Bedtime Went Viral! And Here’s Our Bedtime Routine!
It happened about a year ago when an elementary school in Wisconsin, USA posted this on their Facebook page –
Titled “At what time should your child go to bed?,” this was just a chart suggesting sleep times for kids. I have seen many other sleep time charts in my life as a mother. Especially when my daughter Little B was an infant, I did keep a tab over her every waking hour and every sleeping hour. There are many a crazy things I did as a new mother and consulting with every available online resource was just one of them.
However, this sleep-time chart was different, all because it went viral. The chart was shared over Facebook for more than 400,000 times. It seemed that the entire world was reading it, sharing it, discussing it and commenting on it. And hence was a great divide – some parents believed that the chart was a great resource; others thought it was simply unrealistic. Some parents felt encouraged by the chart, others thought that the chart is discouraging.
Surprisingly, I felt alright. Not because my daughter’s bedtime coincided or not-coincided with the prescribed time in the chart. But because after many years of parenting ups and downs, I have come to accept things the way they are. I don’t get affected as I used to be by seeing my daughter’s height and weight growth chart at a certain percentile. I don’t get affected when another mother tells me their child is eating more or less than my child. And so I don’t get affected knowing that my child is sleeping more or less than the prescribed number of hours for her age.
For I and my daughter, bedtime is not about number of hours; instead it is about the bonding moments and the routine we have together. It is not a strict routine; it is in fact a very flexible one. It works as it is sometimes for months at a stretch and at other times it needs a tweak here and a tweak there. We make it and break it together. This is the bedtime routine we are currently following –
Happy Bedtime Routine For Kids – Our Way!
1. Winding Down
This is the first and probably the most challenging step when it comes to bedtime rituals. Little B is perpetually in a state of excitement, so she needs to calm down for her sleep time. The issue, I cannot calm her down, only she can do that to herself!
That’s how she does it – by picking an activity of her choice, an activity which can be done while sitting. That is very important as any activity that involves standing does not wind her down and on the contrary winds her up!
Little B and I do that activity together. She usually suggests colouring, playing a game of monopoly, origami or simple yoga stretches. Such sitting and playing together soothes her down.
2. The Routine Things
Once Little B is calmer, we come inside the bed room and does the usual routine things – changing into night clothes, brushing teeth, going to the washroom and such. As my daughter is young, for her sense of independence is critical. She picks out the soft toy she wants to sleep with, puts toothpaste on her brush all by herself and asks me to wait outside the bathroom as she uses the toilet.
I understand that some of the bedtime rituals are necessary. For example, brushing teeth is an important part, something that we insist that is done very night. So is using the toilet. However, once in a while, Little B gets irritated and just doesn’t want to do them. On those days, I don’t force her to do it. I let her just rinse her mouth well with water and remind her to wake me up at night in case she needs to go to the bathroom. Her going to bed happily with not so clean teeth is more important than her going to bed grumpy with clean teeth.
3. Setting the Mood
We are a family of readers and so the mood for the sleep is set only by reading a book. My daughter picks the book she wants for her bedtime. We both cozy up in the bed, with hugs and kisses and all that jazz and start with the book. She likes listening to a story book rather than reading it. However, Little B is not a quite listener at all. She keeps asking questions, repeating lines from the story, mimicking characters and everything she can to enjoy the story. Often she wants me to read from the books that I have been reading. It doesn’t matter to her if that book is A Game of Thrones or if it is The Reluctant Fundamentalist. I guess she just likes my voice as I read to her.
After our little bedtime routine is over, it is time of goodnight kisses and lights out. I walk out of the room and Little B goes to sleep all by herself. Sometimes she goes to sleep instantly, and sometimes she keeps singing for a while before going to sleep. Sometimes she insists that I sing a lullaby to her.
You might think that I had it the easy way, but that wouldn’t be true. We are working on our bedtime since Little B was a year old. So it is basically it took us quite a few years to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
What works for a 100 percent is independence. I feel that Little B likes the bedtime routine because it includes activities that she wants to do, PJs that she wants to wear and books that she wants to read. It is empowering for her. She gets that sense that it is her own bedtime, planned and executed by herself.
Sometimes it also happens that my daughter wouldn’t want to sleep at her bedtime, she wants to jump for 5 minutes more, or just fool around for “1 second.” I let her jump and fool around. These simple joys of growing up are much more important than any bedtime ritual put together. Isn’t this is what happy childhood is all about – fun with no limits.
What is the bedtime routine that you and your child enjoy? Let me know in the comments!
(The above article was first published here and was written especially for MyCity4Kids and Kellogg’s.)