Ah, bedtime. When I was expecting my first child, Nicholas, I fantasized about how cozy and special it would be. My vision included a beautifully decorated, tidy room with lovely lullabies playing in background. My precious child would quietly sit listening to a story before we knelt down together for prayers. We’d snuggle and kiss, then my dear one would drift off into sweet slumber.
Once Nick was born I received a reality check. He did not sit still for stories or prayers. We would snuggle and as soon as I would attempt to leave he would cry. He would not just drift off to sweet slumber. My husband, Jim and I decided to just let him fall asleep when he was ready. We kept him with us until we went to bed and hoped he would give in to sleep by then. I remember Nick doing laps around the room until he literally dropped into sleep. All of this didn’t trouble me too much at the time. Then my daughter Libby was born.
Two children under the age of two motivated me to learn how to help my children go to sleep. It was vital for them and for me. At the end of the day I was so tired and really needed to be able to tuck them in for the night. Changing bedtime styles did not come easily, but it was definitely worth it.
It is so important for children to have a good night’s sleep. They also thrive on routine and rituals. Knowing what will happen at the end of each day is very soothing to a child. This secure atmosphere is essential at bedtime. Some children experience separation anxiety strongest at bedtime. They fear they will be abandoned, left out of something fun, or just forgotten. Darkness can cause a child’s imagination to work overtime and anything they heard, saw or experienced that day comes alive. We can help our children learn to go to sleep peacefully. A little planning, preparation and time will go a long way in creating sweet dreams.
Bedtime preparation begins long before the sun goes down. Make sure that your child is getting enough exercise during the day and that they aren’t napping so long in the afternoon that they are not tired at night. Avoid evening snacks that contain lots of sugar, dyes, caffeine or other additives.
Your child’s room
The way you decorate or organize your child’s room can encourage sleep. Many parents I know try to keep all toys organized in such a way that they will not distract their child from falling asleep. Keep the room tidy and provide a place to put things away. Nick and Libby had very small rooms so I provided a closet in the hallway for them to store their toys. Now at bedtime the playthings are “out of sight, out of mind.”
Encourage your child to participate in decorating their sleeping areas. Even if siblings share a room they can make the space where their bed is a soothing, comfortable place that matches their personality. If possible, let your child pick out their bedding. Nicholas had a Thomas the Tank Engine bed set that he loved. He looked forward to climbing beneath those covers because the familiar, friendly face of a character he enjoyed was smiling at him.
In Libby’s room I decorated the ceiling by painting white fluffy clouds on a pale blue sky. I used glow in the dark paint to stencil angels amidst the clouds. As she is drifting off to sleep she has something calming to look up at. Nick has stars that glow on his ceiling.
When I was a child my sister and I slept in bunk beds. Hanging on the wall, directly across from the top bunk, was a very ornate clock. My uncle had bought it in Germany and gave it to us as a gift. In the dark my wild imagination did not see a clock. Monsters, fierce animals and all sorts of frightening images jumped out at me whenever I looked at that clock. Be sure that whatever wall decorations you use in your child’s room won’t appear scary in the dark. Listen to your child, if something in their room is upsetting them when it’s dark, remove it. Nighttime will be easier for both of you.
Pictures of family members are great bedroom decorations. One little boy told me he loved falling asleep and waking up looking at his mom and dad’s smiling faces on his wall. Our neighbor put a poster of Jesus and the children in her daughter’s bedroom. Each night before falling asleep she would hear her daughter reminding herself that she is one of the children at Jesus’ feet. It usually takes a child up to half an hour to fall into a deep sleep. Give them something peaceful to set their sleepy eyes on.
Most children like something to snuggle at bedtime. Nicholas has a floppy eared stuffed dog since he was two years old. When he was nine and didn’t sleep with his dog anymore it still held a place of honor on his bed. Some children like to use their parent’s pillow. It makes the child feel as if they are close to mommy. One mom told me her daughter always felt safe when she’d rest her head on her dad’s shoulder. This clever mom made a pillowcase out of dad’s t-shirt. The little girl now feels more secure because a part of her dad is nearby when she puts her head down at night.
Setting the atmosphere
It’s not always easy for a child to make a smooth transition from playtime to bedtime. Help your child by choosing pre-bedtime activities that are calming. I know that can be difficult especially if dad works late. Many moms tell that their husbands get the kids all worked up before bed and it’s so hard to get them to sleep. Try to plan some fun things for the entire family to do together before bed.
Here are some ideas to try:
– Favorite bedtime story
– Work on a puzzle
– Listen to a audio drama or quiet music
– Review the day’s events
– Color a picture
– Board games
Many parents find a soothing bath is a wonderful way for their little one to end the day. I used to play classic music while my little ones splashed. Adding lavendar soap adds to the relaxing atmosphere.
A consistent bedtime will also go a long way in making your evening ritual a success. As children get older help them understand how long they have until lights out.
Helping your child have a blessed bedtime will bring much needed to rest to the entire family.