It seems that kids get a renewed burst of energy about an hour before bedtime (we assume they secretly know this, and do everything in their power to stay awake). However, this can be especially exhausting for you as a parent, who has worked all day or provided their care and just want an easy bedtime routine.
While some children have a condition like ADHD that can make them more prone to hyperactivity, many are just naturally active and seem to turn on the turbo jets in the evening. If you’re dreading another night trying to get junior to relax enough to sleep, here are seven tips…
1. Don’t Feed Them Too Late
Try to ensure your child has eaten their last meal a bit earlier before they hit the sack, as the associated “energy spike” from the food could fuel them longer than you’re hoping for, suggests Livestrong.com.
Also be aware that snacks and juice could give them a sugar rush that could kick in right when you’re trying to wind things down. The source also suggests cutting back on sugar a few hours before bed, or risk them being “physically incapable of relaxing.” If you child drinks (caffeinated) soda, eliminate that 6-hours before bed, it adds.
2. Use Bath Time to Your Advantage
We all like to have a nice, long soak in the bath, as it makes us feel relaxed and is a great way to melt away stress. Turns out it can have the same calming effects on a child, so help them think of it more as a nice activity rather than just a way to get clean, says Kidspot.com.
The source also suggests using a calming bubble bath with essential oils to aid in the relaxation (and what kid doesn’t like bubbles?). Massage their scalp when you’re washing their hair, and encourage them to float peacefully. These are all bedtime winners.
3. Use Soothing Music
North Shore Pediatric Therapy with locations across Wisconsin and Illinois suggests tapping into the power of music to rock your child to sleep (not literally by playing rock music).
The source suggests teaching junior to set a sleep timer on their clock (or mobile device) that can play music for a set amount of time before shutting off, and hopefully your child’s eyes will be shut by then. “Quiet lullaby music” can literally lull a child into submission; so don’t be afraid to use it.
4. Replace Screens With Books
We know, you’re tired in the evening, and the tablet or television is a great babysitter. However, letting your child indulge in too much screen time before bed is not going to help you achieve your hopes of having a relaxing bedtime routine.
Livestrong.com notes you should stick to the ol’ printed books before bedtime rather than letting your child stare at a screen. “Spending too much time in front of an illuminated screen (i.e. while playing video games or watching television) prior to bed may seriously hinder your child’s ability to sleep,” it explains.
5. Start a ‘Good-Night’ Journal
Huffington Post says you can consider starting a bedtime journal to help kids to draw or write about their day. Apparently this is a great way “to work through thoughts, clear the brain, and calm the body,” it offers.
It also notes that expressing these thoughts on paper can help reduce the chance of nightmares for children (and adults too). The act of journaling engages the entire brain, and writing or drawing our thoughts helps us to “make sense of our experiences, deal with them intentionally, and feel additional control over our lives,” notes the source.
6. Let Them Cuddle a Stuffed Toy
Huffington Post also says that stuffed toys are great companions for kids after you’ve left the room. The source cites a study that found children who were anxious at bedtime had fewer fears about nightmares when they had a stuffed animal by their side.
You can even reinforce this idea by encouraging your child to name their stuffed toys, and telling them their buddies will be there for them during the night if they need them. Of course, you should also let them know they can wake you if they really need some comforting.
7. Stick to Your Routine
Starting the bedtime warm-up at the same time each night will help your child’s mind to become comfortable with routine. Of course, there are always circumstances that can temporarily disrupt the schedule (i.e., visiting family out of town and driving home later than usual) but try to keep this rule of thumb in mind.
Try to start the routine at the same time each night, even if it may take a bit longer on certain (bath) nights to get them down for the count. The promise of some stories, a back rub, some nice music and a nightlight can help make bed less of a drag and something for kids to look forward to, notes Livestrong.com.