Having a regular routine for bedtime helps provide our children with a strong sense of security and comfort as they conclude each day. Whether they spent their day playing with friends, running around outside, learning in school, at team practice, or any combination thereof, both their bodies and minds need help calming down at the end of the day to ensure a sound, healthy night’s sleep. In particular, deep sleep allows their minds to process and consolidate what they’ve done and learned all day so that they awake refreshed and rejuvenated, ready for a new day of discovery and activity.
One of the biggest mistakes I made early in my parenting experiences was not beginning the whole bedtime routine early enough. After much research, as well as trial and error, I found that starting my kids’ bedtime routine an hour or more before I wanted their little heads on their pillows worked wonders. For instance, if you’d like your children to be drifting off to sleep by 8:30 p.m., you might try something this:
7:00 — Have a healthy little bedtime snack together at the table.
7:15 — 10-15 minutes of calm, indoor playtime with the lights turned down a bit (the low lighting cues the body’s internal clock that it is almost time for sleeping).
7:30 — Time to put the toys away and head to the bathroom to wash hands, brush teeth, and put on our pajamas (keep the lights low in the bathroom and bedroom while doing all of this).
8:00 — Snuggle up in a chair or in bed to read a story or talk quietly together.
8:20 — Eyes are closed, head on pillow, snuggling with Mom or Dad…
8:30 — Goodnight, everyone!
Perhaps you’d rather have your children put their pajamas on first, then do all of the above — tailor the routine to fit your family’s habits and preferences. Whatever you choose to do, establish a routine that your family can stick to every night. This will really help everyone — including you — to have a good night’s sleep each night.
Dr. Cheryl Blau is a middle school teacher with New Morning School in Plymouth, MI. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.