If there is one thing all parents are obsessed with, it is getting our kids to go to sleep. My main concern when I had Leo 4 years ago was how on earth was I going to get my baby to have a good nights sleep so we could both get some much needed rest. Struggling to get your little ones off to the land of nod and then actually getting a decent stretch of sleep once they finally drop off is one of the biggest challenges faced by parents and is something we are all keen to find a solution for. Well, I have two kids now and I have been using a very simple routine at bedtime ever since Leo was 6 weeks old and, I am pleased to report, it really works. The bedtime routine we use with our toddler and four year old is bath, book, bed. Jo Frost and Book Trust have teamed up together for the third year running to share tips and advice on the best bedtime routine with their successful Beth, Book, Bed campaign. A good bedtime routine really is the key to a successful nights sleep, here are my tips along with some great information from the Bath, Book, Bed campaign to help you are your little ones have a happy bedtime and a peaceful nights sleep.
The best bedtime routine for kids of all ages
The bath, book, bed approach to bedtime really is as simple as it sounds. To give you some idea of how we do it, here is a look at a typical night in our house..
5.30pm – Tea time
6.00pm – 15minutes or so of TV time while my husband and I tidy up
6.30pm – Bath time for both the boys
6.45pm – Alex (toddler) goes into his room with one of us for a story and his bottle. Leo (4 years old) goes into his room with one of us for 3 or 4 stories.
7.00pm – Alex is put down awake in his cot with his cuddly bunny, lullabies playing and a big goodnight kiss. Leo gets cuddled up in his bed with his teddies, books and toys and a big goodnight kiss.
Some nights the kids are in bed a little later or a little earlier but the bedtime routine is always the same, bath, book then bed. Jo Frost explains, ‘having the same bedtime routine every night helps signal to children that it’s time to wind down and time to relax’. I completely agree, on the rare occasion we’ve let the kids watch more tv than usual or skipped bath time, they always play up when we try and get them off to sleep. If the routine has been abandoned for whatever reason, I can guarantee Leo will be in and out of his room, claiming he needs the toilet about ten times or just whinging that he is not tired. Routines can feel a bit restricting and repetitive but Jo Frost explains that repetition is important for kids and makes them feel safe as they know what is happening while they get ready for bed.
When babies are really young they don’t need bathing all the time and bubble bath isn’t really necessary. However, I always tried to give my babies a quick dip in their baby bath most nights as warm water is so soothing for newborns, it reminds them of the womb and my boys always calmed down from colicky screaming as soon as they went in the bath. Now my boys are bigger, bath time is a chance for play and fun as well as for getting clean.
Top tips for making bath time fun
- Buy some age appropriate bath toys. Leo loves playing with toy boats and little squirty toys and Alex likes pouring water and playing with his singing fish.
- Blow some bubbles. In my opinion, bubbles are perfect for every situation, they are fun, pretty and have magic child hypnotising abilities. Tubes of bubble mixture are really cheap and at bath time you can let the kids play with them freely as you don’t have to stress over any spillages.
- Use bubble bath. This isn’t really essential when your baby is small but as they get older bubble bath can help make bath time really fun. My boys love it when I scoop lots of bubbles up and then blow them out of my hands, it always makes them giggle. Bubbles are fun for kids to play with, feel the foamy texture of and splash around in.
- Pop in a bath bomb. My kids brought me some bath bombs for Mother’s Day and I have been letting Leo climb in the bath with me and he loves looking at the water in all different colours. I would recommend checking what products you use if your child has sensitive skin but bath bombs really do make bath time more exciting.
- Get in with them. I know it is not for everyone but I love bathing with my kids. Yes, there is the risk the toddler may do a poo (so far so good!) or I am going to get soaked in the midst of a splash fight but getting Mummy or Daddy involved in bath time is a great way to coax a reluctant child to have their bedtime bath.
- Don’t be a splash scrooge. My husband can’t cope with the kids splashing in the bath and he has to leave the room but I love it! The boys love splashing around, giggling and getting every inch of the bathroom soaked. I love seeing them end the day in such a happy mood and it is only a bit of water after all.
I have always read to Leo and Alex. I am a massive bookworm and really want to pass the joy of reading onto my boys. I have so many lovely memories of being read to as a child and I want story time to be a part of their childhood that my boys look back on fondly too. With the rise of technology and digital gadgets around the house, it can be all too easy to switch the pages of a book for a screen. We let the boys watch tv but when it is time to start the bedtime routine, all screens go away. Jo Frost points out that while books have a calming effect on our brains, screens do the opposite. Looking at a screen while you are trying to relax for bed can actually create too much excitement and keep children wide awake for longer. Story time is my favourite time of the day, I love how the boys cuddle up with me and rest their heads on my shoulder as we escape together into a story book.
Top tips for story time
- Read cardboard or soft cover books to young babies with lots of black and white pictures and patterns.
- Older babies and toddlers love books with lots of different textures and flaps to lift and look behind.
- Colourful books with a short simple story are best for toddlers.
- If they want to, let your toddler choose the story they want you to read.
- If your child wants you to read the same book three times then do it, repetition is good for kids and helps them to learn and develop their vocabulary.
- Let your older child decide what book/s they want to read at bedtime. I love seeing which books are Leo’s favourites and the ones he happily listens to night after night.
- If your older child wants to, let them read some of the story with you or point out words they recognise. As this is bedtime though, they may be too tired to read themselves and that is completely fine.
- Talk about the story with your child, what was their favourite part, what character did they like the best etc.
- If your child is getting fed up of reading the same books, head to the library together and let them choose some new bedtime reading material.
Now for the tricky bit. Bedtime can be a bit hit or miss but if bath and story time have gone well then both my boys will usually settle down to sleep without too much fuss. Now Leo is a bit older he does sometimes come out of his room for a wee, or we will hear him banging around with his toys. We have a rule that as long as he stays in his room, if he is not tired he can look at his books or play with a couple of toys in his bed until he gets sleepy. We also use a Gro Clock which helps remind Leo that it is night time and time for sleep. Alex still has a bottle and a dummy so getting him to settle down to sleep is quite straight forward. We cuddle him up and give him his bottle and once he is done he is put into his cot with his rabbit teddy and dummy. I also put lullabies on to play before I say goodnight and leave the room. Most nights we don’t hear a peep from either child until morning time, this has been the case since Alex was around 9 months old. I know some people will say we are lucky but I really believe it is because we are always consistent with them at bedtime and we have found a bedtime routine that really works.
Top tips for a successful bedtime
- Keep bedtime calm, no shouting if the kids won’t do as they are told. Stay calm, you are meant to be helping the children calm down for bed and raised voices won’t help.
- No screens in the bedroom. The very rare occasions where Leo has refused to go to sleep and we have put something on the iPad for him to watch and fall asleep to, he never falls asleep. He watches the whole thing and is just as awake as when we put it on. As was mentioned earlier, screens do not have a calming effect on our brains and research has proven they keep us awake.
- Use a nightlight if you need to. Alex has a star nightlight in his room that gives off a very soft glow and seems to be enough for him to fall asleep happily. Leo is scared of the dark though and will only go to sleep with his bedroom light on. When he was a younger he only used a nightlight or a lamp, it is just as he has got older, started having bad dreams and his imagination has started to run wild that he has become so afraid of the dark. This is something we will need to try and help him with at some point but if having the light on helps him go to sleep then I am completely fine with that.
- Don’t get caught up in small talk. Leo loves to try and keep me talking when it is time for him to go to sleep. Most nights it only lasts a minute or so but there have been times he has wanted an in depth conversation about Paw Patrol when he knows it is time for bed. These are delay tactics and Jo Frost advises telling your child you can continue the conversation at breakfast time so you are able to leave your child to go to sleep and they are happy knowing you do want to talk to them about Paw Patrol (or whatever it may be!) tomorrow.
- Do what you need to do. I am not sure if parenting experts will agree with this but I fully believe that when you have a baby and young children you just need to do whatever you can to get some rest. If your baby will only settle down to sleep with a dummy then don’t feel guilty about it. If your toddler will scream the house down if they don’t have all of their five favourite soft toys in bed with them then let them have all the teddies. If your school age child point blank refuses to go to sleep if your turn the light off then leave it on and switch it off once they are soundly sleeping. I am not saying you should pander to your child’s every request, just sometimes you need to pick your battles and the last thing anyone wants is a massive argument when the kids are supposed to be calming down ready for sleep.
Bath, Book, Bed with Jo Frost, Book Trust and Daddy Pig
So, if you want a bedtime routine that really works. A routine that I, and so many other parents, have used all the way from newborn to school age then all you need to remember is BATH. BOOK. BED. Book Trust have teamed up with Jo Frost and Daddy Pig and have some fantastic resources to help you establish this bedtime routine with your little ones. You can download a really informative and useful Bath, Book, Bed booklet from the Book Trust website, it is full of expert tips from Jo Frost as well as from Daddy Pig (we all know that Daddy Pig is a bit of an expert at most thing, after all). The booklet tells you everything you need to know about how to begin using this really effective bedtime routine and Jo answers some questions about bedtime from real parents. We received some lovely books from Book Trust and Leo and Alex enjoyed cuddling up and listening to me read them before bedtime. If you need some reading inspiration, Book Trust have a great list of recommended bedtime stories on their website.
Book Trust have loads more information and advice about the Bath, Book, Bed campaign on their website and if you want to find and share tips on social media, just use #BathBookBed . There is a twitter party on Wednesday April 11th between 8-9pm so be sure to join in if you want some more tips, advice and information on how to get your little ones off to sleep.
When it comes to bedtime, the bath, book, bed routine has been our saviour and I would encourage all parents struggling at bedtime to give it a try. What bedtime routine do you use with your littles ones, do you think bath, book, bed is the best bedtime routine too? If you have any tips on getting kids to happily go to sleep then I would love for you to share them in the comments, hopefully together we can help all those tired parents and their children some much needed shut eye.
Disclaimer: This post is written in collaboration with Book Trust. We received a Bath, Book, Bed goodie bag in return for this honest post promoting the #BathBookBed campaign.