As parents, ensuring that our children have enough sleep is one of our biggest concerns. Having three kids under the age of eight means that coordinating a bedtime that is calm and relaxed is a huge challenge. A chaotic bedtime leads to a later bedtime and if our kids even miss an hour of sleep it seems to turn them into little anger bombs the next day, where they explode into fits and tantrums at the slightest hint of something not going their way.
As NJ (aged eight) and Roo (aged four) have grown up their preferences at bedtime have evolved and as Jasperino has just turned one he requires the majority of our attention. It is a difficult balancing act, and we’ve had to adapt to ensure they all settle down as quickly as possible.
However, one thing has always remained consistent when it comes to our bedtime routine, and it is something that is so simple to remember: Bath, Book, Bed.
Our kids have always loved baths. Admittedly they don’t always want to get in, but when they’re in there splashing about or playing with bubbles and toys they never want to get out.
NJ is at the age where wants to have his own bath, so Roo and Jasperino share and they love splashing each other and playing with the bubbles. Bath time has always acted as a great transition for our kids – one that marks the end of the day and beginning of their bedtime. Our children don’t have baths every night but we do try to keep the freshening up element of the routine in place, whether that is washing hands and faces or brushing hair and teeth.
We love reading to our children and it has been an important part of bedtime since NJ was first born. Back then we started reading two books every bedtime and it is a tradition which is still in place today. It is important to us that bedtime reading remains fresh and positive, even if the kids want the same book for 50 nights in a row (Dr Seuss and Mr Men books spring to mind). As NJ has grown and the colourful picture books have made way for longer, word-only books that he can read himself, bedtime wouldn’t be bedtime without a parent-read story or chapter as well.
I’m a firm believer that reading can ignite a child’s imagination and open their minds to new experiences and worlds. They can expand their vocabulary and boost their confidence and our children all love books. At times we’ve struggled to keep up with their reading appetite, especially with NJ capable of getting through a whole Tom Gates book a day. Thankfully we live close to a library, which they absolutely adore visiting and picking out new stories to read.
When Jasperino was born last year, I was worried about how we would manage with a third child at bedtime – after all, there are only two parents to read to three children. However, he has slotted in perfectly. We’ve rediscovered some of the picture-board books we read years ago and his favourite at the moment is ‘Toddle Waddle’ by Julia Donaldson, which he laughs at and tries to turn the pages himself.
The kids have been washed and have had a nice story, but the final stage is the most difficult to pull off and most likely to result in defiance or delaying tactics: ‘Daddy, I’m thirsty!’, ‘Daddy, I need a wee!’, ‘Daddy, it’s too dark!’
Overall, we try to keep the ‘Bed’ stage as short as possible and have a brief hand hold time before a kiss and a cuddle goodnight. Once the lights go out, neither NJ or Roo venture out of their beds until morning and as Jasperino has grown his sleeping has become much more settled and unbroken. We like to think that it is due to the foundations we set with a good Bath, Book and Bed routine.
What I think is the biggest threat to our children’s sleep is the impact of electronic screens. Nowadays there is a lot more information available about the effect of electronic screens on sleep patterns and how the blue light they emit can suppress the body’s ability to produce melatonin.
We’ve never been over the top with screens in the evening but with three children there is always various jobs to do, clothes to clean or meals to cook. A screen can therefore provide a welcome distraction and keep the little ones quiet for a while. However, it is also very easy to leave them on for that little bit longer than planned and let them creep up to bedtime.
Unless we have some apocalyptic electrical blackout screens are here to stay, but we try to switch them off as much as possible by 6.00pm, so that there is plenty of time for them to adjust before lights out. I have certainly noticed that bedtime following a day spent running around outside in the fresh air is a lot more straightforward than following a screen-heavy day.
Bath, Book, Bed with BookTrust
I am so happy to be involved with BookTrust’s Bath, Book, Bed campaign. Back for its third year, its aim is to inspire families to make reading for pleasure part of their daily routine, as well as help children aged 0-48 months sleep better.
If you are having trouble getting your little ones to sleep, BookTrust’s free 16-page online booklet has lots of advice on how to introduce the Bath, Book, Bed routine from parenting expert Jo Frost, and features Daddy Pig.
The BookTrust website also has a list of books that are great for bedtime reading. We were also sent a copy of ‘They Say Blue’ by Jillian Tamaki, which is full of beautiful illustrations, and ‘Goodnight, Peppa’, which Roo found really funny.
Do you have any bedtime routine tips or ideas? Share them using #BathBookBed and @booktrust.
This post was written in collaboration with BookTrust.