Sleep is important. A well rested child is much easier to parent and is a much better learner in school. Some children are awesome natural sleepers. Others fight it tooth and nail or just need help establishing what doctors call "sleep hygiene." (Richard Ferber's book, Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems is a classic and another amazing book is Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth.) A bedtime routine helps a child wind down and get settled in.
Here are the basics!
- TIRED is important. Children should be physically tired at the end of a day. That means making sure they have adequate physical activity during their day.
- Quiet is important. As bed time nears, quieting down the entire household or moving the child to a quieter setting (Like quiet time in their room) is important. Some children will benefit from a "noise mask" in their room. Fans are great for this.
- Relaxed is important. An action movie or tension packed video game keeps adrenalin flowing and could hinder relaxation as could an intense interaction (fighting or fun rough housing) in the home right before bed. Frustrating homework right before bed might make sleep difficult. Some families use a quiet time for "getting ready for bed."
- "Self Quieting" is important! Children can be taught relaxation techniques to learn "self quieting skills" Younger children can cuddle a stuffed animal or hold a favorite blanket. The point here is that they can go to sleep alone. (Parent warning - be careful not to train your children to depend on you for quieting. Rubbing their back for a bit of relaxing and bonding time before bed is fine but if you must rub their back until they fall asleep you have accidentally made them dependant on you.)