Sleep is a wonderful thing! Both Emma and I value it highly and we have been determined to get it right with Hannah from the very beginning. It hasn’t always been easy and I’ll freely acknowledge that we’ve had a whole lot of luck, but what we have now is a stress-free nightly routine that Hannah happily follows (most of the time). Read on to find out about our bedtime routine. Some of these ideas may work for you.
Dinner (about 5:30 p.m.)
Our evenings are fairly consistent right from dinner time. Dinner is the first signal to Hannah that we are winding down for the night and entering the bedtime routine. It doesn’t matter what adventures we have been up to throughout the day, once dinner starts we are back to normality.
After Dinner (about 6 p.m.)
After dinner is Hannah’s last chance to play for the evening. Often she engages in independent play with her DUPLO while Emma and I clean the kitchen. Sometimes we listen to music and dance around or read a few books together. Generally speaking it’s a fun and relaxed time before bath time.
Pack Up (about 6:25 p.m.)
This is a really important part of the bedtime routine and it helps Hannah to know that we are at the end of the day. About five minutes before bath time, we tell Hannah that it is time to pack away because she will soon have her bath. Sometimes she starts to throw her toys back into their boxes immediately, sometimes she needs a little encouragement.
Usually at least one of us helps Hannah to pack up. There’s something really enjoyable about chucking a load of blocks into a box, then high-fiving a toddler in appreciation of the joint effort!
Bath Time (about 6:30 p.m.)
Hannah has a quick bath each night. Once every four days she has a slightly longer bath with hair wash. The baths have to be quick, because longer baths have a negative impact on Hannah’s eczema-prone skin. A liberal splash of bath oil also helps to control the eczema.
Hannah has a little play with her bath toys while I get on with the necessary cleaning. Sometimes she wants to stay in for longer – she LOVES all things water, but she also loves pulling out the plug. Most nights I ask Hannah if she wants to pull out the plug. That question is promptly ignored as she tries to squeeze in a little extra play. I then repeat the question again, followed by, “or would you like me to pull out the plug?” That usually gets her moving pretty quickly!
Drying, Creaming and Dressing (about 6:40 p.m.)
This is the part of the routine that consistently faces the most resistance. Hannah has a range of creams that need to be applied according to the severity of her eczema, and she doesn’t like any of them. Her reactions range from quiet tolerating to loud protesting. It is also the time of the day in which Hannah is least likely to hear my requests for her to come to me (it’s amazing how interesting the toys at the back of her wardrobe become at 6:40 at night!).
The Bedtime Book (about 6:50 p.m.)
Hannah loves reading! We read a minimum of five books together each day, and sometime many, many more. I love that Hannah enjoys reading and fully encourage her to take an opportunity to interact with books. Except at bed time. The bedtime book is always just one book.
I think this is important for solid and predictable bedtime routine. If it was up to Hannah, we would spend the next two hours methodically going through each of the 120+ books on her bookshelf. I let her choose the book that she wants me to read and I tell her before we begin that it’s just one book.
Cuddles, Water and Toothbrush (about 7 p.m.)
Finally, after the book we have a big cuddle, a few sips of water, and then we brush Hannah’s teeth. Usually she is fairly compliant, but sometimes she doesn’t want anything to do with the toothbrush. I don’t force it on her, now is not the time for an argument. Hannah usually doesn’t mind having her teeth brushed at night, so when she doesn’t want it, I figure she usually has a pretty good reason.
Bedtime (about 7:05 p.m.)
A final cuddle, a few whispered words then it is time for sleep. By now Hannah is ready. She knows what comes next and she happily lies down while we zip her into her sleep bag. I give Hannah one last kiss on the forehead, tell her I love her and to have sweet dreams. Then I’m straight out of her room and I shut the door behind me. We will open it later on, when we go to bed, but for now Hannah needs the peace and quiet to help her settle.
Occasionally she cries for a minute or two, but that’s pretty rare these days. Sometimes she goes straight to sleep, but often she has a short, happy babble to herself for about ten minutes. We keep half an ear on the monitor, but we never have to go in and help her settle.
This bedtime routine works for us with Hannah, at this particular point in time. The routine has evolved over time and changed as Hannah has grown. It will no doubt change again in the future as Hannah grows and changes. Not all of these ideas will work for you, but some of them might. One thing is for certain – a set routine makes the whole process of bedtime much easier for Hannah to understand and much easier for us parents. Do you have any tips for a smooth bedtime routine?