Plan It Out: Kids thrive when they know what to expect. If your kids are old enough, sit down and create a routine together, a visual chart can be very helpful for pre-readers.
Work Backward: Look at your bed time routine estimate and how long it will take to complete all of the tasks. Then, work backward from the ideal bedtime for your kids. This may mean that you start the bedtime routine as early as 5:30 or 6:00! If this doesn’t work for your family’s schedule, change the number of things included in the bed time routine.
Start Before They are Tired: Kids can become over tired, which makes it harder for them to calm down. It may seem easier to let your kids stay up later, so they will be more tired, but once your kids are too tired they might be unable to function without a meltdown.
Limit Screen Time: No screen time at least 30 minutes before bedtime. This also means not letting them fall asleep with TV or Ipads. It may mean that the whole family needs to turn off the TV for a while until your child is in bed.
Gradually Calm Down: Most kids can’t go from running around the yard to relaxing for a bed. Tweak your bedtime routine so that the most relaxing things are at the end. See what’s most calming for your child. Every child is different and bath time, snacks or even reading can be energizing depending on the child.
Create a Clutter Free Space for Sleep: Make sleep the main focus of the bedroom. Limit clutter, extra toys or other distractions. Choose nightlights or low watt bulbs in lamps. Have your child pick a few things that make them feel safe, calm and snugly in their bed.
Teach Kids To Relax: Both anxious and energetic kids can benefit from learning how to relax their bodies for sleep. Focus on having calm, quiet, relaxed bodies, rather than forcing sleep. Some kids enjoy relaxing music, visualizations, audio books or white noise or to say a prayer.
Ideas for a Fun Bed Time Routine:
Create a Little Ritual Specific to Your Child: This may be hiding a few stuffed animals for them in their room they usually take to bed with them. After they find them they can lay down with them together.
Read “Bedtime” Books: Every child is different but using some of the same books to signal “bed time” can be very helpful. Reading about going to bed can be helpful as well.
Some of our favorites are:
“The Going-To-Bed Book” by Sandra Boynton
“Pajama Time!” by Sandra Boynton
“If Animals Kissed Good Night” by Ann Whitford
“The Wonderful Things You Will Be” by Emily Winfield Martin
“Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown
“I Love You to the Moon and Back” by Amelia Hepworth
“Pete the Cat and the Bedtime Blues” by James Dean
Story Telling Prompts: Another great activity for toddlers and older kids are Story Telling Prompts. They are not just a great family activity that calms your little one before bedtime but helps build vocabulary, imagination and creativity.
First, print off the storytelling prompts, think about what your child is most interested in and tailor each prompt accordingly. After printing them (or just writing them on a piece of paper) put them in a jar. Some examples that worked well for our “Story Telling Prompts” are:
-One day a family of cats went shopping for a new family pet…
-Pete the Cat got up this morning and was very excited about…
-Sofia found a treasure chest – what was inside the chest?
-Three little pigs invited a little girl over for dinner…
-When the phone rang this morning the kids found out it was a snow day…
Have each person that’s involved in this activity pull a prompt from the jar. Spend some time creating and listening to stories together.
To have a few key questions on hand in case the storyteller becomes stuck can be helpful:
What did you see?
What did you hear?
What did you smell?
Who else is there?
What does the room/space look like?
How do you feel?
Where did you go?
This activity can be enjoyed by children of all ages and doing this with more than one child might prompt the participants to help each other out if they get stuck while telling the story. Building and sharing stories as a family is great fun.
Good Thoughts before Bed: Fill your child with good thoughts before they go to bed. Ask them about their favorite part of the day, praise them for a good deed and/or pray with them.
“Thank you for the food we eat
Thank you for the friends we meet
Thank you for our work and play
Thank you for this happy day”