Toddlers and children often have a tough time falling asleep and staying asleep. (Geez lady, tell me something I don’t know). This could be for a variety of reasons such as being too stimulated, not feeling well, perhaps apprehensive about their sleep environment, and/or not wanting to be alone. Who here has a FOMO child? But, another good solid reason a child may not readily go to sleep is due to hunger.
Now, trust me. I know what you might be thinking: I try to feed him all day long. But, he refuses my healthy food offerings each and every time. I totally get where you are coming from if this is your sentiment. I am on your side! But, we can’t totally have it both ways. We cannot tough love them holding preferred foods at bay, and then also expect a great sleeper. Don’t worry, I have some ideas to help, that won’t totally compromise your parenting style!
I prefer children have full bellies prior to sleep periods, for two main reasons. 1) I want all children to obtain the sleep requirements needed for their age. Not reaching these benchmarks (see this Wake Time Allowance Chart), can create an ongoing cycle of less than ideal daytime behavior, leaving even less time for learning and creativity. 2) I want you as a parent, to know your child is at least not hungry. This allows you to troubleshoot more effectively at night if you are trying to work towards a sleep goal.
For this reason, I wanted to provide you a few night time snack choices. Even if your little one is eating well with three square meals, a snack the last 30 minutes or so before bedtime is a great idea. Make sure this is a food that your child is accustomed to eating and there are no reactions or food sensitivities to your choice at hand.
Here are some of my favorite bedtime snacks for children over the age of 2:
Banana & Greek Yogurt
You can combine the two or keep them spaced apart on the plate. Or, go crazy and mix and mash them together. By the way, bananas are excellent for helping a child settle down for sleep. They contain magnesium and potassium, both which are known to help relax muscles, the natural way! Greek yogurt can also be substituted for milk. The tryptophan and calcium in these dairy products help the body produce melatonin – which is essential for sleep.
Whole Wheat Bread with Peanut Butter
It’s always a great idea to balance carbs and proteins, and what better way to do this than an old fashioned snack. Kids typically adore bread, so perhaps you won’t get a lot of push back here. If your child is allergic to peanuts, or you suspect an allergy, this is not the snack for you. Also, if you kiddo is not into peanut butter, try the thinnest layer possible until the taste is acquired. Bread and straight butter may be your go-to for a while.
Celery, Raisins, and Peanut Butter
Otherwise known as ants on a log. It’s visually inviting to a child, and at least healthier than some sugary, refined crackers. Just a few raisins is all it takes – appealing, but still limiting unnecessary nighttime sweetness.
Listen, you probably aren’t into the idea of whipping up a snack of oatmeal. This is often messy depending on the child’s age and isn’t as easy to prepare as the other proposed snacks. But, perhaps you’ll consider breakfast for dinner occasionally with this healthy sleep inducer! High carbs are known to do this, and with oats specifically, it goes back to the melatonin.
Do your children currently snack before bedtime? What is working for you? In our house, the banana is routinely our sleep superfood.
Amy Douglas is a Certified Sleep Consultant at Baby Sleep Central. Recently named as one of the Best Sleep Consultants in the United States, Douglas works with parents of children from Birth – Age 6. Help your baby, toddler, or child sleep more independently, starting tonight.