Kids sleep is a challenging subject for me to talk about as my husband and I have had quite a positive experience with our children however, I know it can be a struggle for many parents. Until recently, I felt I shouldn’t contribute to conversations that involved children’s sleep, as my own experience has been less challenging. My children only woke when they needed something and then peacefully went back to sleep. Recently over a coffee, a fellow mama asked me to share my experiences with kids-sleep, I provided her with some tips and when we met up several weeks later, to my surprise she had incorporated some of our nightly-habits into her own routine and reported back that they had worked really well for their youngest child. This gave me the confidence to talk openly about my positive experience in this area and reinforced that it really does ‘take a village’ and all our know-how as parents, positive or negative, all offer support through the most challenging but rewarding experience – raising children.
My evening routine is very important for my wellbeing. Instilling a feeling of calm, instead of chaos, is a priority for both my husband and I before tucking into bed. It’s our ‘me-time’ and it’s no different when it comes to the kids. It makes perfect sense that this is just as important for the kids (if not MORE important) to experience the same benefits with their own nighttime rituals put in place.
Here are three sleep time concepts we use in our household for our children. Keep in mind that although they may seem fairly simple, the toughest part is being consistent.
1 – SLEEP STEPS
Bedtime varies based on our children’s age in our home and sleep steps are also unique to each child’s personality. Our sleep steps take place before bedtime and support our children physically and mentally towards sleep. Having steps that are subtle hints that bedtime is coming, allows us to not have to directly address it. For my youngest, this consists of a bubble bath, a warm drink, teeth brushing, a bedtime story or sing-a-long and lastly, a kiss goodnight for him and all of his soft toys. Easing into sleep time is much better than an abrupt change of setting. Annette Faamausili, child sleep expert and founder of Serene Sleep calls these sleep cues out and they work magnificently for us.
- SLEEP TONE
Our language and tone around bedtime is positive however I had not realised it wasn’t the same for the kids. In the past, “bedtime” was met with a groan, particularly with my oldest child. It took a while, but with persistence, we came up with a much better sleep dialogue to prompt sleep time. Using sentences like “swimming tomorrow, sleep will help you rest and that means you’ll have so much energy to enjoy your exciting day, let’s hop into bed now” and “I’m really excited to see what book you’ll choose to read before bed, I hope you choose ‘Press Here’, I love reading that with you”. We’ve had to come up with some creative phrases and we are always trying to keep them positive. We are especially mindful of our tone of voice, keeping it still, gentle and reassuring.
- CHOOSING YOUR CHILD’S BED
A great night’s sleep can completely transform the way I feel – physically and mentally. Having a good bed has made all the difference for me. However, I haven’t always thought that it was a necessity for my kids. They have always had cool beds and bunks but their mattress quality was basic, offering little support for their growing bodies. I want my kids to wake up feeling rested and fulfilled each day, just like mum and dad do. One bed does not fit all, the below will help choosing a bed a little less stressful.
Tips for choosing a bed:
- There is always room for a little fantasy when it comes to choosing a bed for kids, but it pays to think about practicality too. In small spaces, elevated beds are a trusted way to keep things tidy and functional. A trundle bed, for example, has a stow-away back-up bed that can prove a lifesaver when it comes to sleepovers. Have a look at RL’s Sealy King Single, Trundle Bed below. Little brother AG loves a weekend staycation in his big brother’s room!
- It’s important to choose a supportive and comfortable bed that is designed for their age group.
- Does the mattress meet your child’s health requirements? For example, we opt for low allergenic properties and materials naturally resistant to mould, mildew and dust mites.
- Safety is important. Especially for younger children, for example, is the bed structure made out of non-toxic materials, is it low to the ground in case a child rolls of during sleep etc.
- Beds are an investment, not an expense. Cheap mattresses can underperform in comfort, support, durability and more. Investing in a good bed saved us money in the long run.
- SLEEP RECOVERY
It is inevitable that sleep routines get interrupted for different reasons. In the past, I used to feel anxious about the transition back-to-school. Below are some of the tips that help me get through this as a parent while making the transition much easier on the kids.
- Try to keep it familiar ritual while on holiday. Get through as much sleep steps as possible these little hints will help your child settle. Going cold-turkey will mean it will be harder to transition the kids back into a routine when school starts.
- Discuss sleep expectations with your child before the holidays. It’s always great that they understand that although there may be a few late nights, screen time rules still apply, pyjamas on at 7:30 etc. Also that this period is temporary and will return to normal once the holidays are over.
- Wake your child up at the same time they rise at home each morning on holiday. No matter what time your child falls asleep on holiday – however late. Children who stick to their usual wake up time in the morning are more likely to feel sleepy at their usual bedtime. The natural sleep rhythm has your back!
- Pre-plan your sleep environment. For example, If staying at a campground on holidays I will check reviews for families with young children and in specific look for reviews that mention the noise. If staying with family check things such as do you have your own room? or are you sharing? Is the room you are staying in at the back of the house or by a common area with noise? This all will help your child’s quality of sleep on holiday and perhaps even mean that you can stick to your usual routines.
- Wear them out! Exert your child out during the day with games, activities and even physical exercise to guarantee a tired child and deep sleep.
- DONT STRESS, be present, enjoy the holidays with your children. Focus on creating memories with your child. It’s a great opportunity to make the breaks from your routines special instead of stressful. They will have fun breaking the rules and because you have kept them in the loop they will know its only temporary.
If none of the above has worked for you and your whanau or you’ve tried it all and are struggling with sleep, don’t be afraid to ask for expert help. Sleep consultants can provide supportive solutions to suit your parenting style and sleep goals.
I hope this post has helped you in some way! I’d love to start a conversation about this below. What are some of your experiences with kids sleep, whether positive or challenging? Have you tried any of the above? Or perhaps there’s something you could teach me?
See you, love you, BYE!