6 Ways to Establish a Bedtime Routine For Your Bilingual Child

 

As promised in my post 6 Ways in which a Bedtime Routine Can Boost Your Bilingual Child I’m here to share some ideas on how to establish a bedtime routine. If you do not have a routine, then you really are missing out on a great opportunity to teach not only discipline and regain your sanity at night, but you’re missing out on a great opportunity to expose your child(ren) to the target language.

If you are anything like me, you often feel like rushing through the night and getting the kiddos to sleep so you can finally have some peace and a much needed break! I would try to use the time to clean up their substantial mess, get some of my work done, and even get some couch potato T.V. time. But honestly, the time of getting the kids to bed would stress me out, my kids never wanted to go to bed and were super cranky, and by the time I was done I was extremely tired and rarely followed through with my plans.

Working with children, I know the importance of routines. I know that they do better when they know what to expect and what is expected of them, so why wasn’t I applying this to my own children when we were trying to wrap up the day? Once I decided to implement our routine at night, I found time to spend time learning and to actually enjoy my children! So, here is the routine that works for us and it’s my hope that you can get some ideas from it and create a routine that works for you.

Photo by: Keli Garcia Allen

  1. Dinner Time

I wrote a post for Cooking with Languages a while back on what children can learn from cooking. It was meaningful for me to write, because cooking with our kids provides such a special opportunity to bond and extend the time learning and practicing the target language. This is not an activity that is merely for older kids, but even the tiniest of tots can join in! My two and three year olds love to pour, crack (eggs), stir, and taste right along with me. Sometimes everything has been cooking on the crock pot all day, and they just get to stir a few times in order to “help” and sometimes we grabbed take out and they just need to set the table. Whatever we do, they always get to help and as they grow, their duties will grow with their abilities.

During this time I use parallel and self-talk in our target language (Spanish) to describe everything we are doing as we cook. I also ask them a lot of open-ended questions about the process (What are you doing? Why do you have to do that?) and watch their little brains workout how to answer me. Obviously, the conversations will evolve as their language skills evolve and I foresee a time when our conversations will go well beyond what we are cooking.

  1. Clean-up time

Oh dreaded clean-up! This is where I spend the majority of my time at home. With two professional mess-makers, it’s no wonder. It’s important to teach our kids from an early age to clean up and contribute to the house, but it’s never too late to start. Sometimes it really is like pulling teeth for me and it takes no small amount of patience, deep breathing, and chocolate (which I hide and eat in my bedroom closet!!) to get through this part of our routine. For now, it is all about me teaching them and indicating exactly what to do every step of the way, but I know that as they grow up, they will be able to do a lot more with a lot less prodding (as long as I keep up the routine!). For now, it’s another great opportunity for us to make practical use of our target language.

Photo by: Keli Garcia Allen
Yes, she chose that outfit. And yes, I let her go out in public like that!

  1. Preparations for the next day

At this point of our evening, I get the girls to help prepare themselves for tomorrow. We pull out pajamas and clothing for the next day. My threenager has developed her own style and takes a long time to put together her outrageous combinations for the following day (Boots with shorts are a current Florida winter favorite of hers) and it cuts down on morning rush (yeah, so I may have it “together” at night, but our mornings are RIDICULOUS! Can’t have it all right?).

This is also a time when we prepare book bags and lunch boxes for the next day. We have a lot of fun and silly conversations in the target language during this portion of our night, and they are usually revolved around the crazy outfits my baby wants to wear.

  1. Bath Time

So, while my kids are little, bath time has to be supervised. Honestly, I wish I could just throw them in and walk away or rush them through it. But they love their baths so much and it’s really a great time for them to play while I sit with a book or (GAASSSPPP!) my phone. If you’re an over-achiever, go ahead and use this time to play and talk with your kids. It’s definitely what I recommend. So, do as I say, not as I do!!

A little reading before bed.
Photo by: Keli Garcia Allen

  1. Reading

So, my excuse for taking it easy during bath time is that the next part of our routine is CRUCIAL! Seriously, whether you are a bilingual parent or not, reading every single day with your child is the single most important thing you can do for their education. Whether 0 or 17, reading aloud every single day should be the goal. It doesn’t matter if you read to them or they read to you, reading every day can make a bigger difference than anything else you do for them.  Reading with your child every day has a greater impact on achievement than anything else you may do, including the school they go to, the extracurricular activities they participate in, how much money you make, etc. And as a bilingual parent, this is the best opportunity for my girls to receive rich, deep, and crucial input in the target language.

  1. Reflecting on the day.

After reading and talking about what we read, we spend some time talking about the day. I ask them a lot of questions and try to remind them of everything that was done. I ask them what their favorite part of the day was, what they didn’t like, what made them laugh, what made them sad, etc. I love to ask them silly questions to make them laugh and more serious questions to make them think. If you’re having a hard time coming up with questions, check out this article!

I also talk to them about the next day and what they think they are going to do. I ask about what they would like to do and talk to them about what they must do. We do all of this in our target language and if they do not know how to say something, I let them say it in English and then I model how to say it in Spanish. It’s a very sweet time spent with them and it’s my absolute favorite part of the day.

Photo by: Keli Garcia Allen

Taking the time to have a purposeful and meaningful time with your kids in the evening may seem like a daunting task, but remember, it does not have to take hours of your time. While it may at first be difficult to get your children to help with the clean up and preparing for the following day (especially if they are younger), but with a routine, it will end up being a lot of help and saving you time. If you go about the routine with the purpose of spending time and educating your children, it will also be less stressful! Taking the time to relax, read, and reflect upon the day with your child will also help you unwind and decompress while cuddling and hugging your babies will sure boost up those endorphins! And hey, there’s nothing wrong with getting the process started early. I’ve been known to enforce a 7pm bedtime routine and have lived to tell the tale!

We want to hear from you! Do you have a bedtime routine that you practice with your kids? What does it look like? What benefits have you seen from it? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author
keli-blogKeli Garcia Allen is a certified Spanish teacher and currently works as a Preschool teacher in a bilingual classroom. She is the Head of Content for Learn Safari and is currently working on Spanish Safari,  a Spanish Learning game for children 4-10 years old. You can follow her and the rest of the team on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Guardar

Guardar

6 Ways in which a Bedtime Routine Can Boost Your Bilingual Child

Part 1 – How and Why a Bedtime Routine Can  Benefit  Our Children

What do your evenings look like? As a busy parent, they probably include making dinner, finishing up chores, and getting the kids off to bed as quickly (if not efficiently) as possible. After such a busy day, you’re probably just looking to just relax and maybe read a book, watch some TV, or maybe browse around on Pinterest for hours on end admiring and pinning projects that you know you’ll never actually get to (guilty!!). This much awaited time never seems to arrive when we are so busy trying to deal with wrapping up our children’s day and getting them to bed! But, what if I told you that while we rush about trying to get our kids to bed, we are missing on valuable bonding and language-learning time that can be a tremendous benefit for them?

I know, I know! After a long day, sometimes we just want and NEED time for ourselves. But just give me a chance! With a few tips and tricks for purposeful time spent together in the evening, our nights can go more smoothly and with less stress, our learning day can be extended, and we can create memories that our children will carry with them for life. But first, let’s cover the “why?”  what are you gaining by spending some quality time with your children in the evenings?

  1. An Insight Into Their Day

Do you ever ask your kids how their day was and they tell you “fine”? Or “what did you do today?” and they respond with “nothing.” AGHHHH!!! It drives me nuts! But it’s not just you. Kids don’t always open up to these sorts of questions, because they either don’t have the skills to process their day on their own so quickly (if they are young) or they are not practiced in the art of conversation with their parents. It takes time and effort and one has to be purposeful in establishing lines of communication, especially with our kids. Spending time together and asking questions like “What was the funniest thing that happened today?” or did “anything today make you feel sad?” can help kids engage and share with you about the day. But here’s the thing, you can’t just bombard them with a bunch of questions and expect them to answer right away! You need to take the time and develop an engaging conversation.

2. An Insight Into Their State of Mind

By gaining insights into their days you can also gain insights into their state of mind. As kids get older, parents often get pushed aside. Kids try to gain independence and if you haven’t developed communication habits, it can be that much harder to really KNOW what’s going on inside their heads. Issues of self-confidence, depression, bullying, anger, selfishness, etc. can be discovered and managed more easily when kids learn they can come to you to deal with them.

The girls love to look at books before bed.
Photo by: Keli Garcia Allen

  1. Calmer Evenings

Did you know that negative behavior can be curbed by simply giving a child some time and attention? Most of us know this, but do we actually KNOW this? I mean, do we actually put it into practice? Just sitting down for 10 minutes with your child and actually playing with them can give them the attention they need and crave and then buy you some time to get things done in a much calmer manner. Imagine then if you actually include your child into the chores and activities that must be completed in the evening? You can entertain your child, teach them something new, have bonding time, and get your chores done even faster! Even a three-year-old can help wipe down tables and put away laundry!

  1. Bonding and a Nurturing Relationship

Bonding is an important human instinct that gives children (and adults) a sense of security and self-esteem. Bonding occurs when humans spend time together, talking, showing affection, and taking care of each other. The thing is that bonding takes time, and not just your spare minutes. You need quality time spent doing special activities, but you also need quantity time! When I say this, I mean ordinary time spent doing routine activities that, although they may not feel special, they develop trust and a sense of nurturing and security. This time serves to let a family get to know eachother, reinforces mutual respect, improves communication and lets people learn to listen and communicate with each other.

Reading Together

  1. You Will Gain an Opportunity to Help You Children Process Their Day 

Establishing an evening and bed-time routine with your kids will help them process their day. They can reflect back on what happened and discuss the good, the bad, the ugly. You can help kids put a positive spin on their day and help them plan and prepare for tomorrow. It’s a great time to discuss goals, both small and large, and talk about the future. It’s also a great time to teach kids about thankfulness and the effect that their actions and choices have upon their lives and the lives of others.

  1. Extended Education

Finally, this time together at night can serve for practicing language and communication. For bilingual parents, this can be a crucial time of target language input. If your child spends a majority of the time listening and interacting in the community language, the evening spent with you can be crucial for practicing the target language and using it for higher order thinking and learning. You can model grammar, language structure and vocabulary and give them plenty of opportunities to emulate you. Most importantly, you can develop your relationship in the target language and help your child gain the confidence to use it.

Our days are busy. We are constantly running around with the business of life and we don’t often take the time to just be with each other and spend time in communication and bonding. Whether you are a parent who works outside of the home all day or you are a parent who works in the home all day, the reality is that you most likely spend your hours working! When the evening comes and kids get home from school it’s important to take time together to process the day, use our language and communication skills, and create the kind of deep relationships that will be crucial for the rest of our lives.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post where I will share some Ideas and Tips for Establishing a Bedtime Routine for your Bilingual Children.

Sweet dreams!
Photo by: Keli Garcia Allen

We want to hear from you! Do you have a bedtime routine that you practice with your kids? What does it look like? What benefits have you seen from it? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author
keli-blogKeli Garcia Allen is a certified Spanish teacher and currently works as a Preschool teacher in a bilingual classroom. She is the Head of Content for Learn Safari and is currently working on Spanish Safari,  a Spanish Learning game for children 4-10 years old. You can follow her and the rest of the team on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.