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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Not matter what their age, all children go through the normal sleep cycles when they go to sleep. This means during the night they wake just slightly before settling back into a deep sleep. So it’s important that your child is warm and comfortable or they may wake up during the light stage of sleep. So it’s preferable they have a good quality mattress, clean sheets and bedding, and a season-appropriate quilt. Lights should be off, except for a nightlight and their pyjamas should be comfortable – not too tight or too scratchy. If they’re still wearing nappies, opt for thicker night nappies or put them into two cloth nappies, which might help them stay drier for the entire night.
There are so many positive reasons to include reading a book to your toddler or child in your bedtime ritual. Teaching them a love of books, reading and learning for starters, plus it’s a great chance for them to spend quality time with you. And the good thing is, you don’t need a large collection of books. Tiny tots love reading the same books over and over again and, as they begin to master the art of speaking, they’ll start to preempt you and say the words! As they get older, you can let them choose the book to be read, and when they learn to read, they can lay back and read on their own. Most suburbs and towns have a library, so it’s a good idea to become a member.
Libraries are a wonderful resource for picture books and chapter books, plus they often have a reading time for toddlers, which is a great opportunity to get your little one out and about.
While some kids are fine dozing off in a darkened room, others may get scared or anxious. If your child cries when you turn the light off, a nightlight might be a good option. If you’d like to make it a bit more special look for a nightlight disguised as your child’s favourite animal or character. Hopefully your little one will settle down quickly and go to bed dreaming about fairies and snuggeries!
The last part of any bedtime ritual is saying good night. You may have to get your toddler a drink, or a special teddy, or give them an extra kiss, or take them back to the toilet, or engage in a special handshake, or put a pair of socks on their little cold feet, but then you should say good night and leave the room. Fingers crossed they fall asleep!
We hope you enjoyed these tips on how to put kids to bed. If your toddler or small child doesn’t settle down and you find yourself going back into their bedroom every night, you might like to seek professional help. Remember, the sooner you get your child into a good bedtime routine the happier the whole household will be, especially your toddler when they wake up bright, happy and ready for an adventure in the morning!