Once your children are tucked up and asleep in bed it means that Mummy and Daddy get some precious ‘me time’. A successful and well established bedtime routine ensures sleep filled nights for your little ones so that they function well through the day and also you and your partner has time to relax. Your family’s bedtime routine is the foundation of all your other routines so it has to be working correctly.
It can take some time to teach toddlers to stay in bed but there is a technique you can use that with perseverance, does work. Even good little sleepers can suddenly alter their sleeping habits so this method is always good to know just in case you need to adopt it. Be patient, consistent and remember that the healthy development of your children requires them to sleep eleven to twelve hours daily.
Establish the Bedtime Routine
For children aged up to five it is recommended that bedtime is between 7-7.30pm and older children up to twelve years old bedtime should be 8-9pm. The following steps should be taken to form your bedtime routine which should not last more than thirty minutes.
Keeping your Child in bed!
- Begin the routine with a calming bath. Older children can help wash their younger siblings
- As you are washing them and cleaning their teeth keep reminding them gently of what is happening next. ‘In a couple of minutes you will finish your bath and then you can brush your teeth’ and then when he is doing that say ‘right, after you have finished your teeth you can put your PJs on’. Do not keep looking at your watch or hurrying him and retain a calm tone
- Create a calmer atmosphere by turning televisions off, encouraging reading and quiet play in their pyjamas. They should not be running or jumping around and no competitive games being played
- Give your child or children a reminder that it is bedtime in five minutes time
- Double-check older children’s school bags that they have not forgotten about any incomplete homework
- Make sure each child has been to the loo and has had some water to drink
- Once your child is in bed keep the bedroom lights dimmed whilst you chat about the day’s events or read a book. Talk about something positive your child has done so that he can go to sleep feeling happy
- Give your child a kiss and a cuddle then put the lights out. If he is afraid of the dark put a night light on in his room or leave the hall way light on
- If you have more children, stagger their bedtimes so that each child receives a story, a kiss and a cuddle and alternate between you and your partner so that they get some alone time with each of you
Carrying out all the steps above should ensure that your child has no reason to get up and you have made it clear that you expect him to stay in bed now. If you do hear the pitter patter of his little feet you can be firm that you are not going to be drawn into a conversation about why he is up and you can immediately get on with getting him back into bed and back to sleep. If he gets up follow these steps
- First time – calmly and firmly remind him that it is bedtime, lead him back to bed, give him a kiss, a cuddle and leave the bedroom
- Second time – remind him it is bedtime again but more firmly. Briefly kiss and cuddle him
- Third time and any more times – this is the hard part! Say absolutely nothing as you lead him back, put him in and leave the room. It can be tempting to kiss and cuddle but being gentle, consistent and firm will allow your child to know that you are there for him but you are insistent that he now goes to sleep in his own bed
Carry on doing this, and remember to say nothing until he stays in his bed and goes to sleep. To break a well established ‘getting up again’ routine may take many attempts the first night you try this but with consistency, persistence and determination you will succeed!
By Eirian Hallinan