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Children’s Bedtime Routines: What to Do and What to Avoid?

No matter if your little one is a baby, a toddler, a kindergartner, or a preteen, the key to fostering healthy sleep habits and avoiding sleepless nights lies in practical discipline strategies and a well-structured bedtime routine. Yet, establishing an efficient bedtime routine is often easier said than done.

Although various pediatric sleep experts may offer slightly different approaches, most concur that a well-structured bedtime routine is a linchpin to a restful night’s sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in its publication “Guide to Your Child’s Sleep,” underscores the paramount importance of a calm and organized bedtime routine. Here, we delve into the top bedtime routine dos and don’ts to help you on your journey.

What is the Need for a Bedtime Routine?

A bedtime routine encompasses all the activities you engage in with your baby or child just before tucking them in for the night, such as giving them a bath, changing their diaper for the last time, dressing them in pajamas, and reading a bedtime story.

The primary objective of a successful bedtime routine is to teach your child to fall asleep independently, without the need for rocking, television or your presence lying beside them. This way, if they wake up during the night, they should be capable of returning to sleep without requiring extra assistance.

For instance, if your child associates falling asleep with being rocked, they are likely to struggle to fall back asleep when they awaken in the middle of the night unless they are rocked again.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to crafting a bedtime routine. Some children may enjoy listening to a bedtime story, while others might prefer discussing their day, and some may simply want to say their prayers before drifting off to sleep. As long as your child falls asleep effortlessly and enjoys an uninterrupted night’s rest, your bedtime routine is likely serving its purpose effectively.

Effective Bedtime Practices for Kids

To ensure a seamless and engaging bedtime routine for your child, follow these proven methods:

1. Be Consistent

While your child’s bedtime routine may evolve as they grow, it should maintain a consistent structure. Initiate it at the same time each day and follow a predictable sequence. For instance, a toddler’s routine could start at 6:30 p.m., involving a bath, donning pajamas, reading bedtime stories, tucking in, and saying goodnight.

2. Include Dental Care

Emphasize good dental hygiene in your child’s bedtime routine, whether it’s cleaning your baby’s gums or reminding an older child to brush and floss.

3. Keep It Concise

Simplicity is key. A successful bedtime routine should generally last around 10 to 15 minutes, or slightly longer if it incorporates a bath.

4. Age-Appropriate Choices

As your child grows, adapt the bedtime routine to suit their changing needs. For instance, while a newborn might fall asleep nursing, a four- or five-month-old baby can start to drift off while still drowsy but awake.

5. Offer Limited Choices

Allow your child some autonomy within the bedtime routine. Offer them options, like choosing between two sets of pajamas or selecting the bedtime stories.

6. Start Early

Initiating a solid bedtime routine is easier when your child is younger. Changing poor sleep habits in a toddler or preschooler is more challenging. Nevertheless, it’s never too late to establish an effective routine that encourages healthy sleep.

7. Expect Some Tears

Understand that some children may shed a few tears as they settle down for sleep or during the night. It’s acceptable if they calm down quickly, but avoid letting them cry for extended periods, even when following methods like the Ferber Method.

8. Darken the Room

For optimal sleep, consider using blackout shades in your child’s bedroom, especially during summertime when daylight lingers. A dim night light can be reassuring, just ensure it’s not too bright.

9. Security Object

A stuffed animal or blanket can be a comforting part of your child’s bedtime routine, suitable for children one year and older. Avoid placing items in the crib for babies to reduce the risk of suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

These bedtime dos will help you establish a soothing, enjoyable routine that fosters peaceful nights for both you and your child.

Common Bedtime Mistakes to Avoid

Just as there are many right ways to establish a good bedtime routine, there are also certain actions you should steer clear of that often complicate bedtime for both parents and children. Here are the bedtime don’ts:

1. Avoid Stimulating Activities Before Bed

Refrain from engaging in active play or using electronic devices shortly before bedtime. Especially if your child struggles to fall asleep, it’s best to halt stimulating activities, like roughhousing, running around, playing video games, or watching TV, at least 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.

2. Don’t Assume Poor Sleep Habits Will Disappear

Do not assume that your child will naturally outgrow poor sleep habits. Unfortunately, many children with sleep issues in their infancy or toddler years continue to have sleep problems as they grow older. The sooner you address your child’s poor sleep habits and establish a solid bedtime routine, the better.

3. Avoid Creating Sleep Associations

Actions like rubbing your child’s back until they fall asleep or leaving music or the TV on can lead to a reliance on these sleep aids. If your child wakes up later, they’ll need your assistance to get back to sleep. Keeping the TV or music on all night is not a solution – they will still call out for your help.

4. Don’t Procrastinate

Set clear boundaries and maintain consistency. Without vigilance, your child might prolong the bedtime routine with repeated requests for drinks, snacks, bathroom trips, or additional stories and songs. Older kids may suddenly remember unfinished homework. Address these matters before starting the routine to stay on track.

5. Avoid Caffeine Before Bed

Refrain from giving your child caffeinated drinks or foods, especially right before bedtime. Remember that caffeine can be hidden in various foods, including coffee-flavored ice cream and chocolate, apart from the obvious sources like soda and tea.

By steering clear of these bedtime pitfalls, you can help create a more peaceful and effective nighttime routine for both you and your child.

Finally, establishing effective bedtime routines for children is crucial for their overall well-being and for the peace of mind of parents. By following the dos and don’ts discussed in this blog, you can create a nurturing and peaceful environment that fosters healthy sleep habits in your child.

Remember, consistency, age-appropriate activities, and an early start can make a significant difference. And while it may take some time and patience to fine-tune these routines, the long-term benefits are well worth the effort.

If you’re looking for ways to enhance your child’s bedtime routine, consider adding some educational and entertaining elements with toys from Curiokid. Curiokid, the best toy shop in Ahmedabad, offers a wide range of toys that not only entertain but also engage and stimulate a child’s imagination. By introducing these innovative toys into your child’s daily routine, you can make bedtime even more enjoyable and educational. Sweet dreams for your little ones and happy parenting!


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