Anyone with kids will have been told at one time or other than the key to a peaceful bedtime is a good routine…But try telling that to most toddlers and pre-schoolers, who tend to have other ideas and much prefer to turn milk, bath and bed into tantrums, hair-wash trauma and hide-and-seek!
In the spirit of aiming to help even our littlest customers get the best night’s sleep (and spreading a beacon of hope to their exhausted parents!), we spoke to licensed psychologist, Dr Sarah Rasmi, Founder of Thrive Wellbeing Centre in Dubai and Assistant Professor of Practice at the American University of Sharjah, for her top tips for a calm and happy bedtime.
Here’s what she had to say.
- Routine, routine, routine!
Having a regular bedtime routine promotes safety and stability because children (and parents!) know what to expect. Each family should devise a bedtime routine that suits their preferences and schedules. That being said, it is not possible to stick to a routine every single night and that is ok.
- Quality time together
Spending time with our children is one of the best ways for us to bond. Research shows that quality time is linked to better developmental outcomes as well. I suggest incorporating quality time into the bedtime routine in whatever way feels comfortable for your family. I would focus on gentle interactions rather than vigorous physical play, as it has the potential to rile up the children and that is counterproductive to a smooth bedtime.
- Reading a book
I strongly encourage parents to incorporate books into the bedtime routine for a number of reasons. First, it is a great way to connect and spend quality time with our kids. Second, it is good for language development, reading comprehension, and academic achievement. Try to engage your children while reading books by asking them questions about what they see and the story. Our current bedtime favourite is Mortimer by Robert Munsch.
- Dads are important too!
Research shows that children with involved fathers have better psychological, social, academic, and behavioural outcomes. Getting involved in the bedtime routine is one way to promote a strong father-child bond.
Over to you…
We also asked our lovely @helmiibeds followers for their top bedtime tips as part of our Ramadan 2019 giveaway and were overwhelmed by some of the fantastic responses! Some of them were so good, we just had to share them here. You’re welcome!
“A lovely warm glass of milk and my daughter’s favourite PJs, a nice, cosy bed with all her favourite teddies on it having special names. A special prayer we say together and a good night message to all the near and dear ones.”
“Reduce screen time nearing their bedtime. Reduce stress by not pushing the kids to sleep. Make sure to have their teddies ready on the bed waiting for them. Keep them relaxed and read them their favourite bedtime story.”
“Having a calm game on the floor of your toddler's bedroom is a great way to spend some fun time with him before bed. Older toddlers may enjoy simple puzzles or card games, and younger ones are always entertained by peek-a-boo.”
“Give a warm bath with lavender scent bubble bath before going to sleep; a gentle massage will help too as their body will be relaxed. Avoid giving them any sweets at night and sing for them a lullaby song.”
“Give the child a soak. A nice, warm bath is a soothing experience, and getting your toddler clean and dry is a great way to ease him into bedtime. Brush his teeth, get him changed for bed, play a quiet game with the kids and have a chat. Read a bedtime story or sing a song and last say goodnight with a tight hug and kiss.”
“Massaging baby with their oil of choice, giving a warm bath followed by moisturising with baby lotion, feeding with warm milk, a sweet cuddle with mama and there he goes, dozing off…”
“After giving warm milk, I massage daily to my two kids (aged 7 years and 5 years) on their stomach and feet - they sleep so well and then I put some lavender oil spray in room for calm sleep. A quick night bath and massage works for us especially in times that they aren’t so tired to sleep. And some storytelling works wonders.”
“Bedtime routine in our house goes like this – chasing the little man up the stairs for bath time – singing in the bath whilst making bubble beards and always getting me soaking wet, followed by jumping on the bed like a lunatic and reading bedtime stories, coconut oil on, pyjamas on, downstairs to get milk or tea – snuggle blanket at the ready, star projector on and cue lullaby sleep music – we count the stars until he falls asleep.”
“Our child's bedroom should ideally be dark, quiet and tidy. It should be well ventilated and kept at a temperature of about 18 to 24C. Have a consistent bedtime routine like turn off electronics 60 minutes before bedtime and spend 30 minutes of quiet, relaxing activities like reading or taking warm bath before lights out.”
“The best top tips for a calm and happy bedtime is to ‘practice what you preach’. As parents you are their role model and idol at least up to a certain age, wherein you need to showcase a disciplined lifestyle to them. So be ‘good parents’ in the literal sense and everything will fall into place. An emotional security is what a kid seeks at that age.... reassure it with your loving touch, a warm hug and a good night.”
“A quiet, dimly-lit space is important for good sleep. Keep technology out of the children’s room, avoid short naps in the evening, give them a warm bath, avoid giving them anything sweet for eating at night but most importantly, follow a fixed routine so sleep and waking up times.”
“Avoid feeding your child big meals close to bedtime, and don't give her anything containing caffeine less than six hours before bedtime. After dinner, avoid all stimulating activities. Establish a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine that lasts between 20 and 30 minutes and ends in your child's bedroom. Avoid scary stories or TV shows. It's better to read a favourite book every night than a new one because it's familiar.”
“Make sure your child is comfortable. Clothes and blankets should not restrict movement, and the bedroom temperature shouldn't be too warm or too cold. Give your child tools to overcome his worries - these can include a flashlight, a spray bottle filled with "monster spray," or a large stuffed animal to "protect" him. Set up a reward system - each night your child goes to bed on time and stays there all night, she gets a star. After three stars, give her a prize.”
“Fit some thick curtains to block out any daylight. If there's noise outside, consider investing in double glazing or, for a cheaper option, offer your child earplugs.”
“My little one loves her bedtime books! Reading really calms her down and she knows that the lights go off after we’re done, although sometimes we have to read them over and over again!”
“Check whether child’s bedroom is too light or noisy for sleep. Blue light from televisions, computer screens, phones and tablets might suppress melatonin levels and delay sleepiness. It probably helps to turn these off at least one hour before bedtime and to keep screens out of child’s room at night.”
“With my first, it was bath, book and bed and she was in bed by 7pm without any fuss (I thought I had it all under control), then along came my second child, and showed me I didn’t! He hates being alone, and needs me to cuddle him till he falls asleep, and ends up in my bed most nights, completely refuses to sleep in his own room. So I guess every child is different, and you have to work out the best routine for each child.”
“My son’s bedtime routine is for me to be with him for some time and he tells me how his day was, he will talk about anything and everything – his friends, his teachers, why the friends had a fight…later he will read a book of his favourite author and then goes off to sleep.”
“Use a security object as part of the bedtime routine – like a stuffed animal or blanket, can be important, especially for toddlers and pre-schoolers.”
“Well the key to having peaceful kids is to bring down their energy levels through the day. I’d say make time to take them to the park or for a swim, followed by a warm shower and a good home cooked meal. Wrap it up with a good bedtime story….”
Dr Sarah Rasmi is the founder of Thrive Wellbeing Centre in JLT, Dubai. The Centre’s dedicated psychologists provide confidential and affordable individual psychological therapy to children, adolescents, and adults. Learn more about their full range of counselling and psychological services at www.thrive.ae, follow them @thrivewellbeingcentre or call +971 (0) 56 895 2347.
Please drop us a line with your bedtime hints or tips below! Anything tried and tested you would like to share? We would love to hear from you.