KIDS BEDTIME ROUTINES WITH LARISSA CARLSON

Larissa Carlson is a lifestyle blogger and mother of two who documents her life through creative storytelling on her blog The Leo Style. She shares with us her experiences and tips about sleep routines for children.

Kids sleep is a challenging subject for me to talk about as my husband and I have had 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 than most. My children generally only wake up when they need something and then peacefully got 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. She reported back that they had worked really well for their youngest child, so this has given me the confidence to talk openly about my positive experiences. The experience with my fellow mama has reinforced to me that parenting really does ‘take a village’ and all our learnings can help us to support each other through the most challenging but rewarding experience – raising children.

My evening routine is very important for my well-being. 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 and equally, if not more important for them to experience the same benefits with their own night-time rituals.

Here are four 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.

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. The steps in place build towards giving subtle hints that bedtime is coming without directly addressing it. For my youngest this consists of a bubble bath, a warm drink, teeth brushing, a bedtime story or sing-along 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 broadcast and most of the time that 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. That means you'll have so much energy to enjoy your exciting day so 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’ as 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 a bed

A great night's sleep can completely transform the way I feel – physically and mentally. Having a good Sealy 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 also wake up feeling rested and fulfilled each day. I will be the first to admit it was only when I upgraded my sons’ bed that I learned that one size does not fit all.

Tips for choosing a bed for kids:

  • 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.
  • Choose a supportive and comfortable bed that is designed for their age group.
  • Check that the mattress meets 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. Check if the bed structure is made from non-toxic materials and whether it is low to the ground in case a child rolls out of bed during the night.
  • Beds are an investment not an expense. Cheap mattresses can under perform in comfort, support, durability and more. Investing in a good bed can save you 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 during the back-to-school period. Here are some of my tips that help me get through this time as a parent, while making the transition much easier on the kids.

  • Try to keep a familiar routine while on holiday. Go through as many of your sleep steps as possible as using these little hints will help your child settle. Going cold turkey will mean it will be harder to transition the kids back into routine when school starts.
  • Discuss sleep expectations with your child before the holidays. Although there may be a few late nights, some of the basic rules should still apply, such as pyjamas on at 7:30pm, screen time limits etc. Also, do reinforce 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. 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 will kick in.
  • Pre-plan your sleep environment. For example, if staying at a campground on holidays, check reviews for families with young children and look for reviews that mention the noise levels. If staying with family, check if you have your own room or if are you are sharing with the kids. Also look where the room is placed in the house and whether it is close to 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 physical exercise to guarantee a tired child and deep sleep at night.
  • Don’t stress, enjoy the time with your kids. The holidays are a great opportunity to make the breaks from your routines special instead of stressful. The kids will have fun breaking the rules and because you have kept them in the loop, they will know it’s only temporary.

If none of the above have worked for you and you and your whanau are still 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.

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