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The 3 C’s; what bedtime is really about

The 3 C’s; what bedtime is really about

Bedtime can often feel like a bit of an uphill battle. Jobs on the list to tick off to get your child into their beds so you can finally finish up all the jobs on your list and juggle the other aspects of adult life.

Yes, bedtime does serve a practical purpose, but what if I told you, underneath it all, bedtime had a more meaningful purpose?

The bedtime routine serves three core functions: to contain, to connect and to calm.


For toddlers, getting home from a big day at nursery or school, they often fall apart or have big experiences they want to share. It can feel like they are pushing your buttons, but ultimately, they are craving a space for their feelings to be contained and supported.

You might notice your little ones really want to tell you something or show you their newest dance move! These techniques are their attempts to connect with you.

Building in nurturing time to your winddown routine can help children to relax ahead of sleep times.

This could involve asking them engaging questions about their day during bath time. Holding space for them and showing your unconditional love is a part of containing big feelings!

Being a listening ear doesn’t mean you have to fix their worries, simply recognising their feeling, helping them to name it and then thanking them for sharing it is a great way to structure these bedtime conversations to keep them short and sweet.


For little people, bedtime can feel intimidating as it signifies a period of separation from the people who make them feel safe.

To make separation easier, we can work to build both baby's and children’s self-confidence and independence and, importantly, to fill up their ‘love tanks.’

The Love Tank is a concept which involves connecting emotionally and physically to top up a tank full of love that your child runs off. When the tank is full, children can feel secure, whereas when it is less full they may ‘misbehave’ to attract your attention.

How to develop independence:

A baby can be provided with the opportunity to play safely and independently on the floor for short periods to gradually build up their confidence and motor skills.

Toddlers and children love to feel helpful, so giving them age-appropriate tasks to complete and succeed at can build their self-efficacy and lessen separation anxiety. If your little one does have separation anxiety it’s essential to not to try and force them to be independent before they are ready as this can worsen anxiety.

Ways to full up the Love Tank:

Babies love tanks:

  • Physical touch (cuddles, massage, kisses)

  • Tickling & giggling

  • Holding them close to you.

  • Dancing together

  • Listening to music

  • Sensory play together

Children’s love tanks:

  • Getting on their level and engaging in play with them

  • Chatting and asking engaging questions

  • Physical touch

  • 1:1 time with your undivided attention

  • Eye contact

  • Planning activities together.

Some nice ways to do this before they fall asleep:

  • A special handshake,

  • Sharing your favourite moment of the day,

  • Asking them what they would like to dream about,

  • Doing a body scan,

  • Pretending to call your child on the way out the room: "ring ring.., oh hello, I love you!"



If I can give parents one piece of advice to keep in mind when it comes to sleep, it would be “Aim for calm”.

As parents we cannot force babies and children to go to sleep but we can support them to a place of calm, from calm little ones are able to drift off into a peaceful slumber.

We all know that sleep occurs when we are feeling calm. Too stressed and the idea of falling asleep just seems impossible. The same is true for babies and children.

My Tip: If I can give parents one piece of advice to keep in mind when it comes to sleep, it would be this… “Aim for calm”

The reason this is so useful is that it changes our goal-orientated mindset from something we aren’t capable of enforcing (sleep) to something we can co-create with a little person (calm).

Calm is critical because often sleep techniques are actually just ways we can support children to become calm.

With the three C’s in mind you can approach bedtime with a fresh mindset, focused on how to contain, connect and calm ahead of sleep!

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