time routine. It can take place before bed, but it isn’t a necessary component to signal that it is almost time to sleep. That doesn’t mean my kids go to bed dirty. That doesn’t feel good to anyone! For babies, a nice rub down with a baby wipe is usually plenty. You can check all those sweet folds and get all the fuzzies out from those tiny toes. For older kids I do at least a face wash, sometimes with a baby wipe too. Be sure to check the feet if your child has been barefoot. No one wants dirty sheets. This is when we brush teeth. This is also when final diaper changes or potty trips take place. (Potty training time means another trip last thing before bed too. One more try never hurts.)
3) Prayers and reflection. I know not every family is religious. This doesn’t have to be formal prayers, or really any prayers at all. This is just a good time to reflect back on the day and talk to your child for a few minutes. We mention what went well that day, and touch on what we still need to work on. I try to reinforce basic behavioral goals and review the all the time rules. This is a quiet moment to really seek out your child’s heart and talk to them. We do say our prayers during this time. It doesn’t have to be a whole lecture period, just a few moments to touch base with your child.
4) Final Goodnight. I am not a good singer, but when I had my first child I couldn’t help but sing to him. Studies have shown that babies adore the sounds of their parents singing, even if we think it sounds like screeching cats. So I sing. Our final good night is the same songs, every time our children go to sleep. For all the children we do Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Short, simple, to the point. I start singing this to them as soon as we bring them home. Any time they are put down to a deliberate sleep time I sing this song to them. I try not to sing it to them any other time at first. This way when they hear that song they know it is time for sleep. If you don’t like to sing it can be a final set of words or a last series of kisses. It just needs to be something that you can do every single time you put your child to sleep that you don’t do other times.
These four things make up the core of any bedtime routine. The great thing about building your routine out of these four items is that it can grow and change as needed. When our children are newborns, this whole thing goes pretty quickly. Prayers are just a few words, and there isn’t much reflection with a baby. But as babies grow into toddlers you can use this time to reinforce any lessons you are working on. You can add more to this routine if you have the time, no need to force it into as short a time as possible. But in the times when we are short on time and need to get everyone in to bed, we can quickly hit the basics in less than ten minutes.
Building a routine you can do anywhere is so helpful. This is something you can start at birth and continue for years. The details may change, but the core parts can stay the same. This encourages your child to settle in to sleep time, regardless of how long you spend on the routine or where you are. You can travel and still do your routine. You can easily explain to someone else how to handle bedtime. And as I said, my favorite part, bedtime doesn’t have to stretch for hours. We can be silly and play, but still get into bed without a fight. With a solid routine, everyone knows what is expected of them, making bedtime enjoyable for the whole family.
Here are some more posts on sleep that you might like!
It’s a Babywise Friendly Blog Network Day! All the ladies are talking about different aspects of routine. Check out all the posts!
Twinning Babywise: Routines (or how to start your day off on the right side of the bed)
The Journey of Parenthood: Incorporating Mommy’s Needs in the Daily Family Routine
Mama’s Organized Chaos: Benefits and Types of Routines- And How You Can Use Routines Without Using Schedules
Chronicles of a Babywise Mom: The Key Element to Starting a Routine