5 Easy Bedtime Tips for Nieces and Nephews
Written By Savvy Auntie Staff Writers
By Katie Riley
Founded in 1917, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) represents the professional interests and concerns of more than 140,000 occupational therapists, assistants, and students nationwide. For more information, go to http://www.aota.org.
Pediatric occupational therapist offers advice for a healthy nighttime routine to lull children off to dreamland.
You’ve looked forward to hosting your nieces and nephews for the weekend for weeks now. In perfect auntie fashion, you created the perfect day: lunch at their favorite restaurant, a trip to a parent-approved movie, fresh air out on the playground, and even the perfect kid-friendly dinner that you know they’ll love. But when late evening rolls around and your little visitors are cuter than ever in their fleece footie pajamas, you realize a hurdle you didn’t anticipate: bedtime.
Winding down and getting to sleep in a different place can be a challenge for most adults, let alone children. Adhering to their typical bedtime routine from home will help make the end of the day go as smoothly as the beginning.
“As human beings, we all crave routine—it’s what helps our brains function effectively. This is especially true for the bedtime routine for children,” says Joy Doll, OTD, OTR/L, assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at Creighton University. “Children need to know that the daily routine of going to bed is going to be consistent so they get the sleep they need to recharge and be able to engage as fully as possible in play and school to ensure good development.”
Doll and American Occupational Therapy Association offer the following tips for successfully sending children off to dreamland:
1. Explain the bedtime routine before bedtime and keep it in line with routines established at home.
Select a bedtime based on the child’s age and schedule. Share reminders that bedtime is coming throughout the evening by explaining the upcoming evening activities of eating dinner, playtime, bath time, and putting on pajamas. Establish a regular sequence of events that includes the child’s participation, such as choosing books to read and songs to sing, and asking the child what comes next.
2. Help the child relax.
To help your niece or nephew unwind after a fun day, avoid caffeine, exercise, and TV immediately before bedtime. Focus on cleaning up toys and playing music to help the child calm down and signal that bedtime is arriving.
3. Ensure that the child is safe.
For younger children, prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by keeping blankets and stuffed animals out of the crib. Place nightlights in the bedroom and bathroom for trips to the potty, keep blind cords out of reach, and consider bed rails or a bedside pillow to prevent and cushion falls out of bed.
4. Help the child feel comfortable.
Make checking the closet and under the bed part of the routine for kids who are afraid of “monsters.” Consider sensory issues like scratchy sheets, room temperature, lighting, and kitchen smells. Support the child by instilling confidence that he or she can overcome anxieties or fears that interfere with sleep.
5. Foster sleeping independence.
Allow young children to fall asleep on their own as they do at home to show your confidence in their ability. Older children should go to bed at an established time, even if they do not feel tired.
Sleep is one of the many daily occupations (activities) that occupational therapy practitioners help to promote. If a child has trouble maintaining a healthy bedtime routine or has consistent issues with falling asleep and staying asleep, an occupational therapist can conduct an evaluation to identify a potential underlying health concern and/or provide additional strategies.
“Occupational therapists play a pivotal role in helping children and adults to live life to its fullest potential,” says Doll. “They can offer advice on how to make sleep something the child sees as part of a good, healthy lifestyle, and reduce the stress of everyone in the family.”
To view the American Occupational Therapy Association’s tip sheet on Establishing Bedtime Routines for Children, visit http://www.aota.org.
Published: January 22, 2013