We all know good-quality sleep is important for children’s health and wellbeing, brain development and behaviour – but the truth is, active children either want to spend more time with you or to assert their independence at bedtime (or a little of both), which can make them resist sleep.
But these techniques will help you transform bedtime from stress inducing to a seamless and enjoyable end to their day.
1. Consistent bedtimes
Consistency helps with kids’ development and behaviour. Set their biological clock for when they should be sleepy and wakeful by putting them to bed and waking them at the same time, 365 days a year.
2. Create a cosy bedroom
Comfy PJs, warm blankets and a tidy room help, and make sure the room is a pleasant temperature. If anything, err on the side of warm, as this will help them drift off, plus our body temperature drops when we sleep so a warm room helps keep them cosy all night.
3. Set routines
Routines create security and help signal the transition from daytime to bedtime. Run your rituals of bath, PJs, tooth-brushing and story like clockwork. In time, just doing these things will make kids feel sleepy.
TIP: Be sure to check out our guide to your children’s toothcare to ensure you’re looking after your children’s teeth properly at every age.
4. Offer choices
Kids like to feel independent, so offer choices with two options. For example, “The pink PJs or the purple ones?", “The teddy bear story or the circus one?” They make a choice, but you’re the boss.
5. Make it enjoyable
Make elements of the routine as much fun as possible so there’s no resistance. Tooth-brushing, for instance, becomes more exciting using a Frozen-themed Oral-B Electric brush with built-in timer.
6. Limit dawdling
Children can drag out bedtime, asking for water, another cuddle, extra stories. Pre-empt requests; give them a long cuddle to last the night, put a glass of water by the bed and allow them just one request.
7. Talk about the day
Take turns to describe three things that happened during the day – it encourages kids to share their experiences, process the day’s events, and relax.
8. Help them self-soothe
When you finish their bedtime story and kiss them goodnight, tell them that if they stay in bed you'll come back in five minutes to check on them. Reassure them that you'll be nearby.
9. Reframe fears
If children are frightened to sleep or wake up scared, make fearful thoughts funny. It teaches kids to control their imagination. Tell them to imagine that spooky ghost slipping on a banana skin.
10. Give them something to hug
Being separated from you can be upsetting, so give your child a comfort blanket, a teddy bear or a top that smells of you. Research has shown that this significantly reduces nighttime fears.
What are your genius techniques for getting your little ones to nod off? Do share them with us below.