I used to dread bed time with every bone in my body!!! I have struggled getting my 3 girls to bed over the years, but have finally come up with a simple game-plan that actually works!
Routine, routine, routine … it’s a difficult word when applying to children, especially when there are 3 of them under the age of 5, but it’s the only way I have managed to maintain my sanity and avoid (what used to be) the nightly bedtime marathon. By applying the same routine every night, and avoiding any deviation tells your children that a) bedtime is soon and b) bedtime is soon so don’t push it!
So here it is, the four best tips of my ‘bedtime routine'!
T.V AND ELECTRONICS
The most effective thing that I found when I was ‘developing’ my bedtime routine, was making sure there was no T.V or anything electronic being used an hour or two before bed. Even though my kids are in one spot when they are watching T.V the idea is to soothe and relax your children leading up to bedtime, rather than encouraging too much stimulation, which is what T.V and other electronics do.
Plus interestingly enough the type of blue light that emits from all our electronic screens is capable of triggering the brain to stop making a hormone called ‘melatonin’, which is a natural hormone that is responsible for making us feel ‘sleepy’, or indicating to our brain that our body is tired and that it needs rest. So by limiting or avoiding any electronics leading up to bedtime helps your children to naturally start to feel tired and will actually improve their quality of sleep!
Somedays I can’t wait until bedtime and find myself counting down the hours! But make sure that you are not putting your children to bed too early, otherwise it will be twice as hard putting them to sleep!!
It’s also important to remember that each day is different, and depending on how active your children have been that day can help to dictate their bedtime. I tend to find that during the summer holidays my children are more active during the day because they are constantly outside doing something physical, so I find myself making bedtime that little bit earlier to compensate. Think about their day and make bedtime appropriate for them.
By trying to avoid electronics or loud stimulating games, after dinner I try to spend some quality time with all my girls, we find a relaxing game to play like a puzzle and we talk about our day or tell stories. Spending time with ‘mum’ really helps to relax your children, plus I find that it’s a great way to fit in some quality time on a daily basis, especially if you are a busy, working mum like myself.
Whilst this doesnt always happen everyday, becuase let's face it life get's super busy and we aren't super-mums, I try my best to fit it in, even if I only play with them for 10-15 minutes. Somedays I don't have the time at all where as other days I do, the key is to not stress about it too much and just do as much as you can.
By now, in whatever order, your children have had dinner, had some time to play (whether with you or on their own), been bathed, brushed their teeth (depending on their age) …. and it’s pretty much bedtime. I always make sure at this stage that they have had a glass of water and been to the toilet before I tuck them into bed.
Now the excuses start; "mum can I just…?" "But mum I’m not tired!" "Mum can we just play a little more?" Mum, mum, mum! So, at this point before I leave their bedrooms I remind them that its bedtime, that they have had dinner, had some playtime, gone to the toilet, had a glass of water, brushed their teeth, that we have read a book together, it’s dark outside and it’s time to go to sleep. I try to remind them that sleep is important so that they can grow ‘tall like mummy’ and become ‘big girls’ and have lots of energy for their day tomorrow. I give them a kiss and a hug goodnight and walk out of their rooms.
Did this work for me the first time? Of course not, I found my kids standing next to me in the kitchen after I had ‘put them to bed’, or gone to check on them and found them playing in their rooms, or heard dad come home and found them trying to convince him that “mum told me I could stay up a little longer”. So when you first start to implement a 'routine' like this, make sure to check on them every now and then to ensure that they are still in their beds. If they aren't sleeping, or they take a while to eventually fall asleep don't worry about it too much, it's more important that they have listened to you not challenging the notion that you have put them to bed.
The trick is DON’T GIVE IN, bedtime is bedtime with no buts! The slightest form of giving in will just make tomorrow even worse because it’s saying to your children ‘it’s bedtime, but I secretly don’t mean it’, so stick to your routine and don’t be afraid to be firm. Remember children need routine to settle, and sleep is so important for them, so be persistent and it will work!
These simple things have really helped me, and I hope that if not all of them you find something in here that you can adopt to make your life just that little bit easier!