The terrible twos. Or the golden years? Whatever way you see them, the ages between 2 and 4 are when your child has seemingly boundless energy. And while this is all very cute when they’re in good, playful form, it’s an entirely different situation at night, when you’re all supposed to be getting some shut-eye.
What’s more, now they’ve graduated from the cot to the big boy or big girl bed, you’ve a whole new host of problems to deal with. Because now they can actually climb out of the thing all by themselves. Uh-oh.
Here are my top 4 ways to keep your kids out of trouble, and in bed, where they belong. At night-time, anyway. 😉
Get them into an evening routine
Most adults have their own morning routine – wash, dress, eat and get to work, with some kind of caffeinated drink bought on the way. And of course, when we’re getting our kids ready for school in the morning, we need some kind of routine, too. Otherwise they’d never make it back to school in the first place! Our mornings pass in a flurry of teeth brushing, breakfast making and lunch packing. The kids get dropped to school and our day continues.
So why are our evenings so disorganised? Even though we try to appoint a bedtime to our kids, chances are the circumstances leading up to these bedtimes change often. As a result, it gets harder and harder to settle them if they don’t know what’s coming.
That’s why it’s crucial to get a solid evening routine going at an early age, so your toddler knows well in advance that it’s soon time for some shut-eye.
My advice? After they’ve had their dinner and maybe…MAYBE…watched just one episode of their favourite cartoon, start the wind-down. The first step is to get them away from devices that emit blue light (like phones or tvs), as these increase alertness.
Next, give them some warm milk and let them kiss goodnight to whatever family members are around, bringing them upstairs half an hour or so before bedtime. A bath is great for settling them further, before changing them into their pajamas.
Next in the routine? Storytime! Sit in the bed with them or on your favourite chair and allow them to cuddle into you as you read them a nice bedtime story. If you can make one up, even better! This will set your tot into a relaxed state and closer to slumberland.
Create a soft atmosphere
Before you’ve kicked their evening routine into action, make the necessary preparations first. Switch off bright lights in their room in favour of a soft night-light or bedside lamp. Play some ambient music to maintain a peaceful atmosphere, and to keep them calm even when you’ve left the room.
Put their favourite blanket in their bed and don’t forget any cuddly toys they love! Basically, you want their room to be as comfortable as possible to help them get a great night’s sleep. For more tips on how to create this atmosphere, see what these guys have to say.
This way, when it gets to storytime, you’ll be entering a room that’s quiet, cosy and welcoming – the perfect sanctuary for sleep.
Offer a rewards scheme
Who says a bit of old-fashioned bribery won’t work? Kids go wild for stickers after all, so why not use them to your advantage?
Try using a sticker chart. If your child stays in bed until breakfast time, let them put the sticker on the chart. If by Saturday morning they’ve filled a line of stickers in the chart…pancakes for breakfast!!
Often, when your toddler is acting up at night, they just want a bit of attention. And if they know they’ll get more parent time, cuddles and even an extra story in if they just refuse to stay in bed…well, that’s what they’ll do.
This is a really important tip: don’t engage with their behaviour. Because while you might be very tempted to stay up with them until they drop off again, or even to make threats until they go back to bed, sometimes the strongest approach is the silent one.
So when your toddler wanders out of bed, simply steer them back to their room, tuck them in, and leave. Keep this interaction as silent as possible, so your child doesn’t wake up properly or think it’s time for playtime again. Softly, softly does it.
Hopefully these tips have helped, or will help, with those little night owls of yours. Sweet dreams to you and your little ones!