Something I am often asked by parents I work for is how I get the kids to fall asleep. Whether it’s for nap or bedtime. I am going to go through the routine I use so you can use what you like and get your tiny humans to sleep. I do my utmost to make sure that the children begin to relax an hour before they will be beginning their “bedtime routine.”
Nap time routine is the same regardless of child or time of day. If a child is still taking two or three naps the routine is the same for each. I start about an hour before they know the routine is beginning. I turn on either my Celtic or Gaelic Lullaby Pandora stations. I begin to get them to calm down by playing it softly and speaking softly. Loud noises, crunchy food, fast movement, all of these will result in a child who isn’t willing to slow down enough to relax into sleep. If they eat before naps I will give them something smooth to eat. Avocado, yogurt or a banana are really good options. These soft foods help to calm them down. Think about it. When you are on a long road trip what do you pack? Chips, pretzels, candy, spicy almonds? Things with a crunch or that are sweet or have a kick to them. These sensations in your mouth help to keep you awake. Children are no different. Soft foods will help them begin to relax.
Typically, I will let them continue to play with gentle reminders to play quietly. Or I will have them do an art project or something else that will have them sitting still for a while. It helps their bodies begin to relax. It’s alright if at this point their minds are still working. It’s usually the last part of us that relaxes. Once it is time to head to their bedrooms I change the Pandora station to an ambient station. Waves, soft piano, whales and dolphins, sometimes a flute. Soft wordless music. Rarely do they notice the change.
I always do a bathroom stop before sleep. We do the “Potty Train” the kids choose if they want to be the engineer, passenger car, or caboose. Which ever is left is my turn. While they are taking their turns, I am closing shades and turning down beds. I, of course, make sure to have the proper lovies where they belong as well as special blankets. (Because let’s be honest. Without them sleep isn’t going to happen.) We all go to the bathroom and then pick a book. This is the only place where routine varies. There have been days where our activities have kept us from the house longer than usual and so we only get one book. However, on a “normal” day we each pick on. We all sit together on one bed and I’ll read them the books. Once the books are done it’s on to the next step.
I always tuck the oldest in first. The youngest is helped off the bed and the oldest is snuggled under the covers with a kiss and a hug. I remind them that if they want me to come and sing them a song once the younger is asleep, they must remain still and quiet. “Remember quiet time means we have to be quiet love bug.” I have said that phrase more times than I can count. Once I’ve blown another kiss from the door I close it and move on to the next child.
If they are in diapers this is when I will change their diaper. I don’t do it during the bathroom routine unless they have pooed or the diaper is loaded. It makes for a more streamlined routine for the older ones. Once the diaper is changed I will snuggle them into a chair with me and sing them a lullaby. My go to song has been “Stay Awake” from Mary Poppins although I will occasionally sing “Feed the Birds” if they don’t seem like the shorter song will be long enough. (The number of children who have listened to me sing these is growing all the time.) Once the song is over I give them a kiss on the cheek and lay them in their crib. Sometimes I’ll stand and marvel at how adorable they are and my luck to spend so much time with them. The eyelashes always get me. How is it that children have the most beautiful lashes?
Once I’ve left the younger's room I will wait ten to fifteen minutes before I go into the older child’s room. When I go in, if they are asleep already, I sneak back out and go do the dishes or fold laundry or clean up the toys or empty swim bags. If they are awake I will lay down next to them and sing them the same song I’ve sung to their sibling. I try to hold notes longer for the older child because it tends to take longer for them to fall asleep. Once the song is done I ask them to get comfy. This usually results in three minutes of tossing, turning, pushing and pulling of blankets and some huffing. When they are comfy a soft “ready” will come from somewhere within the pile of blankets and pillows. My exact phrase every time is: “Remember, no talking or moving or eyes open for fifteen minutes or I have to start over okay?”
I give them fifteen minutes to fall asleep. I read somewhere that it takes an adult on average fifteen minutes to fall asleep. So, I’ll give them fifteen minutes to fall asleep, sometimes I’ll extend it to twenty if they seem right on the cusp of falling asleep. There have been occasions where I have fallen asleep while counting out fifteen minutes (always in my head). Once the time is up they are usually sound asleep. That’s when my ninja skills come in. A lot of children are very sensitive to a shift in the bed. I slide my legs off the bed and onto the floor while still laying down and then very slowly lift myself to a sitting position (GREAT abdominal workout!) and tip toe from the room. But not before snapping a picture to send to their parents. I allow them to sleep for as long as they do or until a specific time the parents set. In the afternoon no later than 4pm, or if the older child needs to be picked up from half day preschool I will wake up the younger one fifteen minutes before we leave. Or I will just pick them up and bundle them in the car.
The only difference between nap time and bed time is that bed time usually has a bath after the Potty Train. Always finished off with a lavender body lotion. Even if it’s just on their chests and the rest of them is something else. I don’t typically bathe babysitting kids so I use my nap time routine, but if I’m staying late for my nanny family or watching a family member, I’ll do baths.
That’s it. That’s what I do. Every. Time. Unless I absolutely can’t. I found that having the exact same routine down to the same song helps get them to sleep easier. They know what’s coming, they know what to do and they know what is expected of them. It isn’t often that this fails me. It has worked on children who refuse to nap, are over tired or typically don’t fall asleep until midnight. Parents are thrilled I got their little ones to sleep and ask how I did it. This is it. Now you get to try it. Be sure to give a new routine time to settle. It’s not going to work like magic overnight. They are used to what you do with them now. That means it may take a day or two, or a week or more for them to get used to it. But don’t give up. You’ve got this Keeper of Tiny Humans. I believe in you!