Children love routine. Having a routine gets your children ready for bed so they will drift off to sleep easier. It may not solve all your bedtime problems, but it will go a long way to setting the right foundation for sleep. With some kids, a good bedtime routine is all they need.
Different families may have differing ideas on how to go about it, but this is what works for some. The first thing you must do is to be sure your children will be really sleepy at their bedtime. If you have chosen the right time for their bedtime, they should be tired by bedtime. Be sure to take naps into consideration when calculating how early or late your kids will be going to bed.
A couple of hours before bedtime your children should be involved in physically active play. In the warm, light summer months, this play can be outdoors on a playground. Winter makes this a little more difficult, but there are still some things you can do. A small indoors trampoline is great for kids. An even easier way that kids can be coaxed into physical play is if the parents take the lead and play with them. Hide and seek, tag and chase, wrestling and tussling, dancing and free-for-all roughhouse play can get hearts pumping. This is an area where fathers seem to have the most talent. The whole idea is to make the children tired. Undoubtedly it will make the parents tired too, but mothers and fathers usually need more exercise than they are getting in a routine day.
The next step, perhaps an hour before bedtime, is to have a bedtime snack. This does not need to be a big deal. It is just a little food to help them tide themselves over to morning and breakfast, which is a long time away. A cheese stick or a small glass of milk and a slice of bread or a handful of crackers is all it takes. Cooking is not required. Sweets are probably not a good idea for many reasons. Having a little something in their stomach before bedtime makes them more comfortable and less likely to sleep lightly or have trouble getting to sleep in the first place.
A bath is the next thing to do. Warm water and a little soaking time are soothing to the spirit. This seems to work better with some kids than it does with others. If your child cannot be restrained from turning bath time into more rowdy time, then maybe the bath needs to be before snack time.
The last and most important thing in a bedtime routine is quiet time just before bed. This is not a time for television, which can be too stimulating for a child. If you must have television in the evening than at least be careful to avoid violence or other exciting elements in the program. Some kids only need fifteen minutes of quiet time with their parent reading a book to them. Some kids seem to need an hour’s worth of quiet time to be ready for sleep. What works out well is when a younger sibling can have some quiet time with one parent first and be put to bed, while older siblings play quietly. Then the next oldest sibling has his own quiet time and reading time next with the parent, and so on. That way each child gets some one-on-one time with a parent just before sleep.
Having a routine and doing mostly the same thing next after night gives children an expectation of what comes next. Also elements of the evening routine should make sure children are sleepy and comfortable by bedtime. With their bodies and minds ready for sleep, children will fall asleep much easier.