Do you find your child’s bedtime routine stressful? Is this when your children suddenly become interested in the meaning of life? Or care to tell you that they’re suddenly hungry and want an orange? You have to give them credit for the amazing delaying tactics they come up with – they can get really creative when they don’t want to go to sleep! My husband and I have had our fair share of bedtime ‘adventures’ since having our children back in 2008, but it’s fair to say we’ve always pretty much stuck to some sort of routine, and we started following one when my eldest was about nine months old.
The Bath, Book, Bed campaign from the Book Trust
Earlier this month, I was honoured to be contacted by the Book Trust regarding their Bath, Book, Bed campaign, which encourages parents and carers to make stories part of every child’s bedtime routine, helping their little ones sleep better. I’m sure the guys over at the Book Trust don’t need an introduction – they’re the UK’s largest children’s reading charity and work tirelessly to inspire a love for reading in children. Over the years we’ve been lucky to receive plenty of amazing resources from the Book Trust, and I think they always run amazing initiatives.
We were sent a lovely 16-page Bath, Book, Bed booklet (in A5 format), which you can download for free from the Book Trust website. It’s full of tips and advice from expert Jo Frost on the simple steps parents can take for a better night’s sleep. And it also features Daddy Pig!
Together with a lovely Peppa Pig set (with bubble bath, toothpaste, and toothbrushes), the Book Trust sent us three beautiful books to read with our children:
Goodnight Tiger, by Timothy Knapman and Laura Hughes – it’s a fun story about wallpaper animals coming to life.
They Say Blue, by Jillian Tamaki – this is a hardback book and absolutely stunning.
and I Love You Mummy Pig – my son’s undeniable favourite. We had to read it again and again. (And again). But Mummy Pig does rock in this book!
You can find these books over on the Book Trust website, where you’ll also be able to check out the brand new Best Bedtime Books list for 2018 with a range of other bedtime books you can share with your children. On the website, you’ll also find advice on following a bedtime routine as well as downloadable posters and useful activity sheets.
My five top tips for a stress-free bedtime routine
1. Create a routine that works for you
First things first, come up with a routine that works for you, your children, and your family. I was never a fan of strict routines where everything needs to happen with military precision at a set time. In my experience, life never seemed to work that way, and I’d always end up getting myself stressed and frazzled if I felt I was losing control over the situation. So whatever you choose to do, come up with something that you feel will work for your personal circumstances, regardless of what your best friend or your neighbours are doing.
Even if you don’t have set times for everything (not to the minute anyway), you’ll naturally fall into some sort of pattern and do similar things at roughly the same time every day and every night. And that’s effectively your routine! It may require a bit of trial and error and some adjusting when circumstances change (holidays, illnesses, and teething, anyone?) but you’ll find your own. My only advice is to not feel pressured into following someone else’s!
2. Make bath-time stress-free for you and your child(ren)
Imagine having a lovely soak in the bath just before bed. It sounds blissfully relaxing, doesn’t it? Well, yes, warm water is really soothing, and it’s great when it comes to preparing us for a good night’s sleep. That’s why incorporating a bath into your children’s bedtime routine can really make a difference. Except that bath time for your child often means playing and splashing, and that can end up not being all that relaxing for you! So make sure your set up allows for a little bit of mess
(flooding?) and give your child plenty of warning when bath time is nearly over. There’s nothing less soothing than a screaming child who demands to stay in the bath for another hour. I always get complaints from my youngest about his baths being too short. According to him, anyway. (Meanwhile, if you look at his skin, it’s gone all wrinkly).
3. Stagger teeth-brushing
We have three children, and when we let the eldest two brush their teeth exactly at the same time, they always end up fighting! So we make sure they come out of the bath or shower one by one and have the sink to themselves.
4. Wherever you can, divide and conquer
We’ve been following the Bath, Book, Bed routine for many years and with all our children. Our eldest son (who’s nine) now has a shower and reads a book in bed on his own. But my husband and I still read to them all. Since our youngest was born, three and half years ago, we’ve been playing the ‘divide and conquer’ game. My husband takes the older two children to bed and reads them a story when they’ve done their reading for school (or pleasure), while I take the little one to bed and into another room.
5. Give them a choice of books
My husband loves buying beautiful book collections when they become available in the sales. Our two eldest boys share a bedroom, and they’re very lucky to have a few shelves full of books and a huge amount of choice! Every night, my husband will read them a long chapter-book (one chapter per night). When the book is finished, one of the children gets to choose the next one. They alternate choosing books, so they don’t fight over who wants to read what every night!
Our youngest shares a bedroom with us. And a couple of years ago I put together a box of age-appropriate books for him that we read at night. Despite having a whole box available to him, he’ll always pick the same ones! It’s funny how they can get attached to a storybook and want to read the same one night after night after night! They never seem to get bored of them.
Want to know more? Visit the Book Trust website and don’t forget to download your free booklet!
What does having three children (or more) really look like? (Part One)
What does having three children (or more) really look like? (Part Two)
School run – how to deal with the most stressful time of a parent’s day.