As mum to Morgan, 9, Flynn, 7, Evie, 5, presenter Melinda Messenger has a few tricks up her sleeve when it comes to getting children off to sleep. In the Messenger household it’s all about a good routine, and that includes a bedtime story.
What’s your top tip for a peaceful bedtime?
We have a strong bedtime routine. Morgan, Flynn and Evie have dinner, have a bath and get into their pjs, maybe settle down to play quietly for a little bit and then I read them a bedtime story and a sing a lullaby. A story is the one thing, even if they’ve had a late night, that they’ve got to have before they go off to sleep.
Bedtime stories are such a great way to get the children into a bedtime routine. When children go from a cot to sleeping in their own bed it can be really tricky because suddenly they can get out of the bed and play. I think reading to them is a really good way of helping them unwind and making them sleepy. I think because I’ve always done it with my children they know that once they’ve had a story, that it’s time to go to sleep. I usually read their stories while they’re in bed so they can literally drop off but in the summer we sit together on a swing chair in the garden and I read them a story there.
It’s also important not to over stimulate them for an hour or so before bedtime. All these little things help set the wheels in motion for them to go to bed and go to sleep easily. I also leave a little night-light on and always sing a lullaby after the children’s story. There’s one I’ve made up and Hush Little Baby that I have to sing every night. I can’t really sing but they don’t seem to mind!
What are their favourite stories?
They absolutely love anything about animals, like woodland tales and stories about farmyard animals. Recently I’ve been reading them traditional tales like Pippi Longstocking and Milly Molly Mandy. They also adore The Faraway Tree and now Morgan’s a bit older, I’ve started reading him Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales.
I make up stories too. We’ve got some ducks and chickens at home so they love stories where the animals get dressed up, go on a plane and go on holiday. I also tell them a story about how they wake up in the middle of the night and go into a magical world in the garden where they meet wonderful creatures. When they wake up in the morning they’ve got a little gift at the end of their bed to remind them that the story was true.
My husband, Wayne, and I have also written a story for them called Evie Bell Rescues Lilac Woods. It’s set in the old rectory where we used to live and they’re all characters in a magical wood with fairies and goblins. It’s lovely because we keep adding to the tale and it’s become their own personal story.
How are you spending Christmas?
We’ll all be together at home for Christmas and my mum, brother and his fiancé and their little boy will come and stay with us. We’ll open our presents in the morning, have our Christmas dinner and we always go out for a walk in the woods on Christmas afternoon before settling down to play games, watch a bit of Christmas TV and chill.
How do you keep the magic of Christmas alive for the children?
I make snowy footprints out of flour by the fireplace and leave a half eaten carrot from Rudolph and a sherry for Father Christmas. We go out in the garden to ring sleigh bells and read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve. They’ve got quite a few Christmas storybooks and a book of 12 stories for each night of Christmas to build up the excitement. It’s all the little things that keep the magic alive because once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.
Do the children still believe in Father Christmas?
They do still believe in Father Christmas although a couple of years ago Morgan did say to me, “Mummy, why has Father Christmas got the same wrapping paper as you?” Obviously I hadn’t been clever enough but he’s playing along because I told him that if he didn’t believe, Santa may not come and he didn’t want to risk that!
But Flynn and Evie haven’t batted an eyelid yet and we’ve already had to write their Christmas letters to Father Christmas this year. Evie thinks the Elves make all the presents so she doesn’t want to pick anything too difficult for them!