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7 Practices to Help Create a Bedtime Routine That Works for Your Child
  • There is nothing harder than trying to put a child to bed when she still wants to play. Well, there is good news and bad news. Bedtime routines or a sequence of calming activities often work to help prepare a child for sleep. However, it will take patience (lots of it) and consistency on your part to make a routine stick. Add the fact that you have to customize a routine to work for your child. It is hard work, but the pay-off is worth it. (More sleep for you, too!) 

    Here are a few practices that you can incorporate into your child’s nighttime routine to help usher her off to dreamland.

    Help your child tidy up her room 

    There’s something genuinely calming about putting away clutter — it puts you in a mood to relax. Storing away the toys can serve as the start of the bedtime routine. But do it when your child’s energy has gone down, and you know she is near that fussy or cranky stage. And make sure the next step isn’t the bed immediately. You want to calm her down first.

    Take a shower

    After tidying up the room, how about a quick bath before bedtime? The warm water (or a sponge bath) can help your child fall asleep faster since it can also calm her body down after a long day of playing. Aside from giving her a bath, you can also include brushing teeth in her routine to help establish it as something she has to do every night before going to bed.

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    Prepare everything your child will need for school

    For instance, let her pack her school bag and hang her uniform outside her closet.  Aside from helping her prepare to rest mentally, it will make getting ready for school in the morning a much more relaxed and quicker process.

    Keep screens out of the room

    Letting your child play with a gadget or watch TV at night will not help her fall asleep faster or better. Previous research has found that kids who use electronics to help them sleep tend to go to bed later, experience fewer hours of sleep in a week, and feel sleepier during the day. Turn off all gadgets at least an hour before bedtime, as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests, and keep them out of your child’s room, so she doesn’t reach for it after you tuck her in.

    Create an ideal sleep environment

    The ideal sleep environment has three qualities, says Sleep.org: cool, dark, and quiet. To achieve this, you can try leaving only a night light on, or using a white noise machine, which, according to Fatherly, not only helps kids fall asleep but also ensures they stay asleep. Another alternative is relaxing music to help soothe your little one as she drifts off to dreamland.

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    Talk and cuddle

    Taking a few minutes to sit down and talk with your little one can be a helpful relaxation technique for her. Recall what happened during the day, and make it a time to squeeze in some laughs and cuddles with your little one! A conversation like this allows your child to feel good about herself (therefore, helping build her self-esteem) and to look forward to the next day. 

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    Do a relaxation exercise

    Harvey Karp, M.D., pediatrician and author of Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block, suggests a technique called “magic breathing” to help prepare energetic kids to go to bed.

    In this technique, you encourage your child to relax her face, take a deep breath, and then exhale slowly, for at least three to four times.

    “So when you conduct the breathing, you breathe in, and then [you are] conducting this very slow breathing out,” Dr. Karp tells Fatherly. “It’s this slow breathing out that conveys the sense of relaxation.”

    Another type of relaxation exercise you can try is gently massaging your child.

    Regardless of what method you use, it’s important to find out what works best for your child. “It’s just balancing what makes kids calmer vs. what makes kids feel like play. You kind of engage them more and that’s where you find the balance, and every kid is different for that,” says Dr. Karp.

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