Ever hear the joke about the toddler who hated going to sleep and did everything he could to avoid it and nearly drove his parents insane? No? That's probably because it's not a joke and you've probably lived this real-life story yourself.
It's a story as old as time, and while it would be wonderful if our littles just had an "off switch,"
According to the Sleep Foundation:
- A predictable routine gives your child a sense of security and teaches them how to fall asleep on their own.
- Research shows that children who follow bedtime routines are more likely to go to sleep earlier, take less time falling asleep, sleep longer, and wake up less during the night. These benefits to sleep quality are still seen years later in children who followed bedtime routines when they were younger.
- Bedtime routines also teach your child self-care and lay the ground for working memory, attention, and other cognitive skills.
- They also foster parent-child bonding and may help improve mood, stress levels, and behavior.
- In the long term, these benefits translate to better readiness for school, as well as better academic performance and social skills.
- By contrast, those who don’t follow a bedtime routine in childhood are more likely to have sleep problems and be overweight during adolescence.
Ready to rock a routine? Here's the perfect Hello Bello bedtime routine (and a free printable!)
STEP 1: Munch on melatonin.
Melatonin is a natural hormone in the body that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. In some cases, a melatonin supplement (like Hello Bello's Kid's Sleep Well gummies) can give a boost of support to that internal cycle and help people fall asleep faster. For best results, take it at least 30 minutes before bedtime. (Don't forget to brush teeth afterward!)
NOTE: Please consult your healthcare provider before starting any type of supplementation.
STEP 2: Bubble up to calm down.
Soaking your bod in warm water has been a road to relaxation for ages. Adding bubble bath makes it extra enticing for little ones because, c'mon, bubbles are super fun. Crank down the calm down with snooze-inducing scents like the patented Sleep Sweet and Sugar Plum plant-derived fragrances we use in our Baby and Kids sleep lines.
Pro Tip: To keep your routine masterfully regimented, set time expectations. Kids adapt to routines really well, but they have no sense of time. You might have it in your head that they should be in bed by 7:00, but if they're loving tubby time and don't want to get out, they're not going to peacefully abide by your watch. Try vocally calling out the countdown. (e.g. "You have 5 minutes left in the tub;" "You have 2 minutes left in the tub;" "Now it's time to rinse the tubby toys and put them to bed so you can go to bed, too.") You can also use a manual clock (e.g. "When the minute hand hits the number 5, it's time to get out.") making sure to remind them to look at the clock periodically to see where the hand is.
STEP 3: Give a mini-massage to your mini-me.
It might sound like a luxurious addition of extra work to your routine, but never underestimate the power of soothing touch. A gentle massage can increase dopamine (the feel good hormone) and decrease cortisol (the stress hormone). And, yes, little ones do indeed sometimes suffer from stress like the rest of us! Not to mention the research that shows that regular massage helps children experience better sleep, fewer growing pains, increased IQ, improved concentration, decreased anxiety, increased focus, and decreased aggression. PLUS, it helps you nurture and connect to your little one – and is also a good opportunity for you to breathe more slowly, be in the moment, and calm down.
There are oodles of how-to videos online to help you bring out your inner-masseuse, but there's also nothing wrong with keeping it simple and just slowly and gently rubbing lotion into your little one's limbs and back. Whatever works and feels best. Similar to above, double-up on the relaxing effects by using soothing scents like the patented Sleep Sweet and Sugar Plum plant-derived fragrances we use in our Baby and Kids sleep lines.
STEP 4: Bring on the cuddles!
For every parent that complains about the exhausting demands associated with taking care of a baby or toddler, there are at least 10 other parents of older children who will say, "Enjoy it while it lasts!" And when you're exhausted and at your wit's end, it's the most annoying piece of advice ever. BUT – cuddles are the exception. Enjoy cuddles and hugs and snuggles and all forms of physical love while they last. And bring. it. on. at bedtime.
Not only does it just feel really good, according to Stephanie Marcy, PhD, psychologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, snuggles have some significant impacts including:
- Creating a healthy sense of personal boundaries
- Encouraging calmness and relaxation
- Improving muscle tone and circulation
- Improving immune functions
- Improving sleep patterns
- Lowering anxiety and stress
- Reducing discomfort from teething, congestion, colic and emotional stress
- Strengthening digestive, circulatory and gastrointestinal systems
Sounds like snuggles should be doctor-prescribed, right? These are definitely moments to enjoy while they last.
And when you inevitably need to leave the loving arms of your little one, a cuddly lovey (like Hello Bello Plushies!) can take your place.
STEP 5: Read 'em and sleep. (Free printable!)
There can be no bedtime without a bedtime story. Written by one of Hello Bello's very own and very talented creatives, this story will be fun for parents to read and for babies, toddlers, and kids to listen to.
For the bestest bedtime experience, use our Little Cub, Bitty Bunny, Cuddle Bug, and Sleepy Sloth Plushies! Your child can have them make the sounds and then put them to bed when the story ends. It's not quite as challenging for little ones to go to bed when they've put someone else to bed first – even if it's a plushie ;)