You have probably heard it said time and time again that establishing routines for young children is a good way to keep them focused and give them a sense of security. Studies have shown that this is true on many levels. Many children have trouble adjusting to quick and unexpected changes in their daily lives and routines. These types of changes can be difficult for children to process. Though you should not create a monotonous and strict minute for minute schedule for your child, it may benefit your child and the entire family to try out some simple routines and see how they work for you. One of the most enjoyable routines that you can try out is a bedtime routine. Bedtime routines are fabulous for helping your child acclimate from a day of play to a night of rest. By developing a routine that works for you and your child, you can minimize or eliminate some of the problems and tensions that may arise when it is time to turn out the lights. Here are some simple steps to get you started.
Work with your spouse or anyone else who helps you care for your child to come up with scheduled times you think are best for your little one. Consider your child’s age and ability levels to come up with something that works for you. For example, if your child is five years old, it may be suitable for her to go to bed around 8pm or 9pm. It is understandable that other factors may play a role in your planning, such as family meal times and extracurricular activities such as your older child’s softball games, etc. Write out your schedule so that you and your child and other adults in the household can see it. This way, everyone knows what to expect. Below is an example schedule:
7:30 – Clean up Toys
8:00 – Bathtime
8:30 – Bedtime Stories
9:00 – Lights Out!
It is important that you give your child a courtesy warning before any major change is about to take place. This gives your child ample time to assess the situation and smoothly integrate from one situation to another. It is recommended that you start out with two simple warnings, one ten minutes before the expected change and again five minutes prior. Once your child begins to get a feel for how your warnings work and become more comfortable, you can start giving a single heads up five minutes prior to your scheduled change.
Cleaning up the Day.
One thing I have often told other parents is that in order for your child to fully recognize that the day is coming to an end and bedtime is nearing, he must see it first hand and be able to take part in it. Cleaning up all the toys in your child’s bedroom or playroom is a great place to start. In the example given, you can see that 7:30 is the time that our child will start cleaning up his toys. Generally, there is a warning at 7:25 that he has five more minutes to play before it will be time to pick up his toys. Depending on the age of your child, you may have to assist in picking up some of the playthings.
Having a routine time for bathing can be something a young child can look forward to. If your child does not like baths, you may consider investing in new bath toys or trying out the new bath crayons and washable bath markers that stores such as Walmart and Target sell. You can also offer your child plastic cups, plates and spoons to create bubble spaghetti or other fun imaginative things in the bath without spending lots of money. Scheduling for your child to take her bath right before bedtime is a great opportunity to get her more comfortable and settled. Just think, doesn’t it feel wonderful for you to take a nice soaking bath in your favorite bubble concoction and then ease into bed? The nightly bath ritual has the same soothing effects on children! You can even purchase bedtime bath products at the store for less than $5, which are formulated to soothe and relax your active little one.
After a fun and relaxing play in the bathtub, your little one will be ready to hop into his favorite pajamas and snuggled down in his bed. We use this little bit of time before lights out to read bedtime stories. Children love to be read to, and studies show that it is not only soothing to children, but also to parents as well! There is just remarkable bonding potential involved with the nightly reading of a bedtime story. However, you should not feel limited to bedtime stories alone! Our daughter particularly enjoys doing flashcards and playing eye-spy. These are all wonderful calm activities that you and your child can enjoy as he is unwinding for the day. I use this time to lower the blinds and turn on the nightlight too.
There are some other ideas too that might make bedtime easier for your child. There are nightlights available that serve as regular room lights, but have a switch that you can use to dim it to use as a nightlight. I normally put the blinds down, turn off the main light in the room and turn on the multi-purpose nightlight. Though the light is bright enough to read and play in, it is quite dimmer than that of the regular room light that is operated with the wall switch. This drastic change in lighting alerts my daughter that it is getting closer to bedtime. Once the bedtime story has been read, I dim the light to serve as a nightlight. We have also always played light music in our daughter’s room since she was an infant. Young children often find orchestra and classical music to be quite soothing at bedtime, as do some adults. There are also some fantastic lullaby collections that you can buy that were created just for bedtime serenity! Disney’s Lullaby collection is one of the finest I have come across. Each night as I am leaving the room, I switch the “sleep” button on my daughter’s cd player. By using the sleep button, you can ensure that the CD player will automatically shut off after an hour, and most children have already fallen asleep by then! If you like the music to stay on through the night, you can select “repeat” on your children’s CD player, or just find a nice classical station on the radio and keep the volume low.
All in all, enough praise cannot be given to the positive effects bedtime routines have had on many children. If you have not already implemented one of you own, I hope these ideas will help you find something that you and your child will enjoy!