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  • Natalie Graham

The Do's and Don'ts of a Bedtime Routine


Having the right bedtime routine in place for your little one can mean the difference between a complete melt-down and a calm, enjoyable moment.


The hardest part can sometimes come down to the fact that come evening we, as parents, can be quite depleted. If we have spent all day with a little one, if there’s been tears, tantrums, struggles with naps then the last thing you need is more chaos at bedtime.


I don’t want you spending hours every evening upstairs trying to get your little one to sleep. If this is happening, there will be more than one thing we need to look at and the bedtime routine is one part of this.


Now I realise I’ve called this bedtime routine, it’s probably more like that post-dinner, pre bed time!


The Don’ts:


  1. Watch TV / have Ipad time, etc. Blue light blocks melatonin which is only produced in the early evening. Melatonin is important to help our little ones settle to sleep and stay asleep for a proportion of the night. I always advise families that where possible, switch the TV off after dinner and make that time for 1:1 play instead - it will bring way more benefits. Of course, once sleep has settled and you want to bring back a short TV program knowing that it's not impacting sleep, then that's ok too.

  2. Eat sugary foods Beware of those hidden sugars in your little one's puddings (keep fruit to a minimum and check those yogurt pots for sugar!) and certainly nothing in the sugar line before bedtime. If your toddler does want a pre-bed snack then there are plenty of nutritious options that aren't going to negatively impact bedtime. Make sure it's offered at least one hour before bed.

  3. Move from room to room Once upstairs, stay upstairs. Think about what the rooms signify for our little one's. Generally - downstairs, the sitting room etc are associated with high energy play whereas upstairs is much calmer. If you’re constantly moving rooms or coming back downstairs, re-think the timing and what else could be going on.

  4. Rush it Remaining calm and consistent is so important. Little one's feed off our energy so if we're stressed, they're much more likely to match our emotions.


The Do’s:

  1. The right time Before you go changing any routine, first of all make sure that it’s happening at the RIGHT TIME! So much of the drama happens because little ones just either aren’t ready to start the evening routine, or are way past it.

  2. Fun and connection Focus on having heaps of fun and connection in that post dinner, pre-bed time. Don’t worry about it being too calm (the transition to that comes later with the curtain cues, milk feed, story etc). Think rough and tumble, action songs, encourage the learning of the new skill, be it rolling, crawling, walking etc. All of this helps with a little one's self regulation and is such an important part of the routine. Take a look at this guide for more on the sensory perspective to sleep.

  3. Offer choices (within boundaries) As part of the routine, you may like to give a choice of bath toys, books to read, so that little one feels it’s partly within their control. This becomes more important once our little ones hit the 12m+ mark.

  4. Regular bedtime By timing it right, it will mean you are able to consistently get your child to bed at a regular time each night that suits them. This is so important for their 24hr body clock.


Getting a little one to sleep can be a challenge, but there are plenty of tools and strategies you can try to implement for an easier bedtime routine.



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