Think about the last 30 minutes of your evening each night. Is there anything you do every night before bed? Do you drink some tea or take a shower? Maybe you have a skincare routine, and of course brush your teeth! Do you read in bed for a bit? Journal, pray, or meditate?
Having some sort of consistency before bed each night helps our bodies prepare for the sleep that is to come, and the same goes for our kids.
It’s important that we set up a consistent bedtime routine for our little ones that help both their minds and bodies register that bedtime is coming. It’s also important that this routine is duplicatable by parents or caregivers, and can be done while away from home, as well.
When building a bedtime routine, aim for it to be around 20-30 minutes long. If it’s much shorter, your child’s body may not have enough time to register that sleep is coming, while oppositely, if it’s much longer, it will likely feel like every other part of the day.
So what should this bedtime routine look like for toddlers and older children?
Starting your child’s bedtime routine with a bath or shower is a great signal to their body that something is changing. If you run out of time for a bath or shower, simply wash their face, feet, and hands to still get that experience with water.
2. Pajamas, Brush Teeth, Bathroom
It’s then time to get cozy in some pajamas! Your child should also brush their teeth and take a final bathroom break before getting into bed.
3. Read Books
As a former teacher, it is so important to spend time reading with your child each day, and what better time than bedtime?! I suggest you set a limit to reading 1 or 2 books, or one chapter of a book, to leave little space for stalling or boundary pushing.
If your child is no longer in a crib, I suggest you read in their bed. This gets your little one set in their bed for the night and prevents another transition.
If your child is typically pretty active during the day and in the bedtime routine, or you simply think he would enjoy it, incorporate a quick massage as the last step of his routine. That might look like applying firm pressure up and down his back and legs a few times, or you might recite a little nursery rhyme and “act it out” on his back.
Similarly, if your child experiences any anxiety during the day and/or around nighttime, this is a good space to practice some breathing techniques. You could do some “cupcake breathing” together (breathe in and “smell the cupcake,” breathe out and “blow out the candle”), or you can teach him 4-7-8 breathing (have him breathe in while counting to 4, then hold his breath while counting to 7, and finally breathe out while counting to 8). Practice the breathing exercises during the day, too!
5. Lights Out and Goodnight!
Now it’s time to turn the lights out, the sound machine on, and say goodnight so your child can sleep and you can enjoy your evening and have a good night’s sleep, as well.
If you are having a hard time establishing a routine with your child, or your child fights the bedtime routine regularly, check out this post about how to work with your child to make a visual schedule of the bedtime routine so they feel more responsibility and “buy in” when it comes to bedtime.
For more tips like this, check out my top 5 sleep tips for toddlers and older children.
Does any of this sound familiar… Bedtime is a battle! Your child wakes up multiple times throughout the night. Your baby will only fall asleep rocking or feeding. Your toddler will not stay in bed. Your little one wakes up to start the day way too early. Your child takes short naps or refuses them altogether. These are all very common challenges parents face with their baby, toddler, and child’s sleep, but it doesn’t have to be that way!
Lauren Engler, of Via Graces, is a certified pediatric sleep consultant who works one-on-one with families to personalize a holistic sleep plan to help parents and children approach sleep with both confidence and independence. Over the 2-3 weeks of working together, Lauren is in close touch with families to provide support and encouragement, to answer questions, and to make sure the child is progressing well. As a mom of two young girls, Lauren has experienced both the exhaustion and the freedom that can come with sleep! If you’d like to hear more, visit her website at https://viagraces.com/ or sign up for a FREE discovery call to share what your child’s sleep looks like now and to hear more about how Lauren can help: https://viagraces.com/booking-page