Bedtime can be a long drawn out process for older children. In my opinion, there is no harm in having a longer bedtime routine as long as the end result is that your child is tucked into bed happy and drifting off to sleep. This is why I often call bedtime “a marathon and not a race”. When you are rushing your children up the stairs to get a bath, brush their teeth and put on pajamas it can be stressful. Stressed out children or parents are reactive and noncompliant. This results in upset people when it should be a relaxing fun time. Children will be able to rest a bit easier when they have had some fun and were able to have some good connection time with an adult prior to going to sleep.
You may be asking…
“How do you reduce the stress at bedtime?”
The following are some tips that may help:
- Take it one step at a time.
- Allow enough time to get all the steps done.
- Account for time for your child to complete tasks. As adults, this can sometimes be painful for us as we just want to get it done.
- Offer choices when possible. Examples: “Do you want to brush your teeth or do you want my help?”; “Which toothpaste do you want? Pink or blue?”
- Play and laugh as much as you can.
- Remember going late to bed by 5 to 10 minutes is not the end of the world.
We live this marathon every night. Our 5 (almost 6)-year-old is my real life example that this can work. Previously, I wrote a blog post about Bringing the Fun Back to Bedtime. I wrote this blog post shortly after I recovered from the lovely transition from crib to big boy bed. I really struggled with trying to keep the bedtime under the recommended 30 to 45 minutes. This all changed when I realized that it was all about the journey to sleep. If we got there stressed and frustrated, sleep took forever! When we got there over time and while having fun, sleep happened quickly for our son.
Here is a quick rundown of our evening routine:
- We head upstairs around 6:30 to 6:45 pm. He plays while the bath is filling up. He usually likes to play with one parent. This can be an interactive play (he likes to pretend that he is a Pokemon character and one parent is the Pokemon Master), a game (he likes to play fish or Tic Tac Toe) or independent play where his imagination goes wild.
- He uses the bathroom.
- He gets a bath and plays in the water for 15 to 20 minutes (sometimes less depending on the shape his skin is in).
- He gets dressed.
- He gets a snack picnic style on the floor in the master bedroom.
- He flosses and brushes his teeth with help from an adult.
- He then goes to his room and picks out 2 stories to read. He reads 3 books altogether (Home reading book from school and 2 more).
- While reading stories the other parent applies 2 washable tattoos on his feet or legs (Yes you are reading this correctly!)
- After stories, he snuggles with one adult (usually Daddy) for 3 minutes.
- When the timer goes off the adult leaves the room and he “reads” quietly in his bed.
- After 10 to 15 minutes (sometimes sooner) he will call out and ask that he gets his light turned off. He could do it himself but it is our last chance to tuck him in and give him a final piece of connection before he goes to sleep. He is asleep between 8 to 8:15 pm.
Keep in mind our routine may be a bit long for you or your family. As with all things parenting, do what works for you and your child!! Enjoy your child as much as possible!
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