Is Your Child's Room Conducive With Sleep?May 11, 2023
What does your child’s bedroom look like? How much furniture is in it? Are there toys in it? Are those toys hidden or easily accessible? How many stuffed animals are on their bed? Today’s post is Part 2 of my Sleep Hygiene series focussed on Bedroom Environment, following up on a recent post about Bedtime Routines (see Master Your Child’s Bedtime Routine). So you’ve completed your child’s bedtime routine and gone to tuck your munchkin in, but is their room a place where a young child could easily fall asleep?
Getting children to sleep well is very high on my list of parenting priorities, so I design their whole room around sleep. When my little ones move from a crib to a bed, they enlarge the nearly empty rectangular sleeping space. When we just had one child, his bedroom consisted of a mattress on the floor (why have a bed frame that makes for a falling hazard in his room?), a blanket, a stuffed animal, and a dresser with just clothes in it. That is literally all that was in his room. So how did the transition from crib to bed go? Seamlessly.
Young children don’t need mobiles; they don’t need elaborately decorated bedroom walls or countless glow-in-the-dark stickers on the ceiling; they need a nice place to rest. I once saw a well-known psychologist specializing in couples and sexual relationships speak at a conference, and he said, “Bedrooms are for sex and sleeping.” You can keep that in mind when considering your own Bedroom Environment, but for kids, this translates to “Bedrooms are for sleeping.” So all you need to do is set them up with a space conducive to sleep.
Now that we have three boys sharing a room, it looks a bit like a gypsy den with mattresses spread all over the floor, but the only other furniture in their room is one nightstand to hold a lamp and an alarm clock. So they can jump around in their room during the day with less risk of hurting themselves on excess furniture. And when bedtime comes, that room cries out for sleep.
Suppose you have a smaller living space and must store some of your child’s toys or other gear in their bedroom. In that case, you can adapt this principle by keeping toys tucked away in the closet, under the bed, in storage bins with lids – anything that makes it clear that once clean-up is completed, the toys stay away until the morning.
As your child gets older, they’ll start to request having more of their belongings in their room and be able to have more decorations on their walls. At what age? There is a vast discrepancy in when your child will be ready for a more ornate room, probably between 3 and 5.
You know your child better than anyone, so you’ll get a feel for when they’ve got the bedtime routine down so well that they won’t even be tempted to touch that T-Rex sitting on a nearby shelf at tuck-in time. Then, you allow things to enter the bedroom bit by bit over time to test the waters, gently guiding your munchkins along the path to independence.
Take a minute to think about what your child’s bedroom looks like and how that’s working for your family. For example, are bedtimes a snap, or are there frequent distractions by tempting toys or delays by toys left out? Do you have a separate play area where some belongings can live to keep the bedroom focused on sleep? Or can you improve the storage system to make cleaning up toys in the bedroom easier and clearly signal when they’ve been put away for the night? What can you do to set your child up for a successful night’s sleep?