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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Merino

How to Create a Successful Soothing Bedtime Routine for Kids

A soothing bedtime routine is so powerful for helping your child reach a calm state and prepare their little bodies for sleep. Can you imagine just going all day, and then just being plopped into your bed and expected to sleep? It would be so challenging, not to mention confusing. Think about what you do as an adult. Maybe you wash your face, brush your teeth, get into your pyjamas, read a book and then go to sleep - that’s your bedtime routine! You don’t just walk to your bedroom in your street clothes and jump into bed. Maybe you have done that once or twice in your life, no judgment here, we have all been there - but usually there is some sort of routine before hopping into bed and catching some zzz’s.


Children thrive on routines, they love the predictability and anticipation of something coming. The bedtime routine helps cue their bodies that sleep is coming. At 24 months +, you can start to make routine cards, and charts etc, as it’s such a great visual cue that sleep is coming! Having no surprises at bedtimes, and clear expectations will eliminate (most) bedtime battles. Research shows that having a consistent bedtime routine, will make bedtime easier and also help your little ones go to sleep faster, and stay asleep longer. Now we are talking!!


Benefits of a Bedtime Routine 

Studies have shown that there is a positive relationship between implementing a consistent bedtime routine at an early age of life and sleep. The research shows that the more days that the routine was being used, the better the quality of sleep for the child. Simply put, the longer you are implementing a bedtime routine and the earlier you start equals a better and longer sleep for everyone!


Benefits of a soothing routine also help many other aspects of your childrens' lives. Research has shown that a consistent routine shows a positive impact on language development, emotional and behavioural regulation, and parent-child attachment. 


Tips to Create a Soothing Bedtime Routine That Works  


1. Be Consistent!  

Like everything sleep related, consistency is key. Whether you are implementing a bedtime routine for your newborn baby, or you are trying to establish a new routine for your toddler - you have to be consistent. The more consistent you are, the better the success you will have.

 You want to take your bedtime routine steps, and do them in the exact same order every night. For example, your routine may consist of a bath, massage, jammies, feeding, story and song. Take those and do them over and over again everyday. 

You can start to implement a small routine day 1 of your baby being born, something simple like a feed, bath, massage and pjs and laid into bed. If you are thinking my baby is 6 months and we haven't started anything... thats okay, start now! :)  


2. Implement an Age-appropriate Bedtime

To avoid an overtired child, you want to be aware of the time that they are physically in their bed preparing for sleep. If you are putting a baby to bed too early, or too late you may run into bedtime battles. Bedtimes will be dependent on your child and can vary, but the chart below is a great guide for the earliest and latest bedtime by age to achieve the recommended amount of sleep in a 24 hour period with ease.



You know your child best, and will know if your child is on the lower or higher end of sleep needs. Some children simply don’t need as much sleep to function, whereas some need more sleep. For example, my oldest child has always been on the lower end of sleep needs compared to my middle child. My oldest has had a later bedtime and has woken up at the same time in the morning as my middle child. My middle dude is higher sleep needs, and when he dropped his nap he had a 5:30PM bedtime for months to catch up on the sleep he missed from that nap. Hence why these are all averages, find what works best for your family! 


Sometimes you may have to play around with these bedtimes as well to see what will produce a wake up time later than 6am. Your bedtimes may fluctuate as your child grows, but whatever you choose be consistent! If your child is struggling with falling asleep, and there is a lot of resistance, then your child may need more sleep than they are currently getting. You want to consider moving their bedtime up 15 minutes every night to produce an optimal wake up time. It’s important to note that if your child had an off nap day, or is tired from daily activities, you always want to put your child to bed earlier, as sleep begets sleep!


3. Be Aware of the Length of the Bedtime Routine 

The routine is to help your child unwind from their day and bring them to a calm state and achieve sleep! You don’t want your bedtime routine too short or too long, your goal is to find a happy medium. There is such a thing as a routine that is too long, some of my clients have told me that they struggle with putting their little ones to bed and then when we assess the length of their “bedtime routine” it’s somewhere between 1-2 hours. Sometimes a longer bedtime routine actually causes some children to feel anxious about bedtime approaching, which leads to bedtime battles and a whole lot of bedtime stalling. If the routine is too short, sometimes you won’t achieve that calm state that you want your children to be in to go to sleep and stay asleep.


A great length for a bedtime routine is max 30 minutes, you can still unwind before routine and I encourage that. Activities such as playing with blocks, legos, colouring, building a puzzle are all great examples to help your child settle. You do want to avoid screen time 2 hours prior to bedtime, as the blue light can be quite stimulating and do the opposite effect of what you are wanting to achieve.


If you have an older child, I recommend having a timer so that they know when they will transition from playing with their toys to getting ready for bed. At our house we have the Time Timer, which is a great visual for our boys. We use it all the time, and it is used before bedtime to help our children know when snack time is over and bedtime will be happening. Some of my clients use a timer or a toddler clock during their bedtime routine as well. Any way to to show your child when the routine is done and when they are expected to get into bed and go to sleep. Set yourself up for success with your family! 


4. Incorporate Bedtime Routine Activities 

I recommend choosing 3-4 activities that you can complete in the same order every night, within 30 minutes. Whatever you choose, you want to be consistent and have the routine something that each and every caregiver can implement. You want your child to understand that the bedtime routine doesn’t just revolve around one parent. I strongly encourage getting your child involved if they are at an age where they are able to select their own jammies or pick their bedtime book. The routine is a great chance to bond with your child, and fill their cup right before they go to bed.


Here is a list of bedtime activities that you can include in your child’s routine, depending on their age you would use some over others. Keep in mind, you don’t want to use all of them because that could take you to a routine lasting over and hour, and your goal is 30 minutes in length: bath, massage, washing face and hands, using the potty, brushing teeth, reading books, asking “what was your favourite part of your day?”, playing a quiet board game, putting on jammies, listening to music, singing songs, cuddling. 


The American Academy of Pediatrics established the 4 B’s of Bedtime- Bath, Brush, Book, Bed. They are easy to remember and implement for families, and children. Creating a toddler routine chart is another great way for a visual to implement a bedtime routine. You can use a sticker chart or laminate the page and cross things out every night - whatever works. Take a look at what we do in our family here! If you have younger children that are still receiving a bedtime feed, then you obviously want to incorporate that into your routine as well. 


Below is an example of what a soothing bedtime routine may look like using the 4 B’s of Bedtime. Of course, the times are flexible and you want to adjust times based on what works for your family!

6:30 PM - Feed (if your baby is no longer feeding at night, this will give more time in the bath, or and extra book/song)

6:40 PM - Bath: Massage and jammies

6:55 PM - Brush teeth

6:57 PM - Book: You can also sing a lullaby at this time, following your books

7 PM - Bed :In crib/bed awake, kiss goodnight, sound machine on, lights out and leave room.


Thats it! Now with implementing this routine every night, bedtime will become predictable for your child and sleep will improve! You’ve got this!


Conclusion

It’s important to prioritize sleep for all ages, and understand the importance of sleep. Research has shown that children who get an adequate amount of sleep for their age per 24 hours on a regular basis promotes optimal health.


Night time sleep can be achieved by being consistent, implementing an age-appropriate bedtime with a 30 minute bedtime routine with activities that your child enjoys! Dreading bedtime will be a thing of the past once you implement your soothing bedtime routine for your family. Enjoy all the snuggles and quality time!! 


If you would like to schedule a 15 minute free Discovery Call to find out more about how I can help your family nurture healthy sleep, don’t hesitate to reach out: andrea@sleepingbeautiezzz.com

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