Rituals for baby, toddler and pre-schooler
Some children are good sleepers from birth and that remains the case, but most - some more than others - sometimes have sleep problems. Sleep problems can occur at any age but for many children this starts around their first birthday. They understand more and can find it difficult to sleep alone. They prefer to stay with mom or dad. A sleep ritual, that is to say: a fixed pattern of actions can help. Our pedagogical staff member Lize from Amsterdam explains why and gives tips.
Babies: take your time
For babies, the focus is always on regularity, rest and rhythm so that a good sleeping pattern arises. Babies, no matter how young they are, feel comfortable with a sleep ritual. They relax faster when they know what is coming. Because of this, chances are that they fall asleep faster and calmer. Take your time for the sleep ritual and keep it up when you are not at home: to bathe or take care of your child on the changing table, cuddle, sing a song. Always make sure that the ritual ends in the bedroom before you put your child in bed. This way your child learns that the bedroom is a nice place.
Toddlers: clarity and safety
Children from 1 year of age often have difficulty saying goodbye. Clarity and safety within the sleep ritual are especially important then. Try to do the same thing every night. Put your child to bed after brushing their teeth, read a story, sing a song, end with a kiss and a hug and then leave. A night light can ensure that your child feels a little safer. Still, your child may start to cry as soon as you leave. That is not surprising at all because of the phase he or she is in and is fine. But it is important to provide a sense of trust and not to take your child out of bed. After a few minutes, take a look, explain why it is important to go to sleep and give a big kiss and hug again. Repeat this until your child is calm. It may take some time and energy, but by being consistent and persistent, you book your results and your child gains confidence in the situation. Never let a child cry for too long. This will make him or her feel upset, thus preventing sleep and causing a negative association with going to bed.
Pre-schoolers: avoid too much excitement
Pre-schoolers suffer much less from separation anxiety, although you can now be confronted with the phenomenon: 'I am two and I say no'. You will also notice this when your child goes to bed. Because playing and having fun with mom and dad is of course much more fun. But also for toddlers, it is important to go to bed early in order to have new energy for playing the next day.
Children from the age of 2 absorb a lot and develop quickly. Because of this they sometimes find it difficult to sleep or they are restless at night. Try to avoid excitement as much as possible, just before going to bed. Build in a minimum of 30 minutes of calm before bedtime by putting your toddler in the bath or playing a quiet game.
Pre-schoolers often enjoy reading a book and singing a song, see some nice book tips here. Always repeat the same ritual and finish with a big kiss and hug. Explain that there is nothing to be afraid of and that mom and dad are around. Keep repeating and stay consistent in your approach.
Sleep rituals at Kindergarden
At Kindergarden we think it is important that activities are alternated with times of rest and sleep. We guide children in this by completing an activity and clearly indicating its end. We also ensure that eating moments at the table are relaxed and calm, so that the children who go to bed after a meal will find peace to sleep. By closing the curtains, not offering too many toys just before going to bed and reading a book, we create a clear sleeping ritual. Before they go to sleep, we cuddle for a while and we turn on some music. With toddlers and pre-schoolers one of the pedagogical staff members always stays in the bedroom. The children can then fall asleep peacefully with a feeling of security. They sleep in the same bed during all their childcare days so that they have their own place. And of course a cuddly toy from home goes a long way to a restful sleep!
We try to follow the same sleeping ritual every day, always meeting the individual needs of the children as much as possible. A sleep-ritual does not immediately eradicate all sleeping problems. It also does not guarantee that children will never have trouble going to bed again. However, a sleep ritual helps to calm children, it provides clarity and therefore safety. Falling asleep and sleeping will get easier and easier. Moreover, it is a great time to end the day with mom and/or dad!
How do you do this at home?
Read more? Buy Tischa's book 'Inspiration for fun and easier parenting'. Look for her online parenting courses at www.opvoedcursussen.nl.