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Life as a parent: How to improve bedtime

by Jeannie Brown

It’s been a long day. You’ve survived being pelted with endless amounts of washing as scrunched up dirty socks fly at you like bullets from a machine gun, there’s underpants on the floor, a discarded jumper drapes over the bannister and a pair of little grey trousers covered in grass stains are stashed underneath the sofa. 

You rinse dishes which have cereal seemingly cemented on the edges, scraping it with a spoon doesn’t help. Now there’s a rogue bookbag which catches you off balance; you manage to regain your poise only to be catapulted off balance again by a toy zebra underneath your ankle. It’s a hard landing (in a physical and emotional sense) as your nose is inches away from a new painting. Thousands of squiggles, which can only be described as a very loose interpretation of Picasso’s work, are finger painted over your once pristine white wall. 

After internet searches of ‘how to remove coloured pen marks’ and ‘do I have to buy new paint if my child draws on my wall’ are underway, the hours tick by until your biggest challenge of all looms over you like a macabre phantom emerging slowly from the shadows…it’s bedtime. Let’s explore the ways in which you can make bedtime easier, why reading every night is so important and some of our bedtime book suggestions!

Making a routine

Firstly, don’t be too hard on yourself! Most children won’t automatically be perfect sleepers who skip off merrily to bed waving ‘So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu’ in perfect soprano to a party of your peers, ‘Adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu’ whilst your nanny Maria waits upstairs. If only all our lives could be that simple! Sometimes bedtime can feel like a never ending battle with lots of defiant tears (mainly your own) but getting into a healthy routine can help you veer away from this feeling of despair.

Doing some vigorous exercise with your children a few hours before bed or just doing something simple like going on a long walk may help to expel some of your little one’s energy. It’s also good to have a healthy, balanced evening meal but perhaps steer away from food and drinks laden with sugar which may stimulate your child and make them feel hyper alert as the evening ends. 

Bath time is a great way to help your child feel sleepy before bed as a hot bath may help their body to drop in temperature when they get out and cool down, inducing a sense of sleepiness and relaxation. 

A great way to encourage your child to clean their teeth is by letting them pick a song they want to clean their teeth to and brushing until the song finishes. It could even become a game you do together, as you see who can clean their teeth the fastest, brushing each side of your mouth a certain amount of times until two minutes are up. 

Finally, after they’ve put their snuggly pyjamas on it’s time to get in to bed. According to the NHS website: ‘Tablets, smartphones, TVs and other electronic gadgets can affect how easily children get to sleep,’ and it’s a good idea to ‘encourage your child to stop using screens an hour before bedtime.’ It’s important to help your child wind down for bedtime, getting away from screens that use light and animation to stimulate their minds and keep them feeling alert.

Having a routine in place can help to develop healthy sleeping patterns so that your child is feeling rested the next day. Babies up to twelve months old need approximately 12-16 hours sleep including naps whilst children aged three to five need 10-12 hours sleep including naps. What can you do instead of looking at screens? Make reading a part of their bedtime routine. 


There are several huge benefits to reading to your child before they go to sleep. For example: 

WHAT should you be reading?

Reading books such as ‘Sweet Dreamzzz Zebra’ is a fantastic learning resource for young children which will help them understand the importance of a healthy night-time routine and understand what type of behaviour is expected from them.

Bedtime doesn’t have to be boring! By incorporating amusing books into the process your child will start to understand the reason WHY they are going to bed but in a fun and entertaining way. This book is filled with colourful illustrations and soothing rhythms for them to enjoy! It is the perfect book for ages 0-5, written by John Townsend and illustrated by Carolyn Scrace.

Other bedtime books:

If you enjoy this book then you’re in luck because there’s a whole series for ages 0-5:

Another bedtime book suggestion we have is:

Luna and the Moon Rabbit

Age 0-5

Written by Camille Whitcher

Winner of the inaugural Stratford-Salariya Picture Book Prize, a competition held by the Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival and Salariya Book Company to find a picture book by an unpublished author deserving of publication. Inspired by Asian folklore, this is the magical tale of a young girl who befriends the giant rabbit who lives in the Moon and goes with it on a bedtime adventure through dreamy landscapes. Parents and children alike will be mesmerised by this soothing, dreamy story and the beautiful illustrations and want to read it over and over again.

Our final bedtime book suggestion is:

Thumbelina And Other Stories

Age: 5-7

Written by: Fiona MacDonald 

Illustrated by Alida Massari

Hans Christian Andersen’s much loved fairy tales have been an integral part of our childhoods for 150 years. This volume will introduce the following classic stories to a new generation of children: Thumbelina, Silly Jack, The Fir Tree, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Princess and the Pea, The Red Shoes, The Shadow, The Nightingale. The tales are beautifully illustrated and retold in a manner that will engage very young readers and instil in them a love for storytelling, the power of imagination and the past. Perfect for bedtime reading!

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