Bedtime can be a great time for dads to bond with their kids. And for many dads, bedtime is the only time when they can really get the cuddles and bonding that they need to have with their children.
Of course, every family dynamic is different. Some are divorced. Some have wives who work and also want to bond with the kids in the evenings. Others are married to stay-at-home moms who breastfeed. But as you look at the following ideas, tips and suggestions, you can probably find some things that work for your family or that you can adapt to your unique family dynamic. Here are some ideas.
Benefits of Routine
Children and dads tend to like routines. Routines make kids feel secure, but they may also make dads feel secure, too. After all, the routine provides an outline and a “to do” list for dads who may feel unsure about what to do. Other benefits of dads doing bedtime include:
- Mom gets a chance to rest and have some time to herself in the evening. For work-at-home moms, this can be a chance to catch up on some work.
- Bonding is a wonderful benefit of bedtime routine, but it may go beyond the bond you’ll form with your kids. Dads may be surprised how helping with the kids may endear them to their wives, bringing them closer as a couple.
- Better sleep for everyone may well be a consequence of a regular bedtime routine with dad. Kids tend to sleep better when there is a routine in place, and when kids sleep well, parents do, too.
Throughout my kids’ lives, my husband has played a part in the bedtime routine. It took a while for us to figure out what worked for us, but since then, we haven’t really changed the routine at all.
Most nights when my husband isn’t traveling for work, my husband gets the kids upstairs to do bath. Often I’ll stay downstairs and sneak in a couple extra minutes of work. Once bath time is over, I’ll join everyone to help with the rest of the evening routine. Once the kids are ready for bed, my husband heads on downstairs to finish up any dishes from dinner while I read stories to the boys.
Now we’ll look at routines for different ages. The following routines are just suggestions, of course. Don’t be afraid to get creative, and your kids will appreciate your customized bedtime routine.
For infants, the routine might involve:
- A bath
- Diaper change
- Bottle-feeding (or standing by to take the baby after Mom finishes nursing)
- Cuddling and rocking baby to sleep
- Laying baby in bassinet or crib
Toddlers and Preschoolers
For this age, a routine might look like this:
- Get pajamas on
- Brush teeth
- Use the toilet
- Get in bed (you can always make it fun – dive under the covers, for instance)
- Back scratch/rub and lullabies
School-age kids can have age-appropriate versions of the toddler/preschooler routine. As my boys have gotten older, we have a whole box of books (including ones with audio CDs) so they can continue to unwind on their own.
Here are some ideas for other things you might change or add to any of the routines above.
- Let the child read a book in bed
- Play a CD of a bedtime story or relaxing music
- Do shadow puppets together with a flashlight
- Have your child tell you a story from the day
For all routines, experts point out the importance of dim lighting, low voices and a generally relaxing atmosphere. Now is not the time to wrestle. Some kids really like having the routine written out and/or illustrated and posted where they can see it. Either way, a set routine helps children better understand the expectations for the night and get them down for a restful night. Routines also make it easier for Dad to participate and even give Mom a little bit of a break.