Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Tag: parenting tips

Practical Parenting: Making Bedtime and Sleeping Better For Your Child at Any Age

When it comes to babies and really young children, it’s undeniable that routine is king. With the world so big and unpredictable, routines help to bring order to the chaos and are highly beneficial for establishing good sleep patterns. With night times sorted, day times tend to flow much easier – kids and parents are in a better mood and have more energy for active play and creativity. It’s never too early to start with introducing a bedtime routine that works for you, your baby and their siblings. The key is simply consistency. Here’s how to create a restful routine that works.

Where do I start?

You can get started with introducing a routine from as early as six weeks old. It may not stick right away, of course, but you’re putting in strong foundations for the future. If you think about it, we all need time to unwind before falling asleep, and babies are no different. With older children, it’s helpful to explain what you’re doing and why. So tell them: “We are having a story, and then we’re going to bed, so that we can get up in the morning and play.” Find advice from Mothers and More on the safest sleeping positions to introduce.

Make Bedtime Special

Many small children get anxious at the thought of being separated from you, and that’s perfectly natural. So spending some one on one time before bed is a great way of relaxing them. Reading a storybook, singing a bedtime song, and having plenty of cuddles before they get into bed helps to take away the fear factor. Many parents try a white noise machine – babies are used to background noise and motion from their time in the womb and often like the sound of a fan or even a washing machine or dryer to help them fall asleep!

Try a Transition Activity

Before you go straight into pre-bedtime, it’s useful to use a transition activity to move from active play into a more relaxed state. This can start with a quieter kids program centered around rest, like In The Night Garden; it can be taking a bath with bubbles; or it can be playing quietly in their room for a while. Easing gently into the routine is much better than expecting them to immediately feel sleepy the second their pjs are on.

Put Them Down Drowsy

Make sure that you put babies especially down to sleep when they are drowsy, and not fully asleep. This helps to manage “micro-wakeups” during the night. Imagine if you went to sleep in a nice, soft bed and woke up on the lawn outside. You’d be really freaked out, right? You might yell. You’d definitely want to know what had happened. And you’d probably have a hard time getting back to sleep again. The exact same is true with babies that fall asleep being rocked or cradled in your arms. When they “come to” during the night, they may realize that they are not in the situation they were when they fell asleep – and they’re likely to protest about that! Teaching them to fall asleep in their own environment is really important and helps to make sure they’re able to get themselves back to sleep if they do wake up.

Create the Right Environment for Sleep

Just as it is for adults, creating the right environment to promote sleep is very important for babies and young children. So check that you have a comfortable mattress, that the room is the right temperature, and that your baby has comfortable sleepwear, like a swaddle or a sleep sack. Lighting is also important – it doesn’t have to be pitch-black; you can add in a soft night light if your child needs it for comfort. Make sure they also go to bed without feeling hungry – so a last feed or bottle can be given around 20 minutes before you put them down to sleep, and toddlers may want a bedtime snack – although avoid giving them any sweets or fruit juice.

Never Use Bed As A Threat

Resist turning bedtime into a negative by steering away from telling your children they’ll go to bed if they’re naughty. Focus on reducing their stress and anxiety over going to bed by keeping your tone of voice positive and calm; babies are very quick to pick up on tension and anger. Taking the softly-softly approach can work wonders.

Make Daytime Naps a Priority

A lot of parents think that if their child doesn’t sleep well during the day, the sleep will get made up at night, but the reverse is usually true. Getting overtired can mean that sending children off to sleep simply doesn’t work as well and may lead to more wake-ups during the night. At least one nap each day in their crib or toddler bed helps them get more used to the same sleeping environment when it’s time for bed.

How do you establish a nighttime routine?

(contributed post)

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5 Parenting Products You Didn’t Know You Needed

There are all the expected items you need for the new arrival in your life. You know what we’re talking about… bottles, diapers, high chair, etc. You will be spending more on your child than you do yourself, and that probably won’t change for the next 18 years or more. However, there are some items that you may not have thought about. They will definitely make your life easier; so when planning your baby’s shopping list, consider the following five items. You will thank us later on when you realize how useful they are.

A diaper pail
Can you smell something? Yes, of course you can. You have another full diaper on your hands, but what are you supposed to do with it? You could stick it in the garbage can, but they don’t always mask the smell. That’s why you need a special pail for the diapers. They are designed to hide those unsavory odors, so buying one is a near necessity–if you want to keep your home smelling fresh and fragrant.

A fan
Okay, so a fan may be useful for removing the smelly odors mentioned above. However, that’s not all a fan is good for. Some babies have a struggle with sleeping, as all frazzled parents will testify to. Thankfully, there are a number of solutions, and one of these is white noise. Place the fan near your baby’s bed (not blowing directly into his face), and the quiet whirring of the fan will hopefully send them into slumberland. Alternatively, you can download designated “white noise” apps on your tablet or smartphone that will do the job just as well.

A video baby monitor
Audio baby monitors are fine; but for added protection of your baby, you may want to invest in this luxury item. When you hear your baby crying (or not crying), you may fear the worst. From heads stuck in crib railings to sudden illnesses, you will want to make sure your baby is safe and well. A video baby monitor will let you know exactly what is going on with your baby, giving you the peace of mind you need.

A bug net for your stroller
You know how annoying those pesky bugs can be when they fly in front of your face? So imagine how your baby feels when you are pushing him along in the stroller. He won’t have the motor skills to swat away those blasted bugs, and you will get yourself into a dither trying to protect him. Therefore, a bug net is the perfect solution. While you may get covered in bug bites on the daily walk unless you use bug spray, you can at least have the assurance that your baby is perfectly safe within their netted bubble.

An all-in-one dinner mat
It’s like feeding time at the zoo in some houses, as babies are especially messy eaters. Avoid the cleanup woes with something like this Happy Mat. It sticks to the table and has useful holders for your baby’s bowls and plates. So the next time your little one gets the urge to throw his food around the place, this plastic marvel will contain your child’s mess without causing you extra work afterwards.

These are just some examples of what we think you will find useful, but be sure to let us know if you have any helpful tips for all the parents reading.

(contributed article)

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Scandinavia: The Ultimate Family Winter Getaway?

contributed article

If you get the chance to go away in winter, you have two basic choices: either run away from the cold or embrace it. And one of the best places on earth to enjoy a winter vacation with the kids is, without doubt, Scandinavia. It’s a beautiful part of the world at the best of times; but when the cold season and snow arrive, it becomes quite magical. Here are some ideas for you to ponder over if you plan on a breakaway this – or next – holiday season!

Live it up in Lapland

Lapland – in the very northernmost part of Finland – is one of the best winter family snow destinations, for all the reasons you are probably thinking right now. It’s about as close to Narnia as you can get, regarding scenery, and of course, there is a significant connection with the Father Christmas story. But there’s more to this glorious part of the world than just Santa and snow-capped trees. Riding a husky-driven sled or going on a reindeer sleigh ride is about as exhilarating as it gets for you and the kids, and you can go even faster if you want to swap dogs for an engine and a snowmobile. There’s plenty of skiing options, too, and let’s not forget about the Northern Lights – a spectacular attraction for this part of the world and perfect if you get the chance to take some time out for yourself.

Akureyri, Iceland

Iceland is more famous for its capital Reykjavik. But if you are looking for something a little different, Akureyri is an excellent alternative. It’s a small city that takes in plenty of culture and leisure and is an exceptional choice for either a city break or week-long trip when you need to keep the kids entertained. Make sure you go to watch whales in Husavik, and check out the remarkable and impressive lava fields, too. There are some stunning geothermal mud pools to locate: head out to the Lake Myvatn area for some magnificent views. Finally, if you need any other reason to head to Iceland in the winter months, as it’s one of the best locations in the world for seeing the spectacular Northern Lights.

Stay in A Swedish Ice Hotel

Want to give the kids a unique experience they will remember forever? Sweden is such an incredible place in the winter; but if you make the trip over, dedicate some time to finding one of their spectacular ice hotels. There are plenty around, up and down the country; but if you make your way up to Jukkasjarvi, you’ll find the somewhat simply named Ice Hotel. It’s incredibly popular, so book a fair while in advance. Jukkasjarvi is in the northern half of Sweden and is a fantastic location to visit during the winter months. The vast forests and woods are filled with bears and wolves – you’ll rarely spot them, but they are there! – and there’s a real sense of being somewhere that is 100% otherworldly.

Have you been to Scandinavia – or any other location for a winter break? Share your thoughts and favorite places with everyone in the comments section below! 

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