You’ve heard it said, “A picture paints a thousand words.” That’s especially true when communicating with young children. Which is why when providing sleep support to families with toddlers and preschoolers we often recommend creating a simple, straightforward “bedtime routine book.”
Why use a visual tool like a bedtime routine book?
Look at your own day to day activities. Do you have calendars, checklists, post-it notes and other reminders to help you remember what you need to do? Think of a bedtime routine book as a kid-friendly version of all that. A simple booklet acts as a visual tool to communicate expectations and help young children understand the routines. It also helps keep parents from having to repeat themselves over and over again.
Children feel more secure and less anxious when they know what comes next. Having a visual schedule reminds them and clearly shows what the tasks and steps are to prepare and wind down for bedtime. And, the visual images give children time to process and plan for the upcoming transition.
As in all aspects of parenting, consistency and follow-through are key ingredients for success. Without them, you can't expect your child to learn or change their behavior. Having their own bedtime routines booklet helps both parents and children practice consistent, appropriate activities for preparing for sleep.
Another benefit of a visual tool like this is that the book helps remind children if they forget. And, when the going gets tough, the schedule can take the heat instead of the parent. You might say, “I know you don’t want to put on your pajamas but the schedule says it’s time.”
There are many ways to go about creating a booklet for (and with) your child. It can be hand-drawn and taped together or much more elaborate. Because young children respond especially well to pictures of real faces, using pictures of themselves or other children works great. I’m including an example of a customized photo book (like you can order from an online photo service) that a client made for their child. You can also use pictures cut out from magazines or printed off the internet and paste them into a spiral notebook. Or, you can order schedules from Schedule Power, which uses images of real children with clean and simple designs. As you’ll see, the steps should be broken down to be easy to follow and understand.
Here’s what Brooke and Alyson, the creators of Schedule Power, have to say about the benefits of using a visual schedule with children: