February 1, 2016
Bedtime Battles

Toddler trouble? Preschooler problems? Maybe bedtimes mean full blown tantrums at your house? Or perhaps bedtimes are just a little more stressful than you’d like them to be?

Bedtimes can be better. With a few simple changes, you can make bedtime a more positive experience for your family.

Make Bedtime Battles a thing of the past

Take the battle out of bedtime

  1. Fill that attention basket – Every child has their own “attention basket” which needs to be filled at the conclusion of the day. If positive attention isn’t available or if the basket is not full, attention seeking will continue, even if it means filling their basket with negative attention.  The solution? Fill those baskets: approximately 15 minutes of dedicated parent and child time per day will do the trick. Find something special you and your child like to do together. It can be reading, playing a game, crafting, puzzling, colouring, etc…
  2. Routine Chart – Take the power out of bedtime routines. You’re not the boss dictating the flow of a routine. The child is not the boss either. Allow a chart to be a boss. This is not a reward based chart.  Check out a sample for you to download here (colourable! or make your own with your child!). Your child can follow the chart and tell you what comes next, allowing them to feel in control.Routine Chart Download
  3. Cut the tech – Turn off the television, tablets, computers and smartphones, at least 2 hours before bedtime. We know screens limit melatonin production. That means it’s harder to fall asleep if you’ve been using technology before bed. Quite simply, screens limit sleep from a behavioural and biological perspective¹,². Make a media plan with your family. Use a tool like OurPact to manage devices.  Make bedrooms a no tech zone.
  4. Consistency – If bedtime is 7:30PM Sunday, 8PM on Tuesday and 9PM on Saturday; that’s a loose definition of bedtime. Add in a child who is aware of the clock, and you’ll be in negotiations around bed timing because, well, bedtime seems negotiable. Select an age appropriate bedtime, based on sleep needs. Children need a regular amount of sleep on weekdays and weekends, therefore, a regular bedtime. Respect your child’s need for sleep.
  5. Choices, choices, choices – Offer choices to give a sense of power, all day long, but especially at bedtime. Ensure options are age appropriate; instead of “What would you like to wear to bed?” use “Would you like your car pyjamas or your baseball pyjamas?” Not “What would you like for a bedtime snack?” but “Would you like blueberry or strawberry yogurt?” Handing over power in situations that matter less means compliance in situations that matter more.
  6. Mind the message – Is “go to bed” or “go to your room” a punishment? If sleep has a bad rap in your home, consider yourself sleep’s newest marketing manager. Make bedtime a positive time of day, with routines your family looks forward to. Talk about the benefits of sleep for mind and body (“Sleep helps us grow strong and be smart”, “We can do so many fun things when we’ve had a good sleep”, “When we’re tired, we all feel yucky”).  Keep bedrooms a positive space.



About the author:

KristaGuenther Krista is a mother of 3 (+1 dog who believes she’s people), a wife to a wonderful husband, and the owner and founder of Sleeperific.  Even though she’s been in the sleep consulting biz for 4 years, she still gets excited when she’s hired by a sleepy family.


[1] Thompson, D. A., & Christakis, D. (2005). The association between television viewing and irregular sleep schedules among children less than 3 years of age. Pediatrics, 116(10), 851-856.

[2] Barlett, N.D., Gentile, D.A., Barlett, C.P., Eisenmann, J.C., et al. (2012). Sleep as a mediator of screen time effects on children’s health outcomes. Journal of Children and Media, 6(1), 37-50.

June 23, 2013


Baby & Child Massage for better sleep

When many people think of the ultimate in relaxation, they think massage.  It calms the body, mind and muscles, and often promotes sleep.  That is why infant massage is becoming more and more popular amongst new parents.  Massage has been used for years to help with colic or to get rid of the pesky gas, but recent studies have shown that regular massage for infants can promote better sleep in babies, and in return, their sleep deprived parents.

A recent study from the Warwick Medical School and the Institute of Education of Warwick, found that infants who received massage cried less and had a decrease in stress hormones such as cortisol, which resulted in better sleep. One Study also stated that massage could also affect the release of melatonin, aiding in infant sleep patterns.

Massaging an infant or toddler,  to help with sleep,  may be different than treating them for colic, gas, or reflux.  Massage before sleep is made part of the bed time routine. Although routines vary from family to family, according to Infant Massage USA, “children who were given daily massages for 15 minutes before going to bed, showed fewer sleep delayed behaviours and had a shorter latency to sleep onset, and as a result, were more awake, alert and active during the day.BabyMassage

To perform a massage to help promote sleep, keep baby in a warm, dimly lit room.  Many  like to use soft relaxing music.  Massage strokes should be preformed in a slow, rhythmical pattern, with full hand contact in a gentle but firm pressure. Lotion or oil can be used, or techniques can be done dry, over clothing. Keeping with a similar pattern can help relax baby and indicate bed time.

Massage therapy follows guiding principals. These help aid blood flow in the correct direction to help with circulation. Starting with the legs, then arms, head, back and tummy allows you to cover all areas, but brings the circulation back to the heart at the centre of the body, and therefore, leaves the child feeling a sense of overall relaxation. Maintaining eye contact and talking to baby in a soft, soothing voice helps build communication, trust, and bonds. It helps to become a wonderful part of the routine, really helping baby feel that this is a wonderful one on one moment with mom or dad.  When working on the limbs, again begin closest to the body, working your way out to the tips of the fingers or toes, and back up to the body.  Since their limbs are small, you can use your whole hand.  When you reach smaller parts, such as hands or feet,  you can simply use your fingers or thumbs to gently knead. When working on the tummy or back, you can use a variety of techniques with either the whole hand or just the finger tips.  When working on the face,  light pressure with finger tips is all you need.  Now, most babies will not let you get through a full body massage the first time,if ever, and that is fine.  Watching baby and following their cues is important.

Touch is a very powerful tool for a parent to use.  Infant massage can help develop that tool for both parent and baby, and also helps create wonderful memories to last a life time.

AmberParkinsonAmber is a  Registered Massage Therapist, the owner of Amber Parkinson Massage and one of Durham Regions leading prenatal massage therapists. She provides massage therapy services to the whole family, working with men, women and children of all ages, from infants to the elderly. Amber tailors each treatment to  the abilities, and needs of each individual client. She specialize in prenatal and postpartum massage. You can follow Amber on Facebook and Twitter. Amber lives in Ajax, Ontario with her husband, daughter and dog.
April 22, 2013

benefitsofreadingaloudtochildrenWhy Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever

bedtime routine

Part 4 of our Soothing Routine Series

Would you believe me if I told you there was a simple way to help your child transition from a busy day to a restful night, help them perform well academically, entertain and intrigue their mind, all while strengthening the bonds between parent and child? Oh, and it’s entirely free.

Too good to be true? Think again. Reading out loud to your children accomplishes each and every one of these objectives.

It sounds simple. It is simple. The results are astounding. Reading to our children does not just calm down the littles before bedtime, but gives them a head start academically, fosters a relationship between parents and their kids and perhaps most importantly, promotes a life long love of books and reading.

“Reading aloud to children is the single most important activity for building knowledge required for eventual success in reading.” (National Academy of Education’s Commission on Reading, 1985).

By reading to our kids;

– We build better neural pathways (stimulating thought, creativity and imagination),
– We bring knowledge (books are full of new, diverse and unique experiences),
– We help develop language skills (simply by being exposed to more words),
– Promote early literacy skills (a child who is read to will understand the seemingly easy approach of left to right and top to bottom, retell a story, memorize lines, understand context),
– Offer a physical and emotional closeness through a shared experience (tell me your child doesn’t enjoy being cuddled and held while reading a story?),
– And encourage a joy of reading.  “Every time we read to a child, we’re sending a ‘pleasure’ message to the child’s brain. . . you could even call it a commercial, conditioning the child to associate books and print with pleasure.” (Trelease, 1982).


Experts recommend reading aloud to your child as soon as he or she is born, and continuing indefinitely go to these guys. If you don’t do this yet, fortunately, it’s never too late to start. While the investments are few: just your time and a library card, the benefits are many. Always remember that a good book is meant to be enjoyed; not just for the purpose of making good readers, but for enriching lives.

“The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, the book, and the person reading.”
~ Mem Fox

Trelease, Jim. “The Read-Aloud Handbook.” Penguin, 1982.
Fox, Mem. “Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever.” Harcourt, 2001.
Graphic. Read Aloud 15-Minutes www.readaloud.org.

More information:
10 Commandments for Reading Aloud
Read Aloud.org
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
Reading Rockets
Bedtime Stories to Read Aloud

kristaguentherKrista is a wife, mother of 2 (+1 Vizsla), Certified Sleep Coach, closeted iron chef, marathoner, e-commerce aficionado and wannabe interior designer. When she’s not helping families go from tired to terrific, she loves reading aloud to her children (and only skips the occasional page).


April 2, 2013

Yoga for SoothingFinding Tranquility with Belly Breathing

Winding down after a long day may be easy at times for adults but I have found it can be a challenge with my little ones if we do not approach it with a gentle bedtime routine.  There are some wonderful yoga techniques that you can use to assist your child in settling in to bed, letting their body and mind calm and drift away to sleep.

In this post I want to introduce you to the “belly breath” or as some children like to say “balloon breathing.”

Have your child lie on their back, gently close their eyes and place their hands over their belly.  Let them settle in here for a moment. Fidgeting will probably happen, and let that naturally occur.  Even as adults on our most rested day we tend to still fidget when the mind and body are first encouraged to relax.  Ensure your child is dressed comfortably and is at a comfortable temperature (ie: do they want blankets or no? socks?)

With a soft voice ask your child the questions below, allowing for pauses and reflection.   Ask your child to try not to talk but to think about them inside their mind.

1. Are any parts of your body moving?

*most likely some part of their body will want to move, fidget, fix their hair, scratch an itch, etc.  Try not to draw attention to it or dwell on any movement. This question is more to get your child to scan their body and begin to understand that if they quiet their mind and focus on one thing (ie: is their body moving) they can begin to control their movements and thoughts.

2. Do you feel your belly and hands rising and falling with each breath?

3. Can you try to make your belly rise up even more?

4. Can you try to make your belly rise up very slowly and rise down very slowly?

5. Imagine your belly like a balloon. Try to blow up your balloon very slowly and very big and then let all the air come out of your balloon.

6. As your belly rises and falls imagine many balloons floating around in the sky.  Notice their colours. Notice if they are flying high or low.

7. Encourage your child to continue filling their belly slowly with the breath as you speak in a soothing and soft voice.  You may find your child is more responsive to this technique at first if you introduce it during the day and/or you participate with them.

May your breath be calm and slow and may many zzzzz’s come your way!



 Amanda Degrace - Little Lotus YogaAmanda DeGrace, President & Founder of Little Lotus Yoga.  When she is not sharing her love for yoga with others she is at home snuggled with her 2 year old boy and 11 month old baby girl.  Follow her on twitter at @amandadegrace or on Facebook.

March 22, 2013


Using good habits for better sleep – Guest Post

Sleep hygiene refers to the routines or habits that encourage a more restful and restorative sleep.  Simply by following good sleep hygiene, you can ensure a better sleep for your child.

Here are some basic sleep hygiene tips to help keep bedtime positive and pleasant:

• Naptimes, bedtime and wake times should be at approximately the same time each day. Even weekends.

• Avoid television, computers, iPads and other electronic devices at least an hour before bed. In addition to being engaging and stimulating, the light emitted from bright screens can have a sleep suppressing effect.

• Have a light snack in the evening. An empty stomach can interfere with sleep as can a large meal.

• Make room in the schedule for bath time before bedtime. A hot bath will raises body temperature, but it is the drop in temperature that may help them feel sleepy.

• Ensure a dark bedroom.  Any light can decrease the amount of melatonin your body naturally produces. Melatonin is a hormone which does many things including regulating your sleep-wake cycles. A low wattage nightlight is ok.

• Use sunlight to set your child’s biological clock. When it’s your child’s time to rise, draw back the blinds, let the sun in and have breakfast in a well lit area of your home.

• Ensure active play, preferable outdoors, is a part of your child’s daily routine.  This has less to do with physically wearing out your child, but more to do with having a clear distinction between wakeful times and sleep times.

These suggestions are relevant for older babies through to adulthood.

Healthy sleep is often about starting out on the right foot. Parents and caregivers can help create a situation for children to be successful in transitioning from busy, wakeful times, to calm, peaceful sleep.

Sweet Dreams,

Dr. Castle

jennDr. Jennifer Castle is a Naturopathic Doctor with a passion for helping people reach their optimal health level. She firmly believes that naturopathic medicine is about becoming an active participant in one’s own health as well as becoming aware of how the body is affected by our thoughts, emotions, physical stressors, food and environment. Jen takes an individualized approach with each of her patients.

Jen enjoys running, weight training, yoga, and commuting on her bike. She has completed several 5k’s, 10k’s, and half marathons and is still trying to improve her fitness level.  Jen loves being a wife and mom and currently her favourite pastime is singing Wheels on the Bus to her daughter.

March 12, 2013

Making Beautiful Music Together® – Guest Post

MusicTogetherKW Lullabies_square

Part 2 of our Soothing Routines Series

When my eldest daughter was born, one of my greatest pleasures was singing to her. At the time, I didn’t have a very big repertoire, but I sang what came to mind. (In the beginning it was a lot of Christmas carols, but a few semesters of Music Together® classes took care of that!) Sometimes I sang to distract her, many times to soothe her, and often just to keep myself sane as I went about the daily routine of caring for this new being in my life. While music often carried us throughout our harried days, it was ultimately lullaby time (before naps and in the evening) which put us both into the peaceful state needed for relaxation and sleep.

What makes a lullaby so magical? It seems to be a universal impulse for adults to sing to their babies; every culture has its own lullaby tradition. Unconsciously, mothers everywhere rock their babies and coo to them, when calm is needed. This rhythmic movement, in combination with a caregiver’s voice, is a soothing balm to a crying babe. Despite many parents’ inhibitions around singing, you can be assured that your child loves your voice more than anyone else; they are the kindest of critics! One study by Nakata and Trehub (2003) compared babies’ responsiveness to their mothers’ singing and mothers’ speech. Babies six months old preferred when their mothers sang to them than when they spoke to them.

Researchers have shown that parents—whether they realize it or not—even have a special “lullaby voice,” a way of adjusting the pitch and tempo that’s similar to the adjustments of tone (so-called “motherese”) that adults use when speaking to an infant. Infants have a high preference for this “infant-directed singing.” Sandra Trehub of the University of Toronto has shown that infants can even distinguish between audiotapes of their parent directing their singing to them versus singing to an empty room.

Trehub suggests that the infant is sensitive to the emotion present in infant-directed singing, and that the lullaby is a kind of “synchronization device,” which coordinates emotion between parent and child. It lulls them both; producing a release of hormones that promote relaxation and bonding. Playing a CD of lullaby music simply does not have the same effect as singing directly to your baby. Over time, the closeness that a lullaby creates, ultimately helps children to feel secure and loved. For our family, lullaby time became over the years, the time of day for true confessions, the spilling of childhood worries, and deep questions. It was a peaceful, satisfying end to our days.

If there is just one piece of advice I could share around lullabies, it would be to simply sing to your child. The content or quality bears little weight. A few strains of your favourite song might be all that’s needed, as simplicity and repetitiveness is what gives a lullaby it’s soothing quality. Songs have a tremendous impact on children – they can brighten their mood, relax them, comfort them and help them to sleep. In turn, parents can feel competent in their nurturing skills. If you should find that there is only one song sung each day, I hope you will make it a lullaby.

Nakata, T., & Trehub, S. E. (2003.) Infants’ responsiveness to maternal speech and singing. Infant Behavior and Development, 27, 455-464.

JodieFeraJodie Fera, BMus (ed), B. Ed., is the mom of two great kids who, while in their double digits now, still occasionally request a lullaby after a particularly stressful day. She is also the director of and certified teacher at Music Together of Kitchener-Waterloo.

February 18, 2013

sooting routines, settle kids to sleep, bedtime routine

Bedtime Bliss

All kids need the comfort and security of a clear, predictable soothing routine. I truly believe that structure helps children feel safe and assured – when you’re little and so much seems difficult to understand and beyond your control, routines are a source of confidence and certainty. Soothing routine’s are a beautiful opportunity for parents and children to slow down, connect, share some special time, and unwind from the burdens of the day.

I admit bedtime routines with children is my favorite time of the day.  Yes, it’s a means to peaceful, sleeping babies (and peaceful, happy parents) but I love everything about the quiet and softness of our routines.  My toddler, who runs around non-stop and hardly has time for quiet moments during his day, will happily sit on my lap and lean his head back on my shoulder while we read books. My preschooler and I will share our sad and happy parts of the day and what we hope to dream about. Yes, it’s entertaining dialog with a 4 year old, but it’s a glimpse at what’s going on in her little mind. We’re setting a precedent of communication that I hope to maintain through our lifetime together.

A good soothing routine will start during infancy and evolve to carry a child through to school age. Even if you didn’t start that early, don’t be concerned. It’s never too late to begin.

When done right, soothing routines are times both parents and children look forward to. You and your partner may take turns, and each have your own style, but make sure you share a common approach on timing, coping with stall tactics and alleviating any fears or concerns from your child.

So what do you do? How do you do a soothing routine? Whether you’re a brand new parent or an experienced parent, stay tuned! Over the next few weeks, we’ll be adding posts with elements which could comprise your child’s soothing routine and how to find a process that fits with the goals and the individuality of your family.

Lullabies: Making Beautiful Music Together – by Jodie Fera, BMus (ed.), B Ed, Music Together Kitchener-Waterloo

Basics of Sleep Hygiene – by Dr. Jennifer Castle, ND, The Urban Athlete

Yoga for Soothing – by Amanda Degrace, Little Lotus Yoga

Reading Magic – by Krista Guenther, Sleeperific Children’s Sleep Consulting

Massage for Soothing – by Amber Parkinson, RMT, Amber Parkinson Massage