ABC’s OF GETTING THE KIDS TO BED
As a parent, you know that there is nothing as peaceful as a sleeping child. However, evenings can be challenging as tired children sometimes do whatever they can to stay awake longer. Here are seven handy tips for creating a smooth transition that will have your kids sleeping soundly in no time.
1. Establish a nighttime ritual
Children thrive on routines and tend to do best when they know what is expected of them. Therefore, establishing a nighttime routine is one of the most effective ways to get your kid to sleep. Many parents swear by the bath, book and bed method.
However, you can add your own personal elements as long as you make it the same routine every night. A visual aid of the routine helps. Make a chart with steps for the routine to complete. Brush teeth? Check. Water? Check. Bathroom stop? Check. Select books? Check.
Some parents add a few minutes of snuggling, talking about the day and some laughing/giggling to their routine. It can help clear the child’s mind so they can go to sleep.
Another parent adds, “My biggest trick for getting the kids to sleep for nap or nighttime is rubbing their backs or petting their hair. It works no matter how hyped up they are.”
2. Have a set bedtime
In addition to having a bedtime ritual, have your children go to sleep at the same time each night. Children are attuned to the natural cycles of daylight and can easily tell if it is bedtime long before they can read a clock. Having a set bedtime can also eliminate squabbles regarding those requests for just five more minutes.
If you're daily life doesn't allow for a set bedtime, giving a time limit and setting an alarm helps create a definite cut-off time. Set your phone alarm after a five minute warning.
A secret from one mother of two is to get a nightlight that your child will love, say a cute little owl. Then plug the owl into a timer that goes on during the hours you want your child to sleep. Create a pattern that when the owl is on, it’s time to sleep. This takes the parents out of the power struggle. It’s the owl that says it’s time to sleep, not you.
3. Dark and quiet room
Children sleep best in a slightly darkened room. For rooms that are near bright outdoor lights, consider using shades to create a darker environment. If your child is afraid of the dark, install a nightlight that gives enough light to see while still providing a good environment for sleep. Many parents use white noise or music when the kids go to bed.
Keep their room visually quiet by making sure the room is cleared of toy clutter. Out of sight-out of mind really works when it comes to bedtime.
4. Create a comfy bed
Children (and adults) love snuggling into a comfortable bed. Choose soft materials for your child’s bed coverings such as down comforters and pillows. Add a splash of personality by choosing a special blanket or theme so they will look forward to climbing into bed each night.
Go with lighter versions on your child’s favorite colors. Cool tones and pastels work best since loud colors can sometimes be distracting.
5. Keeping them in bed once they get there
If you are tired of your child getting out of bed every night, set up your bedtime routine to head off any excuses before they start. This way, they will have no reason to climb out of bed and make one last request.
Be super consistent every time the child gets up. Silently walk them back to bed, say goodnight, and leave. Just doing that over and over, and not getting upset, sends a clear and gentle message.
In Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Dr. Marc Weissbluth recommends, “You might close the door in a progressive fashion every time he [or she] gets out of bed. You can put three or four white tape marks on the floor, and after each time he gets out of bed, the door is closed a little more until it is barely open. If he stays in bed, the door is open to the first tape mark.”
6. Help them feel secure
Bedtime can be lonely for children after you leave the room. Help make them feel more secure by offering a stuffed animal or favorite blanket. Let your children know they can feel your love every time they snuggle up to their fuzzy friend.
To keep the nightmares away, our sleep expert, Dr. Maas, recommends “avoiding scary movies especially in the 2-5 year ages when children have difficulty separating fantasy from reality.”
7. Stick to Your Plan
Although the first few nights of a new bedtime plan may be rough, it is important to stick to it. As mentioned earlier, children thrive on routines and need to know that you mean what you say when it comes to bedtime.
By making bedtime comfortable and fun, your child will sleep more soundly and may begin going to bed without major struggles. Remember to create a comfortable environment that includes soft bedding, a darkened room and a stuffed animal to snuggle, and your child will transition to bed easily so they can fall asleep.