Establishing a Bedtime Routine for your Preschooler
Your little one’s bedtime routine may not be set in stone during baby and toddler years. Thankfully, as your child grows and reaches preschool age, you can begin creating a consistent bedtime routine that benefits their development and creates time to bond every night. Establishing a bedtime routine for your three to five-year-old becomes important when your child begins going to school.
A good bedtime routine helps your young child relax, wind down, and prepare for sleep, so they awake rested. Below is a look at how to build a solid bedtime routine as a parent to help your preschooler be well-rested and ready-to-learn for their school days.
What Is a Good Bedtime Routine for Kids, and What Are the Benefits?
A bedtime routine is a pattern of nightly activities you follow with your children to get them relaxed and ready for sleep. The routine are simple steps you follow together that become nightly habits to help your little one unwind and relax.
Building a routine for bedtime has many benefits for your young child, including:
- Improves sleep quality. Research indicates bedtime routines help children fall asleep faster, wake less through the night, and sleep longer.1
- Reduces stress. Children respond well to structured routines because they know what to expect. 1, 2
- Reduces anxiety. A sense of comfort and security comes from going to sleep at a set time each night.
- Improves behaviour during the day. Children who follow bedtime routines are less likely to misbehave during the day.2
- Promotes positive early childhood development. Routines help children learn more effectively, pay attention, and develop cognitive skills.1, 2
- Encourages parent-child bonding. Routines at bedtime foster bonding between parents and their children.1,2
- Improves self-care and overall health. Sleep routines support improvements in self-care for the long term.1
Building a Bedtime Routine for a School Night
A bedtime routine for your preschooler supports development and academics. By the ages of three to five, kids benefit from having a good bedtime routine and sleeping habits in place. If you are left wondering how much sleep your preschooler needs, according to the Canadian Pediatric Society, children between the ages of three and five need between 10 and 13 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period3. This includes daytime naps and nighttime sleep.3 Below is a sample bedtime routine for preschoolers on a weeknight.
In general, the best time to have dinner is two to three hours before bed.4 A child that is hungry will have a hard time falling asleep, so make sure your child is getting a nutritious meal and adequate serving sizes at dinner time. If your child wants a snack before bed, stick with high-fiber, high-protein snacks like berries, yogurt, or peanut butter.5
2. Bath Time
Bath time is a great way to use up the last of the day's energy and help a child unwind2. Try using a gentle tear-free body wash like AVEENO® Kids Sensitive Skin Face & Body Wash to gently cleanse away germs and dirt and leave your child's skin feeling moisturized and soothed before bed.
A gentle massage may help a child relax and get ready for sleep. Consider using a product like AVEENO® Kids Sensitive Skin Face & Body Gel Cream to gently hydrate and nourish the skin while offering relaxing massage on areas like feet and hands.
4. Brush Teeth & Go to the Bathroom
After dinner and bath time, help your child with their nightly oral health routine, including brushing and flossing. Then, encourage them to visit the bathroom one last time before heading to bed to avoid a disrupted night-time sleep.
5. Read a Book
Reading is a quiet, peaceful activity that’s a great way to bond with your child. Language-based routines at bedtime like telling stories and singing may support cognitive development and sleep duration.6
Cuddling encourages feelings of safety and closeness that can contribute to good sleep for children. As your child starts to wind down for the night, snuggle them close to remind them how much they're loved as they drift off.
Tips: Bedtime Dos and Don’ts
As you work to establish a bedtime routine for your preschooler, there are some basic do's and don'ts to ensure success.
- Keep your routine consistent with a regular schedule for sleeping and waking up.
- Keep bedtime routines short; around 20 minutes for a bath, brushing teeth, and reading a book should suffice.7
- Follow good sleep hygiene rules, such as lowering the lights, reducing distractions, and adjusting the bedroom temperature.8
- Avoid sugary snacks and drinks.
- Avoid caffeine for at least six hours before bedtime.9
- Avoid screen time for about an hour before bed as blue light is stimulating and may make it difficult for children to fall asleep.7
- Avoid vigorous activity for about two hours before bed.7
Creating a Stress-Free Morning Routine Before School
Bedtime routines create the foundation for stress-free school mornings. Mornings can be a bit chaotic with so much to get done and the pressure to get to school on time. A few habits can streamline your school morning routines as well, such as10:
- Start the night before. Little things make a big difference the following morning. Pick an outfit for the day, pack up your child's backpack, and get their school lunch ready.
- Take a few minutes to relax. A little "me-time" to have a cup of coffee, get fully awake, or eat breakfast gets you in the zone for the day before waking your child.
- Make waking up fun. Sing your child's favourite song, play their favourite musical tune, or give them sweet, good morning snuggles to rouse them awake.
- Create a morning routine. A set of morning rituals you follow with your child can make waking up and getting ready less hectic. Follow regular activities like getting out of bed, brushing teeth, bathing, getting dressed, and having a nutritious breakfast.
- Practice time management. Keep a clock visible and learn how long each activity takes in the mornings to understand your schedule and when everything needs to happen to have a stress-free morning for you and your kid.
A Final Word for Parents
Establishing good sleep habits early during the preschool years is important and can lead to good habits as your child grows. Aveeno® products for kids can be a part of your nightly bedtime routine with gentle, hypoallergenic products formulated specifically for a child's sensitive skin. As always, if your child struggles with good bedtime habits, speak to your child's pediatrician for further advice.