Being consistent with a nighttime routine plays a vital role in promoting children’s growth and development. Doing the same things, in the same order, at about the same time each night helps develop a sense of security and control for your child. It can take some time to figure out what works for your family. We spoke with the staff and specialists from Sanford Children's CHILD Services to find out what you shouldn’t be doing when it comes to setting up your child’s bedtime routine.
Do NOT expect perfection. Whether the routine is new to your child or you’re making changes to a routine that’s already been established, it can be hard for your child to change along with the routine. According to Susan Illg, Family Life Specialist from Sanford Children’s CHILD Services, “Children really do want and need routines, but they may push the limits that are set by their parents.” Your kids will get out of bed after you tuck them in. They will try to challenge your boundaries, but it won’t last forever. As your kids become more used to their routines, the easier their nights (and yours) will become.
Do NOT encourage high intensity physical activity before bed. Making time for movement throughout the day is vital to having a healthy, happy kid. However, depending on the age of your child, your routine may need to start sooner than later. Doing high intensity physical activity earlier in the day actually helps you child sleep better! Try to encourage movement earlier in the day, it will use their energy sooner and make them more tired for bedtime.
Do NOT just put them in bed. Naomi Hoffman, a Family Life Educator from Sanford Children’s CHILD Services, suggests that parents consider their child’s bedtime routine as a chance to connect with their child more than they do during the day. “Feel free to get creative with the routine, but remember that doing the same thing every night is comforting for a child.” Taking the time to read a book (even if it’s the same one for a 10th time) or having a warm bath deepens the sense of trust and love that a child has with their parents.
Do NOT ignore their questions. Just because you create their routine doesn’t mean that they can’t ask questions to understand. Explaining why certain rules are the way they are can help the child understand how their bodies and brains work. For example, if they ask why they can’t have a sugary snack before bed, you can explain to them that sugar will make it harder for them to sleep. If they’re asking about lots of different rules and boundaries, try letting your child have some say in the rules. It will encourage them to follow their rules and learn more about their routines.
Do NOT rush their routines. Be patient and flexible, it will save your child from stress and preserve your sanity. Even after your child gets into their bedtime routine, you can’t just put them to bed and call it a day. Going through the whole routine will help your child know that it is time for bed, and sometimes will cause them to feel tired because of their muscle memory. Taking time to make their bedroom or sleeping space into a place that’s soothing for them will encourage them to get into bed at the end of the day.
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