The importance of bedtime and becoming independent…
It’s well known that sleep is vital to a child’s development. In fact, research has shown that a good nights’ sleep is just as important as a healthy diet and exercise. Children are constantly growing, learning and playing, and need lots of precious sleep to enable their bodies to recuperate.
From the age of five to eleven, children need on average 10 to 12 hours of sleep every night, and establishing a routine can be a huge help when it comes to happy bedtimes and sweet dreams all round. A daily routine is also a great opportunity for children to start learning the basics of self-sufficiency and organisation that become so important later on.
Consistency is key: developing a routine
A bedtime routine of 30 to 40 minutes is recommended, which could include going to the toilet, bath or shower, brushing of teeth, getting into pyjamas or sleepwear, and a bedtime story. You can help them to wind down ahead of bedtime with quiet and relaxing activities such as colouring or reading together.
Try to stick to the same routine every night at the same time, all year round. On special occasions, holidays or weekends you may wish for them to stay up a little later than usual, but it’s recommended that this is no later than an hour after they would usually go to bed.
Setting the mood: the right environment for sleep
The bedroom environment is also important for getting them into the right frame of mind for sleep. Create a cosy and relaxing atmosphere with soft lighting as they get ready for bed using lamps or fairy lights. Some children may wish to have a night light on during sleep time. Curtains with a blackout lining are also useful in the summer to keep the room dark and cool.
Computers, televisions and technology in the bedroom are best avoided. This will enable them to ‘switch off’ both literally and figuratively, and eliminate the temptation to stay up late online – which inevitably leads to grumpy mornings!
Moving on: the importance of independence
Taking charge of their daily bedtime routine is a small yet important step towards independence and learning to look after themselves throughout their adult life. And the more proactive and independent they become at home, the more confidence they will have at nursery, school and beyond.
Once you feel your little one is ready to progress from being supervised – which might be around the age of four to five – gently encourage him or her to undertake parts of their routine independently, such as brushing of teeth or getting changed into pyjamas. As they learn to read, allow them to lead story time by selecting a book and reading to you aloud. Kids love to feel grown up, so be sure to give them lots of positive reinforcement along the way.
As they get older and transition into a fully independent routine, you don’t have to lose that special time you share together at the end of the day. Make time for a quiet chat before lights out – and remember no one’s ever too old for a goodnight kiss from Mum and Dad…!