For as long as I can remember Piglet has struggled to get to sleep at night. He doesn’t get out of bed, even now in his big boy bed, he doesn’t cry or get upset. He doesn’t ask for attention, he just lies in his bed chatting to himself or the dinosaurs on his bedsheets. We have become accustomed to hearing him over the monitor for up to 2 hours every night, periodically going upstairs to check on him and remind him that he needs to go to sleep.
In the past I’ve tried a few things to see if it will help him get to sleep. He has some calm down time with a story and a cuddle before bed, warm milk and a snack if he wants them. I even tried dropping his afternoon nap but it didn’t make any difference (except to his behaviour from 2pm onwards when he would be ratty!). With starting nursery a few weeks ago the sleeping seemed to get worse and it was really showing in how tired he was. Unable to cope with all the changes going on in his life at the moment I can only assume that his mind is racing come bedtime and he can’t quite switch off.
In an effort to try and help him get off to sleep faster I asked a few friends for their advice and tips on how they help their kids switch off. Rather than keep all their ideas to myself I thought I’d better share them with you all so everyone can benefit!
1. Bath, Book, Bed
This is the most obvious and “normal” bedtime routine. It is what we have done with Piglet since he was about 9 or 10 months old and generally it worked quite well. Bedtime is always a happy time and I have no problem getting him to head up the stairs for his bedtime story. At his current age (2 and a half) routine and repetition are what seem to make him feel safe and secure, so for us that means we’ve been reading the same 2 books before bed every night (Dear Zoo and Hide-and-Seek Pig in case you’re interested) for about 4 months. I can now “read” them with my eyes closed, but it’s what he wants so we are rolling with it.
2. Get Some Fresh Air
I am really guilty of using the time between dinner and bed to just put the tv on and hope for the best. However, getting some fresh air and giving kids a chance to run off the last of their energy can help them feel more ready for bed. A trip to the park or even just a play in the garden can help. Piglet likes to go outside with Daddy and have a jump on the trampoline for 10 minutes, which not only gives his some fresh air but also allows him some focussed time with his Dad once he’s home from work.
3. Say Goodnight
This might sound really obvious, but say goodnight at bedtime. I don’t just mean to your child, but to everyone in the house and all their teddies and toys too. Young children learn through role play so getting them to put their toys to bed helps them to understand that it’s time for them to go to sleep too.
4. Talk About Your Day
We know as adults how hard it can be to bring up difficult topics of conversation, and the same goes for children. Ending your day by talking it through, especially if you have done anything new or unusual gives them the opportunity to bring up any concerns or fears they may have. Piglet’s speech is a bit delayed, so this conversation is very one-sided at the moment. His contributions are limited and usually consist of mumblings about Granny even if we haven’t seen her that day. That doesn’t matter though, as it is now part of our routine and we are setting the foundations for those discussions as he gets older.
5. Audio Books
For young babies we are quick to reach for white noise, but some older children (and adults!) need some form of background noise to help them fall asleep. Audio books are a great way for them to listen to something calmly and quietly as they drift off to sleep. Guided meditations are also a good option, telling them how to breathe and allowing them to fully relax and sleep.