Of all the things that you teach your children, how to make healthy sleep habits is one of the most important.
It will be a skill they use to improve their well-being throughout their entire life (except maybe when in college). And the best part is, if they are getting sleep, so are you!
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A good night’s sleep for children begins with a good day.
Kids need to wear off their energy. If they are not getting an hour of physical movement at school or home, make sure to start including it.
In warm weather, let them run wild at the playground or sign them up for a local soccer team. In cold weather, take them to an indoor track, play area, or mall.
If you can’t get them out of the house, then do activities indoors that get them moving. Pinterest is packed with rainy day activities, but don’t forget about the good old fashioned games like ring-around-the-rosie, hot potato, red light/green light, simon says, and duck, duck, goose.
Just like adults, the harder they play and move their bodies, the more tired they will be and the sounder they will sleep.
Keeping a Routine
Make sure you are being consistent with their bedtime routines and their sleep schedule. Kids not only thrive on routine, but their bodies will set an internal clock when they are consistently sleeping at the same times.
Kids and Nightmares
Each of my kids has gone through a “nightmare phase” around age 2. My son became deathly terrified of shadows for about a month because of it, and each night after he would wake up crying we would cuddle and rock together and I would try to listen and understand why he was afraid, and reassured him until he would calm down.
During this time, I discovered that if I was more intentional with him during the day and spent more one on one time with him, then he would sleep more soundly at night.
Once I understood that he was afraid of shadows, we started to play with shadows. I would do shadow puppets on his wall and point out shadows during the day caused by the sun. I would talk about them and use them for play so he would understand shadows and not be afraid of them. I also realized there was a particular curious george episode about losing a flashlight in a cave that he was terrified of, so I asked my daughter to stop playing that one.
If your child is waking a lot due to nightmares, reassure yourself that this is just a normal phase. Try to understand their fears behind the nightmares and help your child overcome them. Reassure them in the night and play and teach them during the day. Before you know it, they will be sleeping soundly once more.
Not Taking Naps
When children who need to nap go too long without sleep they will be overtired, and it will actually hinder their ability to get to sleep and sleep peacefully.
Make sure your kids are taking naps if they need it and getting to bed at a decent time.
If your kids are extra cranky and awful in the afternoon and evening, or not sleeping very well at night, they may still need to nap.
A good way to tell if your child still needs to take naps is to take a car ride, walk them in a stroller, or other activity that used to lull them to sleep during their regular nap-time. If they fall asleep, they still need naps. If they consistently stay awake, they have probably outgrown regular napping.
If you know your child needs naps, but is refusing to take them, try to make nap-time special. Get them excited about naps by reading books about nap-time or acting out a nap-time story with their favorite toys. Give them a special cuddle toy to have in bed. And reward them with praise when they actually nap or even just rest quietly.
Also, let them know when nap-time is so they don’t argue with you and they know what to expect, such as saying, “After lunch we are taking a nap.” You can tell them this in the morning and before lunch and by the time it’s after lunch, they will be more prepared to nap.
Waking Up too Early
If your child is waking up too early and making you and themselves cranky all day, then set a wake time for them.
There are handy clocks (like this okay to wake clock) that light up when it’s time to get out of bed. This allows your child to sleep in if they want because it is a silent alarm, but is also a signal that it is an okay time to wake up and get out of bed.
Addressing Special Needs
If your child has special needs, it can be harder to figure out what works best for them to get good sleep. Knowing your child will come in handy here, but having a few tricks up your sleeve never hurt anyone. Be sure to check out this resource from friendshipcircle.org with 30 Tips to a Good Night’s Sleep For Your Child With Special Needs. Some of the tips helped kids that hadn’t slept well in years to finally sleep through the night.
Getting your child to sleep is invaluable not only to them, but everyone in the house. Help your kids stay active, keep a good sleeping routine, and combat nightmare, no-napping, and waking up too early issues and you and your children will be getting more rest before you know it.