For many parents, getting their kids off to sleep can be challenging – in fact, it’s something that all parents struggle with at some point – but don’t despair; with a little bit of pre-planning and routine, you’ll be getting your little one’s off to sleep, and keeping them there throughout the night, in no time.
Sleep is incredibly important for both children and adults alike. However, while we adults can get through the occasional day on less sleep than we need, this isn’t the case for children. Not getting adequate sleep can leave them more irritable or hyper and struggling to control their emotions – leading to unruly and often disruptive behavior, which can be a nightmare to deal with.
The key to avoiding this – and one of the most significant themes in this article – is establishing a set of rigid, regular routines and bedtime rituals, which will help to promote and maintain good sleeping habits. By doing so, you’ll be able to keep your little ones well-rested and refreshed while taking any stress out of bedtime.
So, read on! In this post, we’ll look at eight easy-to-follow steps that you and your family can implement, helping to keep you all well-rested and ready for the busy days ahead – without any of the struggle and fuss that getting kids off to bed can often lead to.
How much sleep should your child be getting?
Before we do anything else, let’s discuss how much sleep your child should be getting, based on their age.
1-4 weeks: Newborns don’t do much else but sleep – in fact, they sleep up to 17 hours a day. That would be bliss if, of course, they had developed their night/day cycle yet. Instead, they’re awake for at most 1-3 hours at a time, which is why parents don’t get much sleep at this age.
1-4 months: At this age, babies tend to sleep for about the same amount of time as newborns; however, their night/day cycle will have started to kick in, meaning that – and if you’re lucky – it won’t be long until they’re sleeping through most of the night, without subjecting parents to the red-eye feeding runs.
4-12 months: While your baby needs less sleep at this age – they still require plenty, needing 14-15 hours each day, along with 2-3 naps. This is the time to start thinking about bedtime routines, helping to establish good bedtime habits early on.
1-3 years: Toddlers need around 12-14 hours of sleep each night – although, something this isn’t always practical, with the busy schedules of parents. At this age, they’ll likely start to drop the morning nap, instead moving to a single mid or late afternoon nap once a day.
3-6 years: For kids in this age group, they need to sleep for around 11-12 hours each night. Those at the younger end of this group will likely still need an afternoon nap, often right up until they reach the first grade of big school.
7-12 years: For kids in this age group, they need somewhere in the region of 10-12 hours of sleep each night. Although, many don’t get enough – instead, getting closer to 9-10 hours.
13-18 years: Once your child reaches their teens, they’re going to need somewhere in the region of 8-10 hours sleep to be well-rested and ready for the busy day of school ahead. This can be difficult, with all the demands of schoolwork, after-school activities – and whatever other pursuits they busy themselves with. However, it’s important as a parent to do what you can to get them the sleep they need.
8 tips to help get your little ones off to bed more easily
1. It’s all about the routine. Set one and stick to it!
Getting your little ones off to bed without any fuss starts with establishing a regular bedtime routine. Each night, without fail, you need to run through a process designed to encourage a good night’s sleep, making your life and theirs all the easier.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to a bedtime routine, and you’ll need to go through a little trial and error to find one that’s right for you and your children. That said, any good bedtime routine should include using their dino toothbrush to get their teeth clean, washing up or bathing, and getting their PJs on ready for bed.
Beyond the basics, it’s up to you. Maybe you have a regular bedtime story, or with older kids, a general catch up, to see how they’re doing in school or whatever else – it’s entirely up to you. The only thing is to keep it short – you don’t want your routine to exceed 30 minutes – and remember that to establish any routine, you must be firm. When it’s time to go to bed, it’s time to go to bed – find a routine that works, and then stick to it.
2. Set and keep a regular sleep and wake-up schedule
One part of a routine that can often get overlooked is setting fixed times for both waking up and going to bed – not just the latter. It’s important to get up early, giving everyone in your household a jump on the day ahead. And it’s not just the kids either – you, your partner or spouse, and the whole house should get into the habit, making you all more productive and building great habits that will last a lifetime.
It’s useful to set regular times to go to bed and wake-up, for all the family – not just your children. Sure, this will be a little harder early on when they’re babies – if anything, at that age, it’s your children who are more likely to dictate these times than the parents! You should always try to lead by example, being a great role model for your little one – so set these times and stick to them.
And don’t let up at the weekends! Routine means routine – you should stick to it every day of the week, as there’s no reason to be lazy and non-productive just because there’s no school for two days. Get up and get busy – the early bird catches the worm, and it’s a great value to instill in your children from an early age.
3. Set aside time to relax before bedtime properly
It’s important to get your child adequately relaxed before bedtime, and there are loads of great, easy ways to do this. This time the perfect for reading a bedtime story from their favorite kids dinosaur book, playing some relaxing, gentle music, or – for older children – the ideal excuse to brush up on their breathing exercises or time for a little post-sleep meditation.
You might also want to think about a nice, relaxing bath as part of your bedtime routine – to up the relaxation, consider investing in a set of dino bath bombs. And while you don’t want to eliminate the dinosaur bath toys entirely, this bath should be more about winding down than playtime.
Typically, most children should fall to sleep in less than 30 minutes – however, some kids may need a little longer to wind-down before they’re ready for lights-out and fall asleep. This time excludes any pre-bedtime prep in your regular routine – it’s not a race, if you opt for a bath, followed by getting into a cute pair of kids dinosaur pajamas – take your time, and start the clock from once they’re in bed.
4. Get the whole family working together as a team
When it comes to raising kids – it’s a team effort! This makes it important to rope your spouse or partner into any sleep routines or schedules you start to implement. The last thing you want is your little one thinking that their other parent is a soft touch, as they’ll use this to try and break your routine whenever they can, screaming and crying at the other parent to let them stay up.
While this can be difficult for some families – especially during weekdays, when mommy or daddy may return late from the office – everyone must do their very best to help out at weekends. This will help to maintain the routine, ensuring its effectiveness.
It also helps to get your children involved in the routine, especially if you’re just creating a new one now. Walk them through the steps, create a wall chart depicting these steps – get them involved, and let them think that they’re part of the decision process. This will make them less reluctant and help foster a strong sense of independence, which is essential to their continued child development.
5. No snacks before bedtime!
When we eat affects both how easily we get to sleep, as well as the quality of sleep we’ll have – and your little ones are no different. If they’re too full or feeling hungry, they’re likely to be more uncomfortable and alert, making it more difficult for them to get to sleep.
The way to counter this is to make the last meal of the say satisfying enough to stave off any hunger in the run-up to bedtime, helping you avoid any post-dinner snacking. You’ll also need to time your dinner – the general rule is that you should eat around 3 hours before going to bed – so while you might eat late, waiting for your partner to return home so you can eat as a family – this isn’t the best idea when it comes to sleep.
Another thing to avoid – especially when it comes to older children – is caffeine before bedtime. Soft drinks, energy drinks, hot chocolate – or pretty much anything with high amounts of caffeine – should be avoided, as they’ll make it much harder for them to get to bed. If your child insists on having something to drink, or a quick bite before bedtime, consider healthier options – perhaps some fruit or crackers, with a glass of warm milk.
6. Create and keep an environment that’s ideal for sleep
Most people sleep best in a room that’s cool, not cold – so make sure that you dress your little one appropriately for the time of year, using the right thickness, weight, and material of dino pajamas, depending on the time of year. If it’s winter, you’ll also want to keep in mind that young children tend to kick off the covers, making it important to dress them a little warmer than is necessary.
When it is cold, you can always have an assortment of dinosaur throw blankets, kid’s dinosaur sleeping bags, and dino bedding on hand during the winter months. These can be placed within easy access of your child’s bed so that as and when the temperature does change, they can easily use these items to find the right level of comfort.
Another great addition to consider is a white noise machine or electric fan, which can create a rhythmic, steady sound, making it far easier to sleep, especially for younger children. These are also great if you’re unfortunate enough to live near busy roads, train tracks, or under airline flight paths, as these can drown out any outside noise, preventing the likeliness of these external noise generators from disturbing your little one’s sleep.
7. Limit noise, light, and ban electronics from the bedroom
Part of ensuring that your little one’s bedroom is an environment that’s perfect for sleep is doing what you can to eliminate or reduce any noise or light. This will make it easier to get to sleep and stay there, without any disruptions or unwanted distractions.
Keeping electronics out of the bedroom is a great idea too – as tablets, laptops, smartphones, and television screens emit blue light, which works to suppress melatonin levels, which can delay sleepiness. As well as banning them in the bedroom, you might want to consider a pre-bedtime ban on these devices – say around an hour before it’s time to bed – as this should be long enough to prevent these adverse effects.
If you’ve got young children – who are likely to get up in the night to use the bathroom – you’ll want to think about a night light, giving them a way of navigating the home without turning on all the lights and disturbing the whole household. Like smart devices, you’ll also want to check for the type of light any particular dinosaur night light emits, as some of the cheaper options can have these same sleep-delaying types of light.
8. Keep your little one feeling safe and secure at night
Being afraid of the dark or going to bed alone is incredibly common – so as parents, you must do everything you can to reassure your children when they go to bed, helping them feel safe and secure enabling them to sleep easily.
Make sure to avoid watching anything scary just before bedtime to prevent any bad dreams or nightmares – you’d be surprised at what can cause these, especially in younger children. Hence, it helps to be incredibly mindful of it. But it’s not just young children – it’s best to avoid this sort of content, even with big kids.
You may want to introduce a security object for younger children, like a doll, a dinosaur plush toy, or a blanket. These items help provide your little one with a strong sense of security, helping them feel more comfortable and reassured before they nod off.
Well, there you have it – our eight tips on how to get your children off to sleep more easily and how to keep them there.
Establishing and sticking to a bedtime routine can be difficult at first – especially when dealing with younger children. It can be difficult for them to grasp and fully understand.
But stick with it! Once your bedtime routine is in place, you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to get your little ones off to sleep and to keep them there.
Like most things – getting them into good sleep habits young will set them on the right path for life – something that can help them become more productive, disciplined adults, which can significantly impact how successful they’ll be in life.