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6 steps to a bedtime routine that works for you and your toddler

Bedtime routines are important for everyone involved, especially you, mama.

6 steps to a bedtime routine that works for you and your toddler

When I was five, I vividly remember hating the words "nap" and "bedtime." Why would I want to stop playing with my friends to go lay down in a dark room? That sounded like a terrible idea.


I could be falling asleep in the middle of my tea party but still protest the idea of sleeping on purpose. And yet, every single day it still happened.

Bedtime always came, no matter how hard I fought it.

Funny enough, my son shared the same posture on sleep that I once did (along with every other child in the world). And even though he knew bedtime was coming, you would never have known it by his reaction each night.

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So how do we teach our children to love sleep and all its gloriousness? The funny thing is, they already do—they just don't realize it.

While your little one might never frolic off to bed, there is something that can help make the process easier for the entire family: a bedtime routine.

This might seem fairly obvious, and whether you have a current routine in place or not, this is for you mama—I want to help you get your evenings back.

It may not seem like it, but your child actually wants routine. Having a consistent practice each night gives her security, structure and something to look forward to. And it is a key ingredient in promoting healthy sleep habits.

Each family is going to have an individualized approach at bedtime, and I encourage you to focus on what fits with your family dynamic best.

At the same time, there are several factors to keep in mind to help keep the bedtime process simple and effective when creating or refining your child's routine:

1) Finding the right time makes a huge difference.

We all know some of the signs our child shows when she is overtired. Crying, whining, a sudden increase in energy—basically anything except muttering the words, "I'm tired."

The key is setting a bedtime according to her natural sleep cycle, and well before she reaches the exhaustion stage. I generally recommend a bedtime between 6pm-7pm for toddlers, and 7pm-8pm for children ages six and older.

2) KISM—Keep it simple mama!

Our children have a way of captivating us with their cuteness, and before you know it, you are playing dress up and reading 10 books two hours after bedtime. Try to spend a maximum of 30 minutes with your child when getting ready for bed, and communicate that as often as possible in order to set and enforce the boundary when she (inevitably) tries to push it. Something like: pajamas, brush teeth, five minutes of snuggles, prayers, lights out.

3) Make it a family event.

Your child is much less likely to be happy with bedtime if she feels she is missing out on all the fun. If possible, plan evening activities after the kiddos are all in bed. Don't start your child's favorite movie unless you have adequate time to finish it. And try to get the entire family involved, even if there are other members of the family who go to bed later.

4) Give her options.

"Do you want to read Thomas the Train, or The Fish in the Sea?" If your child is anything like mine, we would be there all night if I asked,"What book do you want to read?" This also works with different toothbrushes, pajamas, loveys, etc.

5) Consistency is key.

This principle applies to most anything sleep related, and especially in this case. A routine isn't really a routine unless it is followed consistently. Not only will your child look forward to it, she will need it in order to feel well rested.

Of course, there will be the occasional family night out that stretches bedtime, but if you follow the routine at least 80%of the time, it will help give your child a strong sleep foundation.

6) Anticipate and plan for the bedtime asks.

Isn't it true that bedtime is also suddenly when your child becomes severely dehydrated and needs all sorts of other things? You've got to appreciate their persistence and creativity, but anticipating these needs ahead of time and addressing them can help with the constant asking of questions at bedtime.

Bedtime doesn't have to be a dreaded process.

As a parent, there was a time I feared bedtime as much or more than my child, but today I look forward to the quality time with my kiddo, and I feel good that I'm setting him up for a solid night of rest!

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    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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