Bedtime with children is not for the faint of heart. Even the most experienced parents grow tired of the never-ending barrage of stall tactics and tantrums.
The constant need for one more story or drink of water or snack or song or stuffed animal or – it’s exhausting for everyone but them. If you’re nearing the end of your rope trying to wrangle stubborn children once the sun goes down, we’ve got a few tips to coax over-tired kiddos into closing their eyes.
Stick to a Routine
When it comes to bedtime, a solid routine is the best way to go, and this predictability can really be as simple as maintaining a regular bedtime. “Don’t sleep in on weekends, and try to go to bed at the same time every night,” advises Healthline in an article devoted to this very subject. For those struggling with sleep, it’s a great place to start.
If your family has already established firm hours for rest and sleep still remains elusive, it might be time to add in extra markers along the way. Predictable schedules have proven highly effective for helping children adjust from play time to bed time. Oftentimes, parents find that a bath or shower helps little ones prepare for sleep. Implementing a soothing lavender scented oil or bubble bath might also aid in relaxing excited kiddos. After pajamas are on and teeth are brushed, try dedicating 15-30 minutes for reading or talking through the events of the day. This can be done in a cozy spot like a favorite chair or at your child’s bedside. Make sure any nighttime needs like water bottles or nightlights are ready to go before that final goodnight, so additional disturbances are kept to a minimum after lights out.
Finding a schedule that fits inside your family’s lifestyle is so important as anything too demanding or time-consuming is bound to fail. Examine what your family’s evenings typically look like and then tweak as needed to input those little signals to assist in easing your child in the transition from play to pillow.
Turn Off the Devices
It’s generally agreed that shutting down all devices at least 30 minutes prior to sleep is a golden rule for easier bedtimes. The Sleep Foundation and the Cleveland Clinic both concur that turning off electronics, especially cell phones, in preparation for bed are essential when seeking a good night’s sleep. The blue light these devices emit is detrimental to our natural circadian rhythms. The more we can limit this exposure in the evening hours, the better.
This is true for television and computers, as well. All those binge-worthy shows and extra hours of work can wait. Mario and Luigi can take a backseat, too, as video games keep our brain active and engaged. This can be a hard-fought battle with tweens and teens, but it’s worth the fight for a good night’s sleep. Save that final hour of the night for screen-free entertainment. Books, puzzles, board games or even light exercise like stretching or yoga can do wonders to help energized bodies get ready to rest.
Get the Kids Involved
What better way to get your kids onboard with bedtime than to let them decide how they want it to look? What do they believe helps settle their minds and bodies? It might be a certain kind of music or a beloved song set to repeat. They might prefer being read to over reading to themselves or having their favorite blanket thrown in the dryer for a quick minute before crawling into bed. If they pick out their outfit for the next day, does that help them get their brain ready to shut down for the evening? Allow your kids to make some of these choices for themselves as you work together to create a sustainable routine. This becomes even more important as children age, so grant additional decision-making as they get older. Sometimes, simply letting kids tack on a couple of extra minutes to their official bedtime provides a sense of control that relieves bedtime resistance. The difference between 8:30 and 8:40 is a small but worthwhile concession to make, especially when it reduces the number of tears.
Bedtime routines are rarely a parent’s favorite part of the day; however, they don’t have to be the worst either. With a little predictability and some freedom of choice, lulling both babies and big kids to sleep can be just like a dream.