At the end of a long day, as parents we often feel the (sometimes dire!) need to begin winding down and settling into rest for the evening. We need to recharge so that we can face the next day anew! But it’s not at all uncommon that our little ones aren’t feeling the same pull. Whether it is during the long, active days of summer or the shorter, busy days of winter, sometimes our little ones fight the urge to slow down and settle into rest or sleep routines. This can be frustrating for parents to say the least! To top it off, once bedtime challenges set in, and habits start forming, they are often hard to break. We’ve gathered some of our best insights, tips, and of course stories to provide some support!
Common Bedtime Challenges
There are a few factors that often contribute to bedtime routine challenges. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
Lack of Routine
One of the biggest contributors when it comes to trouble with sleep schedules is the lack of a consistent routine. A routine helps to cultivate a sense of security and stability for little ones. This makes it easier to wind down, relax, and begin drifting to sleep. Consistency helps our nervous systems to ground, regulate, and settle. Studies show that having a consistent routine helps children to sleep longer, better, and even to fall asleep faster.
Too Much Screen Time
If your child is facing difficulties when it comes to falling asleep, it may be helpful to consider the role that screen time plays. Parents may notice that rest doesn’t come as easily for little ones after exposure to screens. This can create a barrier to building healthy habits of daily rhythm.
Screens stimulate and activate children’s minds. This creates quite the challenge when we’d like them to be winding down and preparing for bed. Furthermore, there is evidence that the blue light from screens may prevent the body from producing melatonin (the body’s signal that time for sleep is approaching). You can read more about screen time and how it impacts kids on the Sparkle Blog.
When it comes to rest, little ones are the only ones who need limits. Parents can fall prey to the temptation to get “just one more thing done” at the end of the day, even when what they really need is a solid eight hours of rest. Between the demands of work and family life and the badge of honor that can be granted to those who burn the candle at both ends, prioritizing rest is a counter-cultural move for adults.
The good news is that advice for young ones works marvelously for their grown-ups as well. Try establishing a routine at bedtime that includes low light, cool bedroom temps, and screens tucked safely away and out of reach. When parents prioritize their own rest, they’re better able to live into their best selves in challenging parenting moments. And if you need one more piece of motivation, just remember: your kids are always watching you as a model for healthy living.
Tips For Creating a Bedtime Routine
Are you interested in cultivating a more consistent bedtime routine? Our founder, Lisabeth Sewell, has some words of wisdom to share:
I’ve been a parent for 16½ years now, and one important thing I’ve learned is this: Everything Works Better with a Routine. This is due in part to my personality, and due in part to my children’s personalities. However, I’ve also come to understand that most children thrive with a solid rhythm to their days.
Many of us know the value of regular shared dinner times or bedtime rituals. We can lean into them, knowing that the people, connection, and emotional nourishment we need can be found at these points of the day.
Read some of what has worked for and her family when it comes to establishing routines for both older and younger kids.
For Older Kids:
- Consistent daytime work hours for the parents.
- Regular shared dinner times, as in the school year.
- When kids come home from their various activities, we pause to connect.
- Regular hangouts with friends. (For example, every Tuesday morning since the break started, we’ve had the same pack of boys over.)
- No media (phones) until breakfast is eaten and chores are complete, plus limited media time for our 13-year old.
- Regular rest times in the day.
- Regular bedtimes (albeit often later) with the same routines.
- Regular playdates with the same friends.
- A regular meal plan, where a specific food is eaten on a specific day of the week (ie: Muesli on Monday. Yes, we really did this!)
Creating a Calming Environment
Another way to support healthy sleep habits is to create an environment that is calming, cozy, and conducive to rest. When we take a few moments to create a calming and secure atmosphere, we can help our little ones settle in that moment and also model how to cultivate that peace and groundness. This can be as simple (or as elaborate!) as you prefer. Think aromatherapy, herbal tea, soothing music, or even simply softer lighting. If you’d like some inspiration to get you started, try our Lavender and Sweet Orange Sleepy Spray recipe. The focus is on intention more than on details.
5 Soothing Audio Stories to Help Kids Sleep
At Sparkle, we have dozens of stories specifically crafted for bedtime! The stories in Sparkle Sleepytime are simple, soft and slow, all told with the aim of welcoming young and old into a time of rest or sleep. Each features a delightful young animal on a gentle adventure, and each ends with the animals snuggling into their burrows, nests or downy beds, ready to close their eyes and fall asleep. This Series is perfect for nap-times, quiet times and bedtimes – or any time you want a particularly quiet and soothing story for your little ones!
Malcolm the Chipmunk
Regular routines can be very soothing and stabilizing for young children (and their parents) as they build grounding points in the day. As a parent, you can also point to them as moments to anticipate, moments where there will be fun and connection. And if your days are all different, try establishing a routine in the most common spot you can, whether it's a familiar car ride or first thing/last thing in the day. Use this story as a starting point! Choose your time of day, and the additional details around the routine you’d like to establish, and hit play!
Luke Alden the Bald Eagle
As we all know, sleep and rest are essential for children and parents alike. Our world is a stimulating one, and we often have to be intentional about what media we consume in a day so that we aren't overstimulated and unable to settle. This is where Sparkle Stories shine: our stories are crafted at their foundations to be soothing to young nervous systems. On top of that, we have collections of stories dedicated to helping children wind down for sleep. If you haven't yet, today I recommend trying a story at quiet time or bed time that is architected to help with sleep — and see if it doesn't help both your child AND you! The story below, "Luke Alden," is one of the all-time sleep favorites.
Aiden the Harbor Seal
This is our most sleepy story of all time! It's a Sparkler favorite and is reported to create some good resting. It's called "Aiden the Harbor Seal." Try it and see what you think! In fact, don't hesitate to experiment with a family storytime at bedtime and see if it doesn't soothe everyone. In fact, one of our very best testimonials came from a pediatric surgeon who listened to the stories BY HIMSELF to wind down at night because he found them so calming! Enjoy.
Fluffs the Worried Squirrel
In this story, Fluffs and his brother are surprised when their father announces that humans are preparing to build homes in their forest. He says that it will be a transition for them, but that living with people has many benefits. The rest of the family is excited but Fluffs is quite nervous. He doesn't like the noise and activity that comes with humans — that is, until his father comes up with an idea to help. This bedtime story is perfect for little ones struggling with sensitivity or overwhelm.
Leo the Hermit Crab
“Leo the Hermit Crab” is from the Sparkle Sleepytime Series. It is about a young crab who needs a bigger shell. He feels cramped, uncomfortable, and vulnerable in his current shell, but has to wait until a more appropriate shell is available. When the thin, small, shell finally breaks and he is temporarily without any shell at all, his parents are determined to get him what he needs.
This story is for children who have a sensitive sense of touch and often feel uncomfortable in clothes and in their environment.
About the Author
Jessica is a content creator, writer, strategist, and vintage pyrex collector. She has a passion for facilitating authentic connection, whether that's through her work at Sparkle Stories or her songwriting.