There’s an amazing but true sleep fact: when a new baby arrives, parents can loose around 400-750 hours of sleep in the first year1. This is probably why most parents aim to have their babies in a good bedtime routine by the time their babies are toddlers or pre-schoolers. However, it’s not always as easy as it sounds and some parents walk around in a zombie-like state for years, because of lack of sleep.
One of the problems is, toddlers like being with their parents so some will fight going to bed every night, for years and years. And, as many sleep experts will tell you, young children can get overtired easily and when they do, they may find it harder to get to sleep2. So the trick is to get your baby, toddler or pre-schooler into a good bedtime routine as soon as possible. The sooner you start, hopefully the better it will be for your child and you. Here are 8 tips to help show you how to put children to sleep.
#1 KEEP THEM BUSY
Like most people, toddlers will probably sleep better if they’ve been busy throughout the day. So get them outside into the fresh air and sunshine. Go for a walk in the park, or along the beach. Meet a friend, who also has a toddler, in a café, grab a take-away coffee and visit a playground together. Or take your toddler to a swimming pool (a heated one if it’s winter!) to splash around in the toddler pool. There are so many ways to keep your little one busy during the day, which will probably help them sleep better at night. And don’t forget the all important midday nap. As they get older, reduce their naptime and don’t leave it till too late in the afternoon or they may have trouble nodding off in the evening.
#2 FILL THEM UP
As they’re busy growing every day, toddlers and small children may need a healthy snack before bedtime. This could include a glass of warm milk, a piece of toast or even a bowl of healthy breakfast cereal. Remember to do this before they get into bed or they’ll have to get up again to brush their teeth. While they’re snacking, keep them away from the television or any electronic device. Instead, use this time to have a quiet chat. You can ask them what their favourite part of their day was or discuss what your plans are for the next day. If your child is too little to talk, you can do all the talking. Remember to keep your tone low, warm and comforting.
#3 BATH TIME
If your child loves bath time, (and let’s face it, a lot of them do), add it to your bedtime ritual. Having a warm bath is quite a soothing experience so should relax your child. Plus, once you’ve dried them you can quickly put their pjs on them and carry them straight to bed while they’re still toasty warm. If your child isn’t a big fan of the bath, or they spend their time playing exciting games that involve sharks, dragons and whirlpools, you might like to leave this step out. What you don’t want just before bedtime is a crying or over-excited toddler.
#4 TEETH AND TEDDYS
An important part of a child’s bedtime routine is getting them to wash their hands and face, and brush their teeth. It’s a good idea to get them into the habit of brushing their teeth at a young age as dental hygiene is important. If they’re not overly excited about brushing their teeth, perhaps their favourite teddy could have its own toothbrush. As you brush your toddler’s teeth, they can brush their teddy’s teeth.
P.S. The Australian Dental Association recommends you brush your child’s teeth until they’re 8-years-old, then supervise them until they’re 10-years-old.