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Bedtime Basics: Five Tips to Help Little Ones Sleep

Posted Mar 07 2012 3:59pm

Bedtime Basics: Five Tips to Help Little Ones Sleep

Bedtime for children can often become a struggle for babysitters, nannies and caregivers who aren't used to putting them to bed on a regular basis. Many children will try to take advantage of the situation and flatly refuse or go down fighting with tears, tantrums or worse. Caregivers can learn to provide a consistent bedtime routine for young ones, whether that time is the same as when their parents are home or not.

Be Consistent

Children of all ages thrive on routine. Provide a consistent routine each night you put them to bed. Begin by notifying the child about one-half hour before bedtime that bedtime is coming, and then give reminders about every five or ten minutes. For example, say, "In five minutes we are going to brush your teeth and then go to your bedroom for a story and bedtime." The routine can consist of a snack, bath, teeth brushing, and a story or any other activities you deem appropriate. Make sure to follow the same routine each night, keeping the times consistent as well.

Personal Sleep Space

Make sure the children have their own sleep spaces if they are not in their own home. Let them pick out a special sleeping bag or set of sheets. Have them bring their own special stuffed animals or blankets from home, or give them special friends to sleep with while away from home. Create a space they will feel comfortable in away from home.


Reading with children is a wonderful way to ease them from wakeful time to sleepy time. Before you begin, designate a specific number of books that you will read. Let children choose the books if they desire. If you are reading a chapter book, make it clear that you will read one or two chapters each night. Enjoy the experience by cuddling close, pausing to enjoy the pictures and ask and answer questions. When story time is over, be firm and consistent by saying, "We read two stories every night, and now it's time for sleep."

Leave a Sleep "Friend"

Make children feel safe all night long by leaving a special sleep friend in bed with them. Perhaps it is a favorite teddy bear, stuffed animal, or doll. Avoid lying with the child yourself, or you will quickly become the item that is necessary for the child to fall asleep.

Play Calm Games

Sometimes older children just want to spend a little quiet time and receive one-on-one attention from a caregiver before sleeping. Play a quiet game of chess or checkers, trace words or phrases on children’s backs to see if they can guess the message, tell a story and take turns adding to the plot, help children write about the day in a journal, or listen to soothing music as you talk about the day or whatever might be on your minds.

Those who have been working in nanny jobs for years often recommend you choose the routine that works best for you and the children, and stick to it. Children will have trouble transitioning from active play to sleep if they don't have time to unwind a bit.


Whether it's books, movies, games or a bath, give children in your care the necessary time to gear up for a good night's sleep. Find more helpful tips from nannies that know, plus nanny job listings, at .

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