You’ve checked off their back-to-school list, and the kids have everything they need to excel day in and day out. There’s only one thing left do; tackle the bedtime routine. While kids might not (ever) voluntarily wave the white flag, we have a few ideas (from experts and parents like you!) to make this battle a winning one. Scroll down to see them all. 

photo: Tess Dixon via Flickr 

1. Make it clear. For kids of all ages, and especially younger ones, narrate the sleep plan. Set a timer on your phone for each step, so they understand that when the timer goes off, they’re moving on to the next part of the bedtime routine. For children who respond better to visual cues, try creating a chart or a book that illustrates the steps. No matter which form you choose to communicate the message, kids will appreciate the transparency and won’t ever feel caught off guard.

photo: Ayren Jackson-Cannady

2. Power down and turn up. Unplug all visual electronic devices at least 1 hr before bedtime (including parents’ devices).  Not only are screens distracting, but screen time before bed has been linked with less sleep and higher BMIs in kids. Make this special family time, and encourage kids to listen to music or play bedtime games.  There’s nothing like a dance party to get the last bit of wiggles out!

photo: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

3. Empower them. Just like school, bedtime is another part of your kid’s day that is dictated by someone else. Give kids a chance to assert themselves and allow them to choose things like their pajamas and the books they want to read. By articulating their preference, children feel they have at least some control over their day.

photo: Shane Stroud via Flickr 

4. Simmer down now. Before tucking kiddos in for the night, set aside 15 – 30 minutes to wind down. If bedtime is 8 p.m. start this process at 7:30 p.m. Within that window do whatever calming and soothing activities your child desires.  Be present at this time and give your child your undivided attention. It’s a wonderful time for parents (especially working parents) to bond with their kids. Share stories with each other about what happened during the day.

photo: courtesy gratisography

5. Disarm any fear. Kids are afraid of two things at night; the dark and missing out. Both impulses are equally strong and expertly negotiated by little ones. Are your kids prolonging bedtime because they’re afraid of the dark? Make a fun game of quietly checking the room with a flashlight for any “monsters” in the closet or under the bed. Does your child have a serious case of FOMO? Explain that when you leave the room, you’re going to start your own wind-down process and get ready for bed soon. If that elicits an eye roll, remind them of what they love most about school, and that the sooner they go to sleep, the sooner tomorrow will come!

photo: Dustin Blakeley via Flickr

6. Don’t budge. Most kids who ask for one more bite of food or sip of water aren’t famished or parched, they’re simply stalling. They are masters at drawing you back in. Set boundaries and be diligent about enforcing them. Whenever appropriate, leave a glass of water bedside to ward off thirst. Getting back into the swing of things is tough for kids but if you remain patient and firm, a peaceful bedtime routine will come together in no time.

photo: Shelley Massey

7. Consistency is key. Above all else, be consistent! According to Jill Spivak, Co-Founder of Sleepy Planet Parenting: “The sooner your child readjusts to a school-time sleep-schedule, the better he or she will feel during those early morning classes.” To ensure the routine is consistent, do it at the same time and in the same order every night. And choose a bedtime a bit earlier than you might think. Studies show that earlier bedtimes promote health, good sleep hygiene, and cognitive skills.

—Janelle Connor



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