With the start of the new term, getting back to a good bedtime routine is a must if you don’t want your children to get tired and irritable. So how can you encourage them to go to bed without having a major battle on your hands?
These five tips will help you towards trouble-free bedtimes.
1. Have a daily bedtime
Once your children are used to going to bed at a regular time, they are less likely to act up when you announce that it’s time for bed. Make sure they know exactly what time they are expected to start getting ready. Even young children can get the hang of this; put a small sticky note or blob of plasticine on the clock face, and tell them ‘When the big hand reaches here, it will be time to get ready for bed’. When the moment arrives, resist all cries of ‘Just five more minutes…’, and usher them firmly towards the bathroom!
2. A warm bath is relaxing
A warm bath is relaxing and also signals that sleep time is approaching. Give your children some time for playing, but keep it low-key rather than encouraging a splash-fest! Then wrap them in a fluffy towel and then pop them into their nightclothes.
3. Enjoy a bedtime story
Nowadays, many children don’t know the traditional fairy stories, nursery rhymes or children’s poems and stories that you probably heard as a child, so make the most of the opportunity to introduce them to your children. Taking time to cuddle up with a favourite book is a lovely way to end the day, and will make children look forward to bedtime rather than dreading it. And don’t forget older children – I read the entire ‘Swallow and Amazons’ series to my children over several weeks and they have never forgotten them; it remains one of our best-loved memories.
4. Be well prepared
Before finally climbing into bed, make sure your children have been to the loo, had a drink, and done anything else they need to do before sleeping. There is nothing more frustrating than a little face re-appearing at the living room door with ‘I need a wee….’. Do this before putting out the light, and they have no excuse for getting up again.
5. It’s time to sleep
Once it’s time for sleep, make your expectation clear. Ideally, make sure the room is dark to help them fall asleep more easily, but if they are afraid of the dark, having a nightlight may help. Then say ‘Goodnight’ and leave. Children will soon become used to the idea of dropping off without mum or dad in the room, and you can always leave some soothing music playing.
At some stage, most children will try getting out of bed again to see if you are serious about expecting them to sleep! When this happens, don’t be tempted to give in, or even worse, reward them by giving them a biscuit or more time to play. Return them to bed calmly, with as little conversation as possible, and keep doing this until they get the message.
Of course, rules are made to be broken, and the occasional change in routine won’t do any harm. I can still remember the occasion my dad got me out of bed to see the amazing sight of my first ever hedgehog, but make times like this the exception rather than the rule.
These simple steps may not make things run smoothly every night, but following them regularly will help your bedtimes to be trouble-free.
Image courtesy of Amanda Truss from Flickr Creative Commons