Bedtime routines and rituals are very important for most children in establishing positive sleep patterns and in developing a sense of security and stability. Your child will benefit from a set bedtime. Pick a time for bed that is reasonable for your child and which you can consistently provide.
Establish a bedtime routine that can provide predictability and a comforting, familiar pattern. Even an understandable and structured visual pattern can assist this process and can provide reminders and consistency for the whole family.
A good bedtime routine will help teach a child to calm down, relax and get ready to sleep. However, not every technique works for every child. For example, if bathing is stimulating or frightening for your child, it’s probably a better idea to do it at another time of day rather than right before you want your child to calm down and go to sleep. Incorporate activities that you know have a calming effect on your child into their bedtime preparatory routine. Keep the routine short and sweet. It should realistically only consist of four to six steps that can be completed in a reasonable time frame, not drawn out into hours on end each night.
Reading a favorite book each night, brushing teeth, having a glass of water, and saying a goodnight prayer can all be calming, soothing activities for a young child to perform each night routinely. Hugging and kissing family members is usually also an integral part of the process, of course!
There are those nights or times when circumstances prevent your child from getting to bed at their usual time. Be sure not to shortchange the process when this happens, but keep in mind that each step can be shortened significantly in order to prevent long frustrations at a time when everyone is tired.