Our daughter is 5, and will turn 6 on May 16th. Her bedtime routine has been well established since she was very small, with no more than slight tweaking over time. It’s still very much the same as when she was 4.
She was never much of an afternoon napper, and we gave up on naps completely when she was 3 years old. Before that, it was getting more and more difficult to settle her down for the afternoon nap, and it would get delayed until later and later, no matter how obviously tired she was. Sometimes she wouldn’t fall asleep until very late in the afternoon, which messed things up badly, because then we’d have to keep her up until very late before she’d be ready to sleep at night. Once we abandoned the afternoon nap, everything was so much better, and we were able to get a very regular routine and regular sleeping hours established.
Because my wife and I are both at home all day (I work from home), we didn’t send her to kindergarten until last September, when we put her in the local elementary school. Then we immediately ran into a problem with the afternoon nap. The teachers in her school are very strict and inflexible about the afternoon nap, which I consider quite ridiculous. They force all of the children to lie down in their sleeping bags for the whole of the nap time, regardless of whether they can sleep or not. My daughter absolutely could not sleep, nor could she lie still and quiet for all of that time (an hour and a half from 1:00 to 2:30), and got told off by the teacher for not doing so, even for just sitting up. This upset her a lot, and made her very unwilling to go to school, just because of the nap-time ordeal (she was happy enough about the rest of the time at school). After a series of tearful nights (crying that she didn’t want to go to school tomorrow) and tearful mornings when we could hardly get her into the classroom, we finally agreed with the teacher that she’d just attend school in the mornings, and we’d take her home at 1 PM, after lunch and before the nap. Initially, we said we’d go with that for a month or so, and then have another try at getting her to stay for the nap. But we never managed to overcome her aversion to napping, so we finally gave up and will continue to pick her up from kindergarten after lunch for the rest of this school year.
As for the pre-sleep routine at night, it goes like this:
After dinner and a bit of play, mum takes her up for her bath at about 7 o’clock.
When she’s finished her bath, she comes downstairs to my study and gets her daily “surprise.” The surprise is a toy or book or whatever that I put in a special desk drawer while she’s in the bath. Once she has opened it, we play with it while mum has her bath. If it’s Lego (as it often is), we’ll make it or play with it in her Lego town. If it’s a book, she’ll sit on my lap and we’ll read it together. If it’s drawing, writing or colouring things, we’ll do drawing, writing or colouring together. When mum has finished her bath (at around 8 o’clock), we’ll go down to the kitchen, where she’ll take her medicine if she has any to take (alas, she’s nearly always had to since she started at kindergarten), and get her teeth brushed and flossed. We then give her a last short playtime before it’s time for a last visit to the bathroom and into bed. Mum gets into bed first while I have that last play with her downstairs, and then it’s “up the wooden hill” time (just as it was for me at her age). It’s usually about 8:30 when she gets into bed and snuggles up with mum, ready for me to read her her bedtime story. I used to just make up the stories off the top of my head when she was very small, but now I usually read them. The bedtime story normally lasts from 10 to 20 minutes, though I’ll make it shorter if she’s very sleepy, or longer if she’s still very lively. The story will be interactive, interspersed with chat about its content and related matters. At a suitable moment, I’ll close the book and say “Night night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite,” which she’ll repeat, and after goodnight kisses, I’ll leave the room and she’ll snuggle up to mum until she falls asleep. She’s usually fast asleep within a couple of minutes. Mum stays in bed with her and watches TV (with the sound off) until she too is ready to sleep.
In the morning, she usually gets up at about 7 o’clock, though occasionally she’s up as early as 6, and sometimes sleeps until 8. I sleep in my own room, and am usually up with the lark, but am as quiet as a mouse, so she never gets woken up by me.
If I prioritized the acquisition of wealth above other purposes in life, I might still have come to Taiwan to study Chinese, but I doubt I would have remained here.