Sleep schedules, sleep training, co-sleeping, cry-it-out methods: you've heard it all when it comes to getting your little ones to and keeping them asleep.
And while sleep training and schedules are great, they're nothing without a good bedtime routine to help your child realise what's happening next, however young they are.
If you've ever heard the saying "humans are creatures of habit," then you know this is true. Humans thrive when they're on set routines, and children fall into that category.
But what does a good night routine look like? It's different for every baby and child, but they all have some common activities and soothing rituals.
Ready to establish a routine that works for your child? Pick and choose from the night routine suggestions, below.
Why is a Night Routine Important?
Think about the last time you were in a situation where you had zero idea what was going on. As an adult, you likely can't think of one.
But young children are still figuring out the world, and it can be overwhelming, or even scary. Routines help give them clues about what's about to happen, instead of leaving everything as a surprise.
If you have older kids and have implemented the "five-minute warning" technique, you know how well this works. Kids are much more cooperative (though never as cooperative as you think they're going to be) when their little minds know what's going to happen next.
That's what a night routine helps kids do. It allows them to know what to expect and to be able to relax because of that.
How to Start a Nighttime Routine
Finding the perfect routine for your child will take some trial and error. That's why our suggestions below aren't in any particular order.
We invite you to pick 3-4 routine activity suggestions "a la carte" and combine them in a way that works for your family.
Think your child is too old to start a routine now? No such thing. If you have trouble sleeping, you can even implement one of these routines for yourself!
If your child is older, explain why you're making these changes to them and talk to them about what they think is working along the way.
Routine Step 1
We know we said we wouldn't list routine suggestions in order, and this is the only exception.
Even if your child can't understand words yet, it's good to get into the habit of letting them know what's happening. So to start off your routine, tell your child something like, "we're going to start getting ready for bed in ten minutes."
Feel silly telling this to a baby? Babies grow up fast, and you want a routine to be second nature by the time they understand!
Now that we've gotten the "warning" out of the way, feel free to use the following in any order you like.
Turn off Screens
This works for both children and grown-ups. Doctors and paediatricians alike suggest turning off screens at least an hour before bed.
The blue light from LED screens messes with the circadian rhythms that rule the natural schedule in our brains.
If you're in the habit of letting your child watch a show before they go to sleep, try letting them listen to a kid-friendly audiobook while they play quietly in their room or colour a special nighttime colouring book.
Want Pinterest-parent points? (This is extra credit, totally not necessary!) Record yourself, with the camera facing whatever surface, so the screen is black, reading a book for your child to listen to, instead of an audiobook. Don't know how? Apple iPhone, Android device, and Kindle tablet directions are online to help you!
Take a Bath
Warm water is relaxing for your child, as is the scent of lavender, which most children's bubble baths or soaps have in them.
Taking a warm bath before bed is a good way to clean off the dirt of the day and get your child in a more relaxed place before bed.
But if baths aren't relaxing for your child (too much splashing or a dislike of baths) skip this suggestion - this is your routine, only do what works for you!
Give Kids a Choice
Before you start your nighttime routine, go to your child's room and layout two books and two pairs of pj's - but no more.
Letting your child make a choice of what book to read before bed and what they want to wear to bed helps them feel in charge of the situation. Why only two options? It keeps you from getting into the 20-minute long saga of what read/wear, which just makes bedtime more stressful for everyone!
Dim the Lights
When you go into the child's room to start the bedtime routine, turn off the overhead lights, and use a dimmer light source.
This acts as both a mental and biological cue to your child about what's happening next and makes a big difference (at least with our kids) in how fast they fall asleep.
Night Routine Don'ts
One mistake that many parents make with their children is changing up the routine when their child is sick. While we know they're extra whiny and it's harder to get them to cooperate when they have a fever, routines are calming and will make sleeping when sick easier.
Not only will they like choosing a fun shape, but you'll be able to check on them throughout the night without waking them up, too.
Good Night, Sleep Tight, I Love You With All my Might
Finally, we suggest you end your routine with some phrase that affirms you love your child and that it's time to go to sleep.
That can be a prayer, a song, or just you simply saying Goodnight; I love you.
We can't wait to hear how implementing your night routine goes, and encourage you to keep trying until you find the right one for you.
And don't forget to order some Fevermates stickers - you don't want to be out when you need them most!