We may have fond memories of the nighttime routines and comforts we engaged in as children, or perhaps we have lovely ideas of the rituals we’d like for our children. Nighttime routines are an immensely helpful developmental tool, in addition to being a time for parent and child to bond.
Before getting into how to perfect your kid’s nighttime habits, we should understand what exactly a nighttime routine is and how one can contribute to good sleep habits.
A nighttime routine is a consistent series of activities or rituals that make up your family schedule. You may be wondering how this is different from a morning or daytime routine. Well, there’s the obvious answer—it’s at night. Then, there is the slightly less snarky, slightly more nuanced answer.
Where daytime routines are meant to encourage focus, awareness, and alertness, nighttime routines are all about wrapping up the day and creating a soothing environment.
There are a number of ways to make this behavior a relaxing, tranquil space for your child, and we will go more in-depth on some of the best options a bit later in this article.
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Why Have a Bedtime Routine at All?
It is no secret that children thrive on routines. It adds a sense of balance, security, and structure to their lives that they find immensely comforting. In many cases, adults are much the same.
Many of us have our own bedtime routines and rituals that we adhere to whenever possible. Though we may not read ourselves a bedtime story or sing lullabies (not for lack of trying), brushing our teeth, perhaps showering, and shutting off devices can all be considered part of a nighttime routine.
These activities set us up to shut down during a lights-out time. Finally, the stress of the day can be put away in favor of some restful, delightful sleep.
That structure that we find comforting is even more pronounced in children. In fact, by establishing a routine that is done every night, we are even teaching our kids how to self-soothe and eventually put themselves to bed. We can see that in how we still have routines as adults.
Short Term and Long Term
Establishing this routine with our children allows them to get better quality sleep, fall asleep faster, and wake up more rested. In fact, the many advantages of setting up a thoughtful set of nighttime rituals are often still visible years down the road.
In the short term, though, being more rested the next day means that children have the ability to perform better in school. Additionally, it will help them make the most out of their interactions with peers and friends.
All that being said, sleep quality is not the only reason that nighttime rituals are so beneficial and integral to child and parent. They also help greatly to facilitate bonding, trust, and to strengthen family ties. Nothing is stronger than a parent’s love for their child, and a bedtime routine can be a wonderful time to voice that love.
How Long Should a Nighttime Routine Last?
First, it is crucial to remember that every child’s nighttime routine will look somewhat different depending on their specific, individual needs. The most important thing you can do is know your child and what would help them wind down for the night. So if you and your kid’s bedtime routine does not perfectly fit within this timeframe, that is perfectly fine.
Most bedtime routines last for approximately a half an hour, but some can last for up to an hour. The longer the routines, the more difficult it can be to put into action on especially busy days.
In addition, our children can lose interest if it becomes too tedious or takes up too much time. This is why about half an hour seems to be the sweet spot for most kids.
It’s natural that your child’s bedtime routine will look different than other children’s depending on both their own needs and the rituals that the parent prioritizes. On that note, parents should determine which activities are the most beneficial to both them and their child.
And that is an excellent segue to…
The Nighttime Routine Should Consist of Three or Four Steps
Like we touched on earlier, a bedtime routine with too many steps can become tedious and difficult to focus on. As a result, it is best to choose three or four main steps to make up the bulk of the routine.
This way, our children can stay interested without getting overly tired, potentially making them grumpy and uncooperative.
Use a Natural Sleep Aid
Some kids may benefit from adding this step to their bedtime routine, but the good news is that it can be incredibly quick and easy. Rather than going for a sleep aid full of harsh chemicals that our families don’t need, The Natural Patch Co. has a better option.
Foregoing the harsh chemicals was a no-brainer, but with a special blend of essential oils, including lavender, mandarin, and sweet marjoram, both kids and adults will be resting easy.
It can be difficult to have a child ingest something that they do not want to, and it’s rarely a fun experience for anyone involved. Instead, the SleepyPatch is put on clothing in a different spot depending on the preferred sleeping position.
This ensures that they can fully access the patch’s plentiful benefits. Children can’t get enough of our sleep patches because of their fun, cute designs. After all, what kid doesn’t love a sticker? Actually, what adult doesn’t love a sticker?
And that is especially convenient because The Natural Patch Co.’s SleepyPatch can also be used and enjoyed by adults!
Give Them a Healthy Snack or Drink
Children grow rapidly, meaning that they need to eat more often than adults do. To avoid them waking up hungry over the course of the night, consider giving them a healthy snack a little while before bed.
Make sure that this snack isn’t full of sugar that will keep them awake, and it shouldn’t be too large a portion either. Actually, being too full can contribute to getting less sleep.
Some good late-night snack options include fruit like a banana or some apple sauce, healthy cereal, or toast and peanut butter. Think about what your child likes, but always keep in mind the health and sugar content. Now probably isn’t the best time to break into the Halloween candy, but something simple and easy to digest is always a safe bet.
It’s also worth noting that this should not be the last step of your consistent bedtime routine, especially when you consider the hard work we regularly put into this next activity.
Help Them Brush Their Teeth
This is a nonnegotiable step of any bedtime routine for infants, toddlers, older kids, and adults. Depending on our children’s ages, they will need more or less help with brushing their teeth. Even when this can feel a bit challenging, consistency is key.
This is a necessary ritual, as it will help them with their dental hygiene for years to come. Always being sure to make tooth brushing a priority will also instill in them the knowledge that this is something not to be missed, even when they can do it independently.
Whether you are brushing their teeth for them, aiding them in the process, or just offering kind words of affirmation, this is one of the few parts of the routine that really cannot be missed. We should do our best to be understanding, supportive, and patient throughout the process, even on days when we feel like anything but.
Bath Time Can Mean Bedtime
Nights that include bath time may run a bit longer in terms of that day’s routine, and that is absolutely fine. Bath time can run the gamut from fun to calming to stressful and nearly any other emotion known to man.
For the purposes of bedtime, though, we should aim for relaxation. Some play during baths can give your child more energy, but play during this time can be more about imagination rather than energy.
Bonus: This bathroom time is great to brush teeth and engage in great dental habits.
Read Them a Story
Storytime is the favorite step of many parents, and it’s easy to see why. While the other steps are necessary but occasionally tedious, reading our kids a bedtime story is one of the sweetest bonding experiences we have. After all, there’s a reason this action is so often thought of as a quintessential parenting experience.
During this special time, we can read our kids some of our own favorite childhood books. That, or we can help them find their own favorites by reading them books catered to their interests.
Be sure to dim the lights and snuggle up to your little one in a blanket, grab their favorite stuffed animal, and then whisk them away to imaginary lands.
Turn Off the TV, Tablet, and Other Screens
This isn’t necessarily its own individual step, but it certainly is an important addition to helping with sleep problems.
By turning off screens before bed, our children get less exposure to the blue light that they produce. Blue light is proven to disrupt sleep, which is the last thing we want during a bedtime routine.
A Good Night To Say Goodnight
When done right, a nighttime routine not only provides a lovely bonding experience for parent and child, but it can provide tangible benefits down the road. Hopefully, your child’s bedtime routine will be a source of many fond memories for them in the future and many sweet dreams in the present.