Do you have kids that are NEVER tired? That never want to go to sleep?
I DO. No matter what our bedtime routine is.
I have two wild monkeys that don’t seem to understand the words ‘time to go to bed, sleep, tired…good night… in their vocabulary… English or Czech.
They’ve pretty much always been like that. I have still very vivid memories of the 3rd or 4th night at home with my first little treasure when we got home from the hospital.
The little one was still screaming his head off at 2am in the morning… while I was marching around the lounge, back to the door, through the kitchen… back to the lounge….
I was thinking to myself:
Surely I am not alone….
How many parents are there right now doing the same – carrying their newborn around the house…. town… park … in their sling to make their little cherub go to sleep…at this time of the night…
Very shortly we tried to introduce some kind of bedtime routine to our little terror as the one he introduced was no good to anybody.
As the result of his ‘ideas’, we were all soon very exhausted… and pretty cranky… including the little screamer himself.
Our first bedtime routine with our first bilingual baby
Our very first bedtime routine involved listening to some soft sounds by Mozart.
One of my friends recommended it to me because her little girl responded very well to classical music.
We also played some relaxing piano and violin music on our CD player to our bilingual to be baby.
Despite feeling very strange, I was already getting myself into the habit talking to my little bundle of joy in my native language rather than English.
(English’s always been daddy’s job at our bilingual house, sorry, no English from me.)
Soon enough I bought some CDs with Czech and English lullabies and we started playing those when we were putting our bilingual baby to sleep.
It was me who was putting him to sleep most of the time during the first year as we were breastfeeding.
Once our bilingual baby was a year old, I had to go to back to my old job for a while.
Which for him meant that he started spending more time in an English speaking environment at the nursery.
Before then our bilingual baby used to spend most of the time with me…. Speaking Czech to him all day.
Once Bob started nursery I could see how quickly his English started to take off, but in general, his speech in both languages started to develop really quickly and I didn’t want English to ‘take over’.
I wanted to tip the scales a bit back and try to create more of a balance during this crucial period of his development.
Probably around the age of one – one and a half we started taking more turns on who puts our bilingual baby to bed.
I would cuddle up with Bob and we would play our little game:
touch your nose – your chin – your lips – your forehead – your ears – your eyebrows – your teeth – your hair – your cheeks… and so on.
I would be touching Bob lightly and naming all these parts of his head in my native language. He used to love that.
As the time went on I would do one or two rounds like that and then he would have to touch my face and I would help him name all parts of my face… it was sooo soothing that sometimes I must have been asleep before him!
Unless I was singing to him. Singing lullabies was another thing our kids enjoyed.
Singing lullabies and playing our little touch my face game worked for our kids’ naptime too.
The next step of our little language practise just before drifting off was that I would be talking to our bilingual baby about our day at home or his day at the nursery.
First I would be describing the day and he would just nod or say single words about it, but soon enough I start asking him questions about what happened during the day:
What did we do today?
Did we have any breakfast? What did we have for breakfast? Do you like eating…. toast for breakfast?
What did we do then?
Did we go to meet up with your friend….? Did we go to the park with them?
What did we do in the park? Did we play on the slide? Do you like the swings?
What did we have for lunch? Did we have a nap today?
And so on up to the moment, we were in bed together. Always focusing on ‘the bright side of the day’ not that we never had a bad day.
(Is there anyone who never has a bad day sometimes? Honestly?)
We both really enjoyed our little bedtime conversations that were a part of our bilingual lifestyle.
Two bilingual babies… two routines?
Once our big bilingual baby got his little baby brother, things got a bit complicated:
Less time, various needs and different levels of language skill… but we pretty much just carried on. Altering the language of the bedtime routine depending on the mother tongue of the parent who was in charge of it that night.
As our bilingual cherubs grew, their vocabulary grew and we started telling them bedtime stories. First, we were telling them what we knew from our childhood and later we started making them up. Around the age of 3, our older bilingual baby was a walking talking chatterbox that was fully capable of talking for England or rather the whole of Britain and my home country at the same time.
There was nothing to stop him, regardless the language of his choice.
When the time was getting on we let our bilingual kids watch a 10-15 min bedtime story, most of the time in my language rather than English.
Believe or not, these were still cartoons I used to watch as a kid…. 30+ decades ago.
When our older bilingual baby was about 4,5+ we started reading more bedtime stories.
Which started to be a bit more tricky as Bob was older and a really captive audience while Richie was 2 years younger and ‘not so much into books yet.
Even now, sometimes I have to read one book for one while the other one has to wait and is getting ‘bored’ and impatient, while the other one is having ‘his favourite story’…
Bilingual or not, a bedtime routine can get more complicated the older the kids get, the more kids you have, the more languages are involved.
But, don’t give in. Just switch around with your other half, stay consistent and keep going!
There is at least …. Ways to put your bilingual baby to bed and practise your native language at the same time.
Here’s the list:
- Play lullabies or soft music
- Snuggle up and play a little game
- Sing lullabies
- Re-cap your day with your bilingual baby, highlight the positives
- Tell a bedtime story you know or make one up
- Watch a 10-15 min bedtime story
- Reading bedtime stories
Opol really works. If you’re consistent. Let your bedtime routine help you. And your bilingual baby.
Before you know it, your little cherub will be a bilingual… teen?
And then we’ll probably have no chance to influence the language of their bedtime routine…. provided there’ll be one?
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