School’s begun and the school year schedule is underway. Bedtimes are sooner and stricter than during the summertime, and homework is prioritized again.
Having a solid night and morning routine with kids gives them structure, allows them to have an idea of what to expect each night after playtime, and can greatly improve their performance at school, as well as at home. Routine bed and meal times can support positive behaviors and moods, as well strengthen the relationship between parent and child.
This is also great for you as a parent to find helpful routines. Having a structured bed and meal time for the kids also makes sure you eat dinner at a reasonable time, supports family conversation, and allows for alone time once the kids go to bed. Maybe think of it like a mini-date every night.
Instead of seeing nighttime as another obstacle or box to check, try using nightly routines as an opportunity to transition into a time of peace and calm while taking advantage of family time after a hectic day.
Here are some ideas to incorporate into your family evening
Try to avoid snacking before dinner. Snack-time is ideally a few hours before dinner, that way the kids are hungry when dinner time rolls around.
Remember you’re in charge of meal times. This isn’t the time to ask kids what they want to eat. You can, however, give them a couple choices based on ideas you have. Kids are always going to pick their favorite meals when you ask what they want, which is often not the healthiest option.
While you’re prepping dinner, have the kids tidy up their room and/or play areas. Subconsciously this helps them unwind from play-time and create a clean space for resting.
Set the table. There is something rather elegant about a proper table setting (silverware, plates, napkin, maybe a placemat), chill music, and candles. It helps get everyone in the mindset that dinner is about to be served and it’s special (NO TV or electronics at the table).
Encourage kids to reflect on their day or incorporate a gratitude practice, whether praying or giving thanks. This can be done at dinner or before bed.
Get the following day-things ready to go by the door. Check the weather report and set out a rain coat with the kids’ backpack, clean out lunch pails and backpacks, and pick out clothes for the next day. This will prevent morning routine catastrophe.
Try adding Epsom salt to their bath. Kids play harder than us most times. This salt can support relaxation before or after dinner.
Put essential oils on their feet and/or in a diffuser right before bed. Lavender or patchouli are great calming options.
Once story time rolls around, make sure the lights are dim. Maybe set up a night light and let them pick a book or two, but don’t drag out the routine. Remember you need your time, too.
If it’s hard for your kiddo to fall asleep, try incorporating some stretching or breathing/relaxation techniques before bed. Sound machines are a great tool, as well.
Try not to create habits like back rubbing, TV time, or late-night snacks before bed. They will not know how to go to bed without those things.
Bathrooms and kisses are the last thing before bed.
* Now try to stick to this as closely as you can on the weekends to keep your hard-work in check.
Madison Muhlhauser (Holistic Nutritionist, National University of Natural Medicine) helps people find a flow that works best for them and their family’s lifestyle so they feel good overall and are able to follow the cycle of good health. Madison is inspired to work with children and women through their constant stages of growth and development to create healthy habits for a lifetime of food bliss. During graduate school, she plans to hone-in on infant/childhood health, picky eaters, and pre- & postnatal development in order to best assist her clients.