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Sleep

Bedtime routines

We will be discussing the following:

  • Bedtime basics
  • Let off some steam
  • Give him a soak
  • Take care of business
  • Play a game
  • Have a chat
  • Saying goodnight
  • Read a bedtime story
  • Sleepwear
  • Sing a song
  • Play some music
  • Leave a light on

Bedtime basics

When you follow a set bedtime routine every night, your child will quickly come to appreciate the consistency and predictability and feel more relaxed.  So now is a great time to establish a bedtime routine if you have not done so already.  The more relaxed he is, the more likely he'll go to bed easily and fall asleep quickly. Stick to your routine as best you can even when you're not home - it can make it easier for your child to settle down in unfamiliar surroundings.

What you include in your bedtime ritual is up to you, but could be something along the lines of having a bath, putting on pyjamas, reading a story and having a cuddle or a quiet game. Just make sure you choose something that helps calm your child and not get him all exited.

The bedtime ritual should end in your child's bedroom. It's important to teach your child that his room is a nice place to be, not just where he's "banished" at bedtime. If he gets upset as he sees you walk out the door after you tuck him in, tell him you'll be back to check on him in a few minutes. In all likelihood, he'll be fast asleep by the time you return.

The following bedtime routine ideas are recommended by the BabyCentre parents:

Let off some steam

Sometimes it helps to let your child get any pent-up energy out of his system before you try to settle him down for the night.  As long as you follow up any rowdy play with something calmer and quieter - like a bath and bedtime story - before he goes to sleep, it can be the first step toward bedtime.

Give him a soak

One of the most popular parts of many bedtime rituals is a bath. Sitting in warm water is a soothing experience and getting your child warm and clean and dry is a great way to ease him into bedtime. A bath is also a wonderful way for your partner to spend some special time with your child. If your toddler gets excited during baths or doesn't enjoy them, it's probably better to leave them out of the night-time ritual. Instead, have a quiet cuddle or read a story.

Take care of business

Your child's getting-ready-for-bed routine can include washing his face and hands, brushing his teeth, a nappy change or trip to the potty (if he's old enough), and getting into his pyjamas. It's important to start the habit of teeth brushing at a young age so your toddler gets used to it. Here's a tip for saving time (and fuss!). Once your child is old enough to have preferences about what he wears, let him choose which pyjamas he wants to wear. Give him two options and let him pick one.

Play a game

Playing a quiet game in the living room or on the floor of your toddler's bedroom is a great way to spend some fun time with him before bed. Older kids may enjoy simple puzzles or card games, and younger ones are always entertained by peek-a-boo. Your game can be as simple as taking turns saying the alphabet or counting to 10. Whatever entertains your child without getting him overly excited is fine. Before he gets into bed, hide something there for him to find - a toy, a postcard or an interesting object - and then talk about it together. Just be sure to remove the object before you leave.

Have a chat

Bedtime is a nice chance for children and their parents to spend some time talking to each other. Discuss your daily routine and ask your child to tell you about the best and worst things that happened to him, as well as anything that's worrying him. This may help him work through any anxieties or fears he's harbouring and let him get a better night's sleep. Bedtime is also a great time to say prayers if you want to.

Of course, you don't have to wait until your toddler can give you a detailed narrative of the day's events. Review his day for him until he's really able to contribute.

Saying goodnight

Many toddlers enjoy going around the room or the house and saying goodnight to favourite toys, people and other objects. Know when to say when, though: if your toddler insists on saying goodnight to every single stuffed toy in his bedroom, it's a safe bet he's trying to put off bedtime a little longer.

Read a bedtime story

Rivalling the bath as an all-time favourite bedtime ritual is reading a bedtime story. Not only will your toddler learn new words - studies have shown that language skills and even intelligence can depend on a child's daily exposure to a large vocabulary - but he'll also benefit from time spent with you.

For a small child, choosing a bedtime story is another chance to assert some control over the nightly routine. "I let my three-year-old choose a story every night," explains Susan Grayson of Aberdeen. "That often means I have to read the same story for a week or so, but it makes her feel important being able to pick her own book."

Sleepwear

image 215 Putting your child into a Napsack Sleeping Bag will help establish bed & sleep routines he or she associates their Napsack with bed time. Napsacks also help prevent sleep disruption as your child will not wake up cold after kicking blankets off, thereby maintaining existing routines (and ensuring parents also get a good night’s sleep!).

Sing a song

Singing a lullaby is a time-tested way to help a sleepy toddler drift off. He loves hearing his favourite sound - your voice - and the soft, soothing melody can calm him. "I choose two different songs every night and then close with our 'night-night' song," says Susan Webb, who has two boys. "The kids have come to recognise that as the final goodbye. Sometimes they sing along, but mostly they just like to hear me sing to them."

Play some music

Starting a CD or tape of lullabies, classical music or other kids' favourites while you settle your toddler to sleep - and then leaving it on after you leave - can help ease his transition from being awake to falling asleep. Try not to let music become a crutch, though: your toddler needs to learn to fall asleep on his own, as a result of establishing good sleep habits, rather than depending on any special noises or gimmicks.

Leave a light on

When you're ready to tuck in your child, have one last cuddle, say goodnight, turn the lights off and, if you like, switch on a nightlight. Many small children get disoriented and upset when they wake at night in a dark room and can't see anything; shedding a little light on things can help tremendously.

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