By Jamie Dyce | October 4, 2023
With long summer days behind us, the feeling of a nonstop sprint with school back in swing, and Daylight Savings looming around the corner, it seems that our children’s sleep patterns are forever-in flux. When can families catch a break? When it comes to maintaining a bedtime routine for our children, consistency is key—plus giving ourselves a little bit of grace. With any sort of habit we seek to create (or perhaps restart), it takes time, practice, and patience. We’re all just doing our best, right?
Our daughter, Adriana, started preschool this year and she’ll turn 3 at the end of December. Pajama Program’s educational programs are geared towards supporting children starting at the age of 3, so I find myself bringing my work home with me—we’re using the R.E.A.D.Y. bedtime routine to inform a practice that works for our family. With school underway, Adriana is waking up earlier than she’d been accustomed, which means an earlier bedtime. If we aim for 8 with some degree of success, then I know we’re on track for a better day ahead.
With practice, a bedtime routine at any age can help a child sleep better, and the best way to do this is through a consistent, repetitive set of activities that are carried out before bed every night. This way, your child will know what to expect, resulting in a long-lasting, healthy ritual that becomes second nature to them. Letting your child know that “the toys have to go away when you hear the timer go off in five minutes” or “this will be the last episode before we put on our pajamas” is a sign that the transition to bedtime is about to take place. So, with a heads-up, when you start to clean up or turn off the TV, they don’t feel as though they’ve been “rudely” interrupted. They may resist at first, but with a little patience, you may find that they even turn the TV off themselves! Once the routine is underway, you can help your child enjoy a bubble bath, brush their teeth, and of course, change into cozy pajamas and share a bedtime story. These are some examples of elements you may want to consider including as part of a routine—you may have your own special elements that are unique to you and your family (and please, if you have any golden nuggets, send them our way!).
And don’t forget—bedtime routines not only provide consistency, but they serve as a catalyst for better behavior. A child who sleeps better will benefit from enhanced memory, improved attention and alertness, and other cognitive skills, in turn helping to improve mood, stress levels, and behavior. A win for the whole family, because when your child is happier, so are you!
Ultimately, the reason I am so deeply passionate about the work we do at Pajama Program is because I firmly believe that bedtime is the most opportune time during the 24-hour day for an adult and a child to truly connect, resulting in greater odds that a child’s social-emotional health and well-being will be protected and nurtured. And while the bedtime routine itself isn’t always easy or peaceful with a picture-perfect ending of sleeping children at 8 pm, cozy and calm in their beds, we adults can commit to practicing consistency. We can give it our best. We do it for the children we love, and we do it for our families and ourselves. Yes, bedtime routines can absolutely be a challenge—and for many in our community, those challenges are even more daunting than one could possibly fathom—so at the end of the day (no pun intended), I hope you, too, believe along with me that adopting a consistent bedtime routine practice for the children in our lives, and supporting bedtime routines for all children, everywhere, is fundamental to children learning, growing, and fulfilling their potential.
Here’s to a bedtime routine practice filled with comfort, calm, and connection! (Even when it may be anything but that on some nights!)