As parents, we know the importance of a healthy diet in kids. We know we should limit screen time, and encourage physical activity. Do you know that adequate sleep is just as important? Maybe you do- but do you know how to accomplish that (what sometimes feels like..) impossible goal?
Studies have shown that kids who regularly get an adequate amount of sleep have improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health. Any sleep deprived new mom can tell you what a difference a good night’s sleep can make!!
The best way to ensure your kids are getting the sleep they need is by establishing an effective evening routine! For us- this begins at the dinner table. Family dinner time has been shown to be critical to helping adolescents sleep. Some days that dinner may be nothing more than scrambled eggs- but establishing the routine of sitting down together to eat and talk and reconnect is an important part of an effective evening routine!
How to Create A Bedtime Routine
The first thing you need to do is figure out the target bedtime for your child. Everyone’s bedtime routine will look a little different. Figure out what works for your kiddo! Once you’ve established what your child needs, count back from there to determine when to start your bedtime routine. If our target bedtime is 8:30, and I know my child needs 30 minutes for a bath, 15 minutes for jammies and teeth brushing, and another 15 minutes to read two books and sing a song- I know I need to start our routine no later than 7:30. Talk to your kids about the routine. Get their input! Giving them some ownership in the process will help avoid power struggles down the road.
That’s absolutely no exact right way to do this! Some kids will want to snuggle for a couple minutes. Some will want a book, and others may just want to talk for a few minutes before reading on their own. But here are the guidelines we like to follow!
- Be consistent! Establish your routine- and follow it. Create a list to hang up by their bed if your kiddo likes a visual.
- Keep it fairly short. No need to drag it out. 15 minutes is a good target (a little longer if your routine includes a bath!)
- Offer choices! They can’t choose when they go to bed, or to drag it out as long as they possibly can. But kids thrive when we give them opportunities to make decisions and have some control. Work this into your routine by letting them pick out their pajamas or what book to read.
- Avoid stimulation before bed. Turn off electronics 30-60 minutes before you start bedtime.
- Use white noise. We’ve had great luck using a white noise machine to help kids relax and fall asleep. They can also help prevent sudden noises during the night from surprising and waking up the sleeper.
- Don’t drag it out! Some kids are experts at extending the bedtime routine!! They need a drink.. they need to use the bathroom.. their pajamas are itchy.. they forgot to ask you a super important obscure question that absolutely cannot wait until morning.. you get the picture. Don’t fall for it! If your kiddo always needs a drink before bed- make sure it’s part of your routine.
- Don’t give up! Some nights will be epically bad. Some days are chaotic and the routine goes out the window. Don’t let one or two bad nights discourage you! If you’re just trying to establish a routine after years of intense parent/child power struggles.. hang in there. It might take some time. But you’ll get there!!
I like to have my kids lay out their clothes for the next day and make sure their book bags are packed. These may not technically fall into a ‘bedtime routine’.. but getting in the habit of doing this in the evening before bed sure helps ensure a smoother morning routine!
A good evening routine can be life changing!! Remember… if your kids aren’t sleeping, neither are you! What are some of your tips for a successful evening routine?
I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.Learn More about Natalie