"Just one more story!!" How many times have we heard that request, as we get the kids ready for bed?
Modern parenting is a busy, challenging job. Every parent knows that bedtime routines should be calm and consistent for their child.
But for toddlers and preschoolers, the nightly routine can be a difficult part of the day. It means another transition and separation from you, just as everyone is a bit tired and frazzled from a long day.
Here are some tips to help.
1. Parent's Mood: Yes, we will start with you. I swear if I'm extra tired, rushed or a little cranky, my kids pick up on it and bedtimes may not run as smoothly. Parents words and actions should match their behaviour, and be responsive to children's needs at that moment. 15 - 30 minutes of dedicated time now, can mean you are rewarded with a few hours of child-free time in the evenings.
2. My Way, Your Way: It's the conversation 2 parents need to have from the time their baby is born. What is our combined approach for the big picture stuff of parenting: feeding, nurturing, sleep. If two parents take turns at bedtime, you don’t have to follow an identical script but you should have a similar routine, style, and response to bedtime power plays, fears, or manipulation.
This is even more important if parents are separated, and children have a bedroom and sleep routine at Mum's and then something totally different at Dad's place. Be kind to yourself and the kids, and work out a consistent approach for all.
3. Soothe, Not Stimulate: Choose the same place and time each night for the bedtime routine. Stories and milk on the lounge. Or books and cuddles in their room. Choose quiet relaxing books, puzzles and card games. Now is not the time for an epic game of wrestling or hide-and-seek.
4. Leave time to unwind: Although life is busy, rushing bedtime often doesn't work. A bedtime routine doesn't need to take hours. The sleep consultants at Little Ones recommend aiming for 20-30 minutes. If you rush it, she’ll be more likely to run out of bed, stall, or beg you to stay longer.
5. Screen Free - Sugar Free: Keep things screen free (especially for kids under 5) in the hour before bed. The "blue light" stimulant and noise and intensity of TVs and I-pads just wires little brains to stay alert, and goes against the body's circadian rhythm to slow down as darkness falls outside.
Similarly, an overload of sugar will interrupt the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels and calm down for the sleepy night ahead. Appropriate bedtime snacks include bananas, milk, wholewheat toast and cheese.
6. Blame it on Sam: Sam Sheep Sleep Clock is an ingenious investment in calm bedtimes (and morning sleep ins). With both digital and analogue displays, a soothing night light, and eyes that open and shut, Sam gets bedtime sorted in a fun and creative way, especially for 2 to 5 year olds.
It goes something like this: Sam says you have to stop reading at 7 p.m., so you have ten minutes. Then when it’s 7pm say “Oh, look! The clock says 7:00. Lights-out time. We can’t read any more books tonight. We’ll have to get upstairs earlier tomorrow night if we want to read more books.”
Sam is a masterstroke, but it's important to stick with it every night! Check out Sam here.
7. Teach Creative Visualisation and Plant A Dream: Toddlers and preschoolers will often say that they are not ready to sleep, they can't keep their eyes closed. Let them know that even adults can have trouble falling asleep. Try some breathing techniques, whilst their hands are on their tummy, and let them feel the rise and fall. Use your fingertips and pretend to "sprinkle" some dream dust into their eyes.
Rub their temples and tell them you a planting a dream and give them a memory to focus on- the day they went boogie boarding, the bike ride to the city, catching the river ferry, swimming with their cousins at the Gold Coast.
Or dream up a fantasy: Tonight I'll dream about travelling through space. Tonight I'll dream about being a ballerina. This distraction can be really helpful if she wakes from a scary dream or night terror.
8. Tech Help: In tip 5, we mentioned turning off the screens. However, one type of light can actually help a baby or child of any age fall asleep - a deep, red light, which increases the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone in the brain).
We recommend using the Aroma Snooze with red light therapy and placing the unit beside the bed or cot, where your little one can see the deep red light. It's ok if they watch it for 5 - 10 mins, it will actually help them wind down.
If you've never used a night light before, your child may be over stimulated or distracted by the light in the first few nights. In fact a sleep regression may even occur, when falling to sleep and staying asleep gets slightly worse on night 2 or 3. Don't panic.
Use all functions of the Aroma Snooze consistently every night for at least a week, and watch the magic unfold. The Aroma Snooze Sleep Aid has mist vapour, aromatherapy, red light therapy, sound therapy and voice recorder built in. With a 30 day satisfaction guarantee, it's definitely worth a try.
So there you go. You and your partner might be thinking, what a lot of effort and gadgets I need just to get the kids to sleep. But the rewards are endless. Your well rested child will be happier, healthier and smarter, and you will get some restorative child-free hours in the evenings to recharge your parental batteries. It's worth it!
For guidelines and information on age-appropriate bedtimes, sleep patterns and routine expectations, visit our friends at Little Ones.
Much love Laura and the team, Brisbane xx