Bedtime routines for your preschooler

Vickie Jones, N.C. Cooperative Extension
Dec. 14, 2013 @ 07:49 PM

Though many parents think preschoolers don’t require much sleep, the Center for Disease Control report that preschoolers need 11 to 13 hours of sleep each night to be healthy, behave well and learn.

Here are some bedtime routine basics:

Be consistent with bedtime routines. A bedtime routine should remain consistent so that your child learns to anticipate sleep.

Begin the routine about 1 hour to 30 minutes before the child should be asleep.

Try to maintain the routine whether at home or away. It will bring your child comfort. 

When you first set the routine you may need to talk your child through each step but within a few weeks, she will be reminding you of the routine! To help your child learn the routine:

• Use a picture chart. You can simply draw pictures that represent the steps of the routine.

• Create a bedtime song. For example, “This is the way we wash our face, wash our face, wash our face, at 8 o’clock in the evening.”

Give gentle reminders before bedtime. Try statements such as “It’s time to get ready for bed in 10 minutes.” Or, you can say, “When the big hand gets to the top of the clock, it’s time to wash your face and brush your teeth.” Another example is, “After we put on our pajamas, we are going to brush our teeth”.

Encourage calming activities to help prepare your child for sleep.

• Give your child a bath, read a book, or listen to soft music.

• Talk with your child about her day.

• Tell him you love him and give lots of hugs and kisses.

• Television viewing should not be a part of the bedtime routine. It is stimulating and can lead to difficulty falling and staying asleep.

Expect normal challenges. Offer some choices about the order of your child’s bedtime routine. Continue routines after bedtime. Set limits such as, “You don’t have to be asleep, but you have to stay in your bed.” Remain calm if she calls for you. Reassure her you are nearby but do not stay with her because she could become dependent on your presence to fall asleep. When you promise you will come back to check on him, be sure to do so.

These routines may not solve all of your bedtime problems immediately. However, consistent use will help make bedtime a smooth transition from the excitement of the day to having to say goodnight.