As the mother of a 1, 3, and 5 year old, I know that getting your kids to fall asleep can be tricky, but setting up a calming sleep space and being consistent with a routine can help bedtime go more smoothly, and more importantly, allow you to have some much needed quiet time in the evening.
Set Up Your Sleep Space
1. Blackout curtains: If you haven’t already, then invest in blackout curtains or blinds; you will not regret it! Blackout curtains make naptime and bedtime so much easier. In the summer it doesn’t get dark until late, but having the blackout blinds makes the room nice and dark, creating the perfect sleep environment. Also, the time the sun rises in the morning varies throughout the year, but you don’t want your child’s wake up time varying too, therefore the curtains give them the impression it is still nighttime.
2. Bunny clock: We use this bunny clock with our 3 and 5 year olds who share a room to help them understand when it is time to get up. We set the clock so that bunny wakes up at 7am (and the light on the clock switches from the nighttime scene to the morning scene). Our kids know that if bunny is not awake they cannot come out of their room. You can decide whether or not it is okay for kids to get out of bed and play in their room until bunny wakes up, or if you want them to stay in bed, but it’s a great tool to avoid them coming out to play at 4am. It also serves as a nightlight in their room, especially if you are using the blackout curtains. I like to set my alarm a half hour earlier and have my first cup of Mommee Coffee in peace.
3. Bedtime novels: We used to read picture books to our kids every night and we still read a ton during the day, but we found that reading novels at bedtime really helped with falling asleep. We started buying abridged versions of classic children’s novels (you can also find a ton of great children’s novels at your local library). There are no pictures and we just turn a little lamp on to read. The kids lay their heads on their pillows and listen. This may not work for younger kids, but our 3 and 5 year olds love listening to the stories and often just reading one or two chapters puts them to sleep or at least settles them down so they can fall asleep on their own. Some of our favorites have been Black Beauty, Peter Pan, and Anne of Green Gables. If you have younger kids try the Winnie the Pooh or Peter Rabbit anthologies.
Establish a Routine
As I mentioned above, the biggest key for us is having a consistent bedtime routine. We put the kids down to bed at the same time every night and follow the routine. Remember to allow time for the entire process. Don’t start when your child should be going to sleep, or when they are already showing signs of being tired, start early as a way to calm them down before bed.
- Pajamas and brush teeth
- Quiet activity (eg. puzzle, coloring, board game)
- ONE sip of water (no coming out for more after being put down, and try to avoid giving them too many liquids right before bed).
- Turn on bunny clock, say goodnight to bunny
- Read in darkened room with heads on pillows
- Soft music (classical or other music without words, great way to drown out other noise in house, or siblings rustling around if your kids share a room).
When your kids inevitably come out as they are getting used to the routine, calmly and quietly ask them if bunny is awake, and then escort them back to their room, tuck them back in, and close the door. If they fight it they may need to be carried in, but eventually when they realize that you aren’t willing to engage with them or offer them anything extra, they will get the point. Just like baby sleep training, it may not work perfectly at first, but if you stick with it and remain consistent bedtime should become much easier. Good luck!