Solutions for a peaceful bedtime routine with your toddler & pre-schooler

At the end of a busy day when we are all a little tired and, let’s be honest, a smidge short-tempered a child who won’t go to bed can tip you over the edge, and the crosser you get the longer it is going to take to settle your little ones.

So, establishing a bedtime routine is an absolute must have for everyone.

Here are some simple solutions which will really help you get a routine in place and most important is CONTINUITY, so wherever you are you go through the same routine

  • Assume your routine will take around 30mins so if you are aiming for a 7.00pm bedtime (reasonable for an under 5) get going at 6.30pm. This needs to be 30 mins of calmness so if your little one is permanently full of beans then I’d suggest you plan a stretch of vigorous play pre- 6.30.
  • Firstly let’s say ‘night-night’ to the T.V. (especially if there are older children in the house whose programmes are really not what you want your little ones to be watching)
  • Once upstairs it’s time for a nice, warm, soothing bath, again this should be a relatively subdued occasion so if your child likes to jump around in the bath I suggest you try to bath them before the 6.30 deadline. Being wrapped up in a warm, soft, towel is one of life’s little pleasures so with that and a cuddle from Mummy or Daddy your little one should be feeling very snugly and calm. If your child is reluctant to get out of the bath then a 2 min warning of the plug being pulled may be helpful.
  • Once pj’s are on then teeth should be cleaned and a last trip is made to the loo.
  • Now to story time. For many this takes place in bed, but downstairs can work too especially if you have older siblings who want to listen in. My children always wanted at least 2 stories so I would let them choose which ones but be clear that 2 was the max. At the start of the 2nd book it’s a good idea to make it clear that once that one was finished it would be time for sleep.
  • Once stories are done it’s nice just to have a quick chat as your little one settles down with their favourite teddy (a top tip is to check that favourite teddy is waiting in the bed as a missing cuddly at this stage sends a sleepy tot into a frantic and distressed tot and then your routine is in pieces)
  • Kisses and ‘see you in the morning’ are all that’s left to do and for many children a nightlight in the room is comforting too.
  • If your child calls you back, or gets out of bed then quickly and calmly put them back, or go to them, but stick with the kisses and ‘see you in the morning routine’ as this means it’s time for sleep.

A couple of watch-outs…

  1. When your children are still toddlers it easy to include a cup of warm milk, a dummy or letting them fall asleep in your arms/bed with you but at some point these habits will need to be broken if your child is to be dry at night or left in the care of grandparents/babysitters so please get into these habits aware that you may have to undo them at some point in the future.
  2. Your child’s bedroom needs to be a safe, happy place so please don’t send them to their rooms when they are naughty; choose a step, corner or chair instead
  3. Some books don’t make good bedtime reading – monsters under the bed, strange noises outside the window, aliens in the cupboard etc… You get the picture!

Once your child is older, maybe 4 or 5, it is helpful to start to wean them off a very strict routine so if you want a night away or you visit an unfamiliar house they can still cope at bedtime even when people and bedrooms are different. My 4 kids all sleep in the same room at the weekends, and during the holidays, and whilst it sounds chaotic in fact it works really well and ensures that when we go somewhere new we don’t need several empty bedrooms between us and they all keep each other safe and happy.

As your child gets older then their bedtime routine will of course change but, whilst you have (most of the) control and your little one needs around 10 hours sleep, establishing a sensible and enforceable bedtime routine is a cornerstone of parenting that your will be so glad you did. Good Luck!