Bedtime routine: how to do it and why it matters
Raise your hand if at least once in their life it took them more than an hour to put their baby to bed. The story, then the pelvis, then we forgot to brush our teeth, then look under the bed if by chance there is a monster, then turn off the light, no mom I want it on come back here. all without a predetermined order but in a somewhat random way. To get out of this tunnel of confusion (but above all to give the children good habits and give their parents back their evenings as a couple) we asked for help from Daniele Novara e Marta Versiglia, educators, who have written a book specifically to explain to parents how is the bedtime routine and why it is good to do it: "I learn to sleep" (Bur Rizzoli), which contains many useful and practical tips and a story to read to children before going to sleep, "The little dormouse who did not want to sleep".
In this article
- Bedtime routine: why is it so important for babies to learn it?
- Fall asleep routine: the steps to take
- Sleep routine: a help from children's magical thinking
Bedtime routine: why is it so important for babies to learn it?
Let's start from a basic premise: why is it so important for babies to learn to sleep? What are the negative effects of sleep deprivation?
"The sleep is more important than food from the metabolic point of view "Daniele Novara begins -" because it stabilizes brain functions. In simple terms, the brain is the control room of our body and in rest the biological waste produced by this organ is disposed of. Children of this generation sleep little: this has serious repercussions on their lives. Often, when we see a baby who has neuro certification, we find that he is getting little sleep. Resting less also involves considerable risks: it increases irritability, decreases the ability to learn and interferes with some hormonal balances, favoring overweight ".
The right time to sleep.
3 YEARS: "12 hours in all including the nap that must be maintained".
4-5 YEARS: "11 hours in all, taking off the nap, if the children don't like it".
6 YEARS: "10 hours (an absolutely necessary amount to be able to start Primary School well)".
Fall asleep routine: the steps to take
"Children need fixed points in their day: they are habitual and therefore they need to have this routine that accompanies them precisely to enter the world of sleep, the world of bedtime, which for the little ones is always a complex step "explains Marta Versiglia." Sometimes it is also for us adults: we think to the fact that you enter this world where there is practically no control over anything: for many of us it represents a problem. So let's think about how children can feel and thus try to understand all the fears that may arise in them when the time to go to sleep approaches ".
- First step: lower the pace of the day. "First of all you have to reduce the frenzy, the rhythm of the day, which you have to slowly turn off. What does this mean in practice? Speak in a lower tone of voice, turn off all technological devices (you can reactivate them when the little ones are in the world of dreams), turn down the music and any noise or sound that may be a source of distraction for the child. If we want to allow the children time to play some little games before going to sleep it must be a puzzle or a construction with Lego, something that can keep them calm and focused on what they are doing, without too many distractions. The first to slow down this pace are the adults. it will be done later when the children are sleeping. It is very important to create this atmosphere of quiet at home: the children feel it and it is fundamental ".
- Second step: wash and put on your pajamas. "Once we have all calmed down, we start washing. We accompany the child to the bathroom and assist him in washing his teeth and face, in the bidet or in a small shower. The autonomy in these practices reaches five years. After completing the hygienic routines, it is time to put on your pajamas: it is a symbolic preparation for sleep with the "dress to go to bed". time to go to bed. The ideal is that it is a comfortable garment, as comfortable as a fabric, perhaps with the characters most loved by the child ".
- Third step: the transitional object. "With pajamas on, the child can go and hug his sleeping doll to accompany him in this very important and delicate passage from day to night" continues Marta Versiglia. "It's about what Donald winnicott (English pediatrician and psychoanalyst) would call a "transitional object". Something concrete that helps the little ones to break away from the day and enter the world of the night. Children can change it every night or keep it always the same. I remember when I was a child I had a panda with a black and white vest, which is really worn out! I will have kept it up to 10 years for sure. Another anecdote that I like to tell, because it makes us understand the importance and usefulness of children's magical thinking even in the bedtime routine, is this: under the pillow of my 8-year-old grandchild I found a foam rubber dagger , a sign of protection for him useful when entering the nocturnal world. Children need these tools: with the help of magical thinking they explain the parts of reality that still elude them ".
- Fourth step: read a story together. "After having completed all the previous steps, it is also important to take care of this moment. The child chooses the book and then the mother reads it. It is important that there is the voice of a parent: the father is fine too, but in this passage the figure of the mother is important because she was the one who held the baby in her belly for nine months and for him this voice is very reassuring. The story should be read in the bedroom and this moment can last 10 - 15 minutes: the light must be soft, the mother can stay near the baby's bed. Some children are already able to read alone: in these cases it is good to encourage independent reading. At the end of the story, the mother makes a few caresses or holds her hand until the child slips into the world of dreams. There are some children who want to fall asleep alone, others who need to be present, however never stay longer than half an hour because then it could become a hard habit to remove. It is therefore better to accustom the little ones to the idea that the mother will stay the time of reading the story then it will go. For children who have more difficulty falling asleep, it can be said that mom is still in the other room. It is important to always give this security, that the parent is there and does not go away. We must be certain that the night will pass: the day will soon arrive and you can run and play again. "
Sleep routine: a help from children's magical thinking
"Of course" - says Daniele Novara. "A teddy bear is worth more than a scientific discourse on sleep. A little light is better than any attempt to explain that the dark is not dangerous. child's magical thinking, a predominant modality from 0 to 8 years and which begins to be progressively abandoned from 9 to 11 years ".
Soft lights to help the little ones. "It is useless to explain that nothing happens at night, there is no wolf or any dangerous animal under the bed" concludes Marta Versiglia. "The little ones do not have this capacity for reasoning. They do not have a thought the same as ours: they have a magical thought. It is normal for them to be afraid of the dark, of the night, of a moment in which the noises are gone and he knows what can happen.
And therefore it is important for the adult to tune in to this thinking of children and to use it to help them sleep better. He must accompany them in the hall to sleep together with the puppet, the doll, the robot or the gormita that they take to sleep and provide his bedroom with some lights. It can be a light bulb with soft light, which as the child grows goes down more and more until it disappears, there can also be plastic stars hanging on the wall that light up in the dark: we have many possibilities to help children in this. passage of sleep.
Understanding children's fears. "It is also important to understand the fears of children and not diminish them. I'm thinking of my youngest grandson: he is afraid of the wolf, so we bought all the books possible on the subject to exorcise this fear. Before going to sleep, he puts it." in bed "the wolf puppet not under a blanket but rather under a giant book that keeps it crushed! Children have a wonderful inventiveness and we must give them the opportunity to use this magical thought to the fullest for their growth" concludes Marta Versiglia.
Daniele Novara founded the CPP in 1989, a center that offers different courses for teachers and parents. He is the author of numerous books and publications, some of which are highly successful and translated into other languages. He is the creator of the Maieutic Method in learning and helping relationships. He devised the Quarrel Well method to manage children's conflicts. He teaches the Master in Intercultural Training at the Catholic University of our city.
With Marta Versiglia he wrote the 4 books of the series "I learn", a new pedagogical series of practical guides for parents, which combines fiction for children with creative education, to teach children to do it on their own.
Marta Versiglia she is an educator and trainer of the CPP and author of the books "Learning by playing", "Montessori outdoor activities" (Bur parenting) and "Let me grow up" (Bur parenting).
- children's sleep
- go to bed