Bedtimes can be a battle for most parents. I know.. we’ve been through it in our house! My son was never a good sleeper. Even as a baby he would only sleep through the day for 20-30 minutes. We were both so exhausted! So getting a good bedtime routine is vital for the whole family.
He would always fight naps and then by bedtime he was so overtired, that our bedtime routine would just go out the window. In fact we ended up not really having a proper bedtime routine. It was more like ‘How to get your child into bed before all hell broke loose!’ And by that I mean, the over tiredness, the tantrums and tears. And that was just mama 😩
Something had to give!
By the time he was a year old we were demented. Things had to change. We HAD to get into some sort of bedtime routine so that he would get a decent nights sleep. So we all could in fact!! Because my son wasn’t napping, it was causing him to be over tired so it was important for him to have that down time in the day.
I started to put him down after lunch. Sometimes he lay there singing to himself and ended up not sleeping. But for the most part, he actually drifted off to sleep. Especially if we had been out in the morning.
Activities and fresh air always helps when down time comes around in the afternoons. Even if it was only an hour it was better than no rest at all.
Having A Good Napper
My daughter on the other hand was always a great sleeper. She would nap for an hour or two at a time and would even go down at night! I know, I’m bragging lol!
But after having a non-sleeper the first time around I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. 😆
However when you have a younger child that sleeps and an active older child, this can cause issues with nap time. You could stay home all day and make sure your younger child is getting their nap. But this isn’t always possible when you are out and about keeping your oldest busy.
Even now at the age of 5 and no longer napping, my daughter still enjoys her sleep. But there is always a cut off when it comes to bedtime. If you are fortunate to have a napper it can surprisingly cause all sorts of problems towards bedtime. And if your child is no longer napping, they can also get over-tired.
Studies show that children need rest, they need a good nights sleep. It’s what keeps them functioning throughout the day. It’s what keeps us functioning throughout the day lol! 🤣
Joking aside though Ive always been fairly good at keeping some sort of routine at bedtime. But the hardest part is maintaining it. My kids are 5 years apart, so my daughter’s bedtime is much earlier than my son’s. Or at least it should be 😬 which isn’t always the case, but we do try!
Making A Bedtime Ritual
No matter how old your kids are, it’s always good to have the same routine every night if you can and stick with it. I find it helps them settle down easier in the evenings and I can usually get them to bed at a reasonable time.
However I know when it comes to vacation time or during the school holidays sometimes you do have to bend the rules a little and be more relaxed. Especially as your kids get older.
There are 5 steps I like to do when it comes to bedtime. Some people do things in a different order. Perhaps with having different ages or having a partner to help around at bedtime. Sharing the load is always good if you can. This is our routine and it seems to work for us 🙂
- Give Out a Warning
I always find it’s better to prepare them leading up to bedtime. They might be busy playing with their toys or outside playing if it’s the summer. Sometimes with it being so light outside, your children don’t think it’s getting late. I always say “10 more minutes” I also tell them that the sun will be going to bed then too lol!
Of course little children don’t get the concept of time. So if they are playing I will say something like “One more turn and then we are going inside to get ready for bed” I always find that a warning no matter what they are doing just gives them that heads up knowing that bedtime is getting close.
2. Run a Bath
My two don’t have baths as much as they did when they were little. But nights that we do, I feel like it winds them down that little bit better. A bath should be no longer than 15-20 minutes. We’ve sometimes had to do the 5 minute warning whilst in the bath too.
Children like to know what’s happening next and it’s good to keep them in the loop and not spring things on them.
My daughter will protest if I don’t give her that warning lol! She enjoys a bath.
If your kids don’t bathe every night, then have a sink with some water in it for cleaning faces and have them brush their teeth.
3. Toilet Time
This part is always a power struggle with my youngest. She would much rather choose to pee right before bed which is a delay tactic.
It can also go the other way and she refuses to go at all because she’s ‘too tired’ so getting this part out of the way before it gets to that is hugely important. Especially if your child is learning to stay dry at night.
In my experience if you wait until right at the very last minute of ‘going’ then it can often escalate into a full blown screaming match. Which results in your child having to be put on the toilet when they are over tired and can delay bedtime even more.
4. Story Time
This is a huge part of our bedtime, even for my son who is almost 11. He is reading on his own these days, but still enjoys me laying with him before bed. Even if it’s to talk about his day. It’s always been part of our routine.
We often do stories together but sometimes my son prefers factual books. My daughter prefers a story so we will often do her book first and sometimes she’ll just go to bed right after.
Ive heard that many parents have their child pick out 2-3 of their favourite books to read, but we only choose to do one each.
We will sometimes read after school too so 1 book is acceptable for us at bedtime. Otherwise it just gets ridiculous and can certainly delay bedtime.
5. Snuggles/Chat about the day
The last one is pivotal when it comes to the bedtime routine. As I mentioned before my son has always enjoyed me laying with him to discuss his day. For as long as I can remember, he will come home from school and all I get when I ask how his day was, is.. “Fine”
Thats it 🤷🏼♀️ I am sure I’m not the only parent that hears this?!
They never seem to talk about their day until they are just about to lay their heads down and go to sleep. At least my son has always been that way. Probably so that he can delay going to sleep!
But we do always make time for this little chat. It just gives me an opportunity to see what he’s done at school that day, who he played with, did he learn something new?
Of course he does enjoy the snuggles too as does my daughter and that part I am hanging on to for as long as I can. ❤️
Timing is Key
Of course getting to this stage of the evening all depends on how early you start the routine. My two tend to be a little silly leading up to bedtime so we try to start as early as we can just to wind them down.
Depending on if and when your child is napping, it will depend on what time you do the bedtime routine. In our house it’s lights out by 8:30. For my daughter we always try to aim for 8pm.
We don’t often manage it though with having the older sibling. However as I mentioned before my daughter is the better sleeper so she will usually be pretty good with saying goodnight.
Sleeping Without Routine
I know many people who don’t really have their kids in a set regime and that’s fine if that works for your family. But for us I just find it keeps my kids happy and alert for the following day ahead.
I also know from past experience when we’ve allowed my son to stay up late the occasional evening, he still wakes early the next day and is then feeling tired because of his late night. So routine is good for us!
Check out my post on having ‘me’ time and how important it is for your mental health. https://crafty-mummy.com/me_time/
What if your child is waking up with nightmares or bad dreams? How old are children when they start to have bad dreams? And what causes them?
Theres no rhyme or reason as to why children have bad dreams. Even adults can have bad dreams. Children can start to have bad dreams as early as 2 years old but they can increase between the ages of 3-6.
What To Do?
If your child suffers from bad dreams and you are at your wits end on what to do, here are a few pointers to help you along the way.
- Don’t let your child watch anything that might disturb them before bedtime. Children absorb everything they see and hear. A nice bedtime story is always more preferable than screen time before hitting those zzz’s.
- Being over-tired can cause children to have bad dreams. Making sure your child is well rested will help.
- Although it may seem like a myth that foods can cause dreams, research has shown that foods that contain high sugar content can often contribute to nightmares. Try to avoid giving these foods close to bedtime.
- Nightmares can be passed down genetically so if you suffered from bad dreams as a child, don’t be surprised if your child has the occasional bad dream.
If your child does have a bad dream, it’s always important to reassure them with a hug. Listen to them and take note of their fears. Keep them calm and help them to get back to sleep. Most children grow out of nightmares eventually. But it can be very frightening for them so it is always best to take them seriously and be there for them.
Here are some great books that you can read to kids if they are having bad dreams. And knowing that nightmares are more common may reassure them.