Eight steps to a blissful bedtime
Mum-of-two Vicki Psarias writes the Honest Mum blog. Here she shares her top tips for getting children to bed with minimum fuss
Now if you've come to this post thinking my two children sleep through the night, every night, then I have to admit that (sadly) that's just not the case. Even at six (!) and three, my kids still wake up some nights and magically find themselves in mine and my husband's bed. What can I say, they're clearly light sleepers like their Mama - and thank goodness for a king-size bed!
I'm sure one day, possibly when they're 18, my boys will discover the joys of sleeping solo - and I won't give up hope. In the meanwhile, here's to industrial-strength concealer and vats of coffee.
Seriously though, to be fair to them, they always nod off to sleep well thanks to a bedtime routine I've bestowed upon them since they were babies - it's just the staying asleep all night thing we need to crack!
Here are my tips to creating a blissful bedtime routine which promises to soothe and settle your kids.
1. A Balanced Dinner
Food is paramount to ensuring your kids are happy and relaxed. When my two return from school and nursery, they tend to play together or watch a short programme before enjoying a light and heathy meal for dinner. An example would be roasted cod with sweet potato fries and salad. Dessert tends to be nutritious but tasty homemade pud (they love an oat crumble) or fresh seasonal fruit with Greek yoghurt and honey.
They know we only enjoy treats on a weekend and not in excess either - and we all collectively limit sugar as a family when we can. Low-GI food and the white stuff causes sugar crashes, resulting in agitated and restless kids - a recipe for disaster when it comes to bedtime.
2. Stay away from technology two hours before bedtime
We don't use the computer or even watch TV for at least two hours before bedtime. Exposure to light from these items (and light in general) stimulates kids (and adults), preventing the secretion of melatonin and disrupting sleep. Switch off and encourage play, reading and homework - if they have it - over iPads and TVs.
3. Bath time
Bath time is always the best time in this house and I usually jump in with the boys myself. It's a chance for us to connect, laugh and get clean. I like to add paraben-free natural, relaxing bath oils/bubbles suitable for kids in there to help soothe them after a busy day.
4. Cotton PJs
We opt for cotton, breathable pyjamas for bed and usually plump for tees and little shorts in the warmer summer months.
5. Room temperature
Keeping the bedroom cool aids sleep, so make sure it's not hot or stuffy at bedtime. Open a window half an hour before they hit the sack to get fresh air circulating, shutting it once they nod off.
Reading not only supports your kids' education, whatever their age, but it's a window of time where they can feel creatively nourished in a relaxed environment. Reading before sleep often means they remember stories and facts too, helping with literacy skills. My boys are currently going through a phase of wanting to sleep together, so reading collectively is easy for us. They each choose 2 books (ideally short and upbeat) before bedtime and we like to discuss the plots and characters after, too.
7. The Grateful List
This verbal list is a fairly new and much-loved ritual here where we share one or two things we're grateful for before bed. Alexander, three, usually says he's grateful for jelly babies on a Saturday - and for the ability to fart!
8. Lots of love
My husband and I are hugely affectionate with our kids and always kiss and cuddle them before bed, too. Reminding your kids how loved they are helps to relax and comfort them before they fall sleep.