Healthy sleep habits are such an important and vital part of healthy development for children, yet for many families, the bed time routine is a huge hassle. When children resist going to sleep, refuse to brush teeth, have a sudden inability to put on pajamas and start whining “I just can’t do it” and “I’m not going to sleep” it’s hard to stay calm.
While there are no magical or instant fixes to bedtime, there are there many soothing and peaceful things that parents can do that may create a more peaceful bedtime routine and ultimately encourage healthy sleep habits for young children.
Here are 8 Ideas that may be helpful towards creating a more peaceful bed time routine for young children.
1. Rethink the overall idea of what a bedtime routine is:
Although most parents think of the bedtime routine as the time that starts after dinner or only about 15-30 minutes before lights out, I have found focusing on making the late afternoon to evening time a calming and predictable time, starting well before the actual pajamas and lights out can help children transition really well into the bed time routine.
2. Get everyone moving
Making sure we have plenty of opportunities to play and exercise each day really makes a difference in how everyone sleeps. If outdoor play is impossible, then some kind of indoor but energy expanding activity is key like have a crab crawl race, moving heavy books in a basket or dancing around.
3. Clean up toys as a way to transition into the evening
Having a somewhat predictable time each day when play will come to an end is a great way for children to take the time to finish any play activities or stories they were developing in their mind and prepare for the end of the day. We clean up toys each day before dinner and I find this takes away any struggles surrounding toys and playing because they’ve had a chance to process the idea that toys are being put away for the day. (They still play or look at books but the bigger clean up is done!)
4. Limit screen time
My children really enjoy watching a few shows and playing a few games on a tablet so, no worries, this isn’t a cease all television, screens are evil recommendation. However, screen time can negatively impact sleep habits and I find that limiting screen time to calm, engaging and advertisement free content and turning all screens off at least one hour prior to lights out can really make a big difference in how the night time routine unfolds as well as how well children sleep.
5. Better Diet for Better Sleep
Healthy sleep and healthy nutrition are both vital to healthy brain development. Research into pediatric behavior and sleep patterns also have shown that synthetic food coloring can cause restlessness, irritability and sleep disturbance. Serving wholesome and nourishing meals and avoiding an excess of processed and artificial foods may have a positive impact on sleep habits. Now, we generally eat healthy foods but we absolutely love dessert and sweets here but the sugar makes us all way to giddy and energized to sleep so we try to eat sweets or dessert only earlier in the day so we have plenty of time to burn off the extra energy.
6. Be Predictable yet Flexible
Children crave predictability, yet they need some flexibility so they may feel more in control of their own world. My children have a visual chart for the evening so they know what will happen and what is expected. They also have the freedom to follow their bedtime chart in whatever order they want. Sometimes teeth get brushed before pajamas, sometimes only after hanging up their towel and tossing clothes into the laundry hamper. There are no stickers or rewards for completing the chart, it really just serves a visual guide. We also have everything needed for bedtime within their reach so they feel capable and independent to do things for themselves but they have the security of knowing a parent is close by for any support.
7. Connect & Cuddle
No matter what happened in the day, we always take the time to connect and finish the day on good terms. Reading books, making up stories together, snuggling, enjoying a soothing massage and sharing our highs and lows of the day is one way we do this. That last connection at the end of the day really helps children look forward to getting read for bed too. Sometimes if we are short on time we may read only one story or just share something that made us happy, but we strive to always make time to connect before lights out.
8. Relax & Breath
Taking a few minutes to do yoga, meditation or guided breathing together is a wonderful way for everyone to calm and relax, either during the day or as a way to end the day on a positive note. (See more about Yoga based Sleep Routine & Giveaway below!) It’s not unusual that my children drift to sleep in the middle of a quiet meditation – it’s either relaxing or really boring, either way it leads to sleep!
In addition to these 8 ways we create a peaceful bedtime, I strive to respond to my children with kindness and compassion if they have a need, worry or fear in the nighttime or before going to bed. I find this really helps them feel secure and creates a really healthy attitude towards sleep.
***Peaceful Playground Yoga and Sleep Online Training Review & Giveaway***
The Peaceful Playground is offering one lucky reader a chance to win a Free Yoga Bed Time Routine Training.
I had a chance to review the Peaceful Bed Time Program and I enjoyed listening to the training and reading through the Manual “Establishing a BedTime Yoga Routine Playbook”.
This program is NOT sleep training but rather a very gentle and peaceful guide for parents to learn about healthy and developmentally appropriate sleep patterns and habits and ways to promote peaceful bedtimes. The pack I received came with a great manual that is really packed full of good sleep information. The program also has an audio training file and a meditation which I enjoyed listening to with my children and a 6 minute yoga video that is very nice.
I decided to try the yoga routine video with my two year old around nap time, since that isn’t always so peaceful… the world is far too interesting at the moment and my two year old although desperately tired really wants to stay awake and explore but then by the end of the day she is a bit miserable… So, I gave this a go and it was actually really helpful! My two year old loves yoga and she was actually able to follow the video with me quite nicely and she has napped much better lately (oh-oh, did I just jinx that?)
Overall I think the yoga routine aside from the calming effect for the body also puts a great deal of predictability into the sleep routine which children really do well with. Jackie of My Peaceful Playground was wonderful to work with, her approach to bed time and sleep is gentle and positive and so I would recommend her website as a resource as well as her online training for parents interested in learning more about peaceful bedtime routines.
Look – Enter to win the Peaceful Playground Yoga Routine giveaway!!!