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Expert advice

19th Jan 2024

Ten ways to keep your 2-5 year olds on track with their bedtime routine

bedtime routine

Keeping a solid bedtime routine can be difficult at the best of times

With the Christmas holidays nearly upon us, it’s only natural that the little ones are going to try and test the boundaries to stay up later at bedtime.

Depending on the child, they either hate getting started with their bedtime routine each evening, or they initially are ok with it, but get up repeatedly.

According to the experts at the HSE, if you follow the bedtime routine in the same way at the same time each night, your child will then know what to expect. 

Keeping things the same each evening will also help your child to feel secure and loved.

If you include the time it takes to have supper, your kids’ bedtime routine should take between 30 to 45 minutes.

Here are some top tips from the HSE:

Be consistent

The key to success is consistency, so keep going even if you meet resistance initially, it will get easier.

To help keep their bedtime routine consistent:

  • try to make sure your child goes to bed and gets up at about the same time every day
  • avoid screens like TVs, tables and phones in the hour before bed. Do some quiet activities such as jigsaws or colouring.
  • make sure your child has had a good supper, a drink and has been to the toilet. This will avoid requests to get out of bed
  • help them get into their pyjamas and brush their teeth
  • set clear limits and boundaries on story time – if you say you’ll read them 2 stories, then stick to this
  • say goodnight and tuck them into bed
  • turn off the lights
  • If your child is afraid of the dark, switch on a dim night light to help them settle. Or leave the bedroom door slightly open with the light on in the corridor or hall
  • if your child gets out of bed, return them to their bed
  • do not put your child to bed too early – they should fall asleep within 20 to 30 minutes of going to bed. 7pm to 8pm is a good time to start a bedtime routine

Rewards

Reward your child for staying in their own bed. Use a reward chart and give them a sticker for staying in bed.

Have a ‘bigger’ reward if they get 3 stickers on their chart. The ‘bigger’ reward could be an activity like a trip to the park.

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