Creating Good Sleep Habits For Children
Written by James Kicinski-McCoy
Photography by Photographed by James Kicinski-McCoy
Getting our children to sleep each night can be a real struggle—we know, we collectively have five kids under our belts and have dealt with it all from bedtime tantrums to sleepless nights. Establishing healthy habits leading up to lights-out plays a major role in better-rested kiddos, and factors into childhood development, day-to-day behavior, and temperament, too. Check out these tried-and-true tips that we’ve compiled below and be on your way to having good little sleepers.
Start ‘Em Young- We all know that newborns sleep around the clock, but once your baby reaches 3-months-old, start implementing a nightly sleep schedule. Infants that are put to bed drowsy instead of asleep are more likely to become self-soothers, which helps them to fall asleep on their own and makes them more inclined to put themselves back to sleep when woken during the night. As children get older, you will have to adjust the routine to suit their ages, but keep it strict, bedtime is serious business and too much slack will make it can tougher to enforce.
Be Consistent- When it comes to forming good habits, consistency is key. Our internal clocks naturally adapt to our schedules, telling us when to wake and when to sleep. Create a daily routine that works for your entire family and stick to it, even on the weekends. This helps create predictability in children, which is not only soothing, but makes the nightly “bedtime” announcement less of a shock. Of course, you can be flexible in schedule, but don’t let bending the rules become a habit, either.
Eat For Sleep- Of course, we as mothers know how important it is for our children to eat well, but making sure your child is getting the right nutrition before bed can afford a better night’s sleep. Often times babies and toddlers wake because they are hungry, so make sure those tummies are full before you tuck them in. It’s also important to cut back on sugar and caffeine-filled snacks, candy, and drinks after lunch time. Too much of the fun stuff can really effect their zzzs.
Careful Napping- Naps are crucial for babies, toddlers, and small children to clock-in enough rest, but be sure to monitor the length of their afternoon siesta, which could throw a wrench in your routine and lead to a delayed bedtime.
Keep ’em Active- Make exercising a part of your kiddo’s daily routine. Take the family on a discovery walk, hit the park in the afternoon, or do a fun dance together to get the wiggles out. This not only helps tire the kids before bedtime, but can also establish an early admiration for exercise.
Hit The Tub- Warm baths are known to be one of the best ways to relax the body and mind. Use this to your advantage. Every night, before bed, give your child a bath with a calming aromatherapy bubble bath and soothing shampoo and conditioner.
One-Hour Rule- Put on those jammies and turn off all electronics, games, and TVs at least one hour before bed to help cue your child for bedtime. During this hour, you can help your child wind down by dimming the lights, reading story books or listening to soft music.
Sleep Zone- For a child, a comfortable sleeping environment is key. The room should be cool, dark, and calming. Do away with bright night lights or other distractions like screens and attention-seeking toys. We suggest a sleep machine to help shut out loud noises that could wake your child throughout the night and also diffusing essential oils like lavender in the room can hep create a sleep-inducing space.
Bed Rules- There will be nights when scary storms, thoughts, or monsters cause your little one to climb into bed with you, which is completely understandable, but don’t let it become a habit. These late night interactions can be hard on the whole family, and become more a regular thing if not handled correctly. Try to get your child back to bed as soon as possible, reward them for being brave, and if extra comfort is needed, spend a few moments beside them and keep them company until they are almost asleep.
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