I have a love-hate relationship with bedtime. I love the cuddles and snuggles and reviewing the day with my 4-year-old. However, I don’t like the battles and clever (or not so clever) barrage of reasons I receive to delay going to bed. Bedtime can be especially challenging during the summer. With sprinklers, playgrounds, friends, and excitement it can be hard for kids and grown-ups to stick to schedules and bedtimes. Fear not, a few clever tactics can help get your family back into a bedtime routine in no time.
1. Invest in black out shades. Let’s be honest: It’s hard to make the argument that it’s time for bed when it’s bright and sunny out. For this reason, black out shades go a long way. They signal to your child that the room is dark and it’s bedtime. As an added bonus they can help keep your child from giving you a wake-up call at the crack of dawn.
2. Settle things down before bedtime. After an exciting day, both children and adults need time to unwind. It’s unreasonable to expect your child to hop straight into the bath and then bed the second you walk into the house. They will likely need some veg time. Avoid stimulating activities and wild time at least 30 minutes before bed.
3. Use a timer to make it clear when story time is over. Young children are very concrete and don’t have much sense of time, so it helps to have visual cues. If your child is too young to recognize numbers, try using a kitchen timer. Have him set it with you and explain that once it rings it’s time for you to leave the room (and him to go to sleep). For older children who can recognize numbers, you can use a digital clock. My 4-year-old knows that when the clock says “seven-three-zero” mommy leaves the room. I let him choose if he wants books, stories, or songs. When it’s 7:25 p.m., I give him a five-minute warning so he knows that we are going to wrap up soon.
4. Stick to the same routine every night. Humans and especially children are creatures of habit. Try to maintain your nighttime routine through the summer months as well. Keep bedtime at the same time. By doing the same thing every night it helps your child know what to expect and signals to her that it’s time for bed. Routines also make it easier to get back into the bedtime groove when you return from vacation or a special event. You can even make a chart that maps out your bedtime routine to provide visual cues for your child at bedtime.
5. Involve your child in bedtime by giving small choices. Young children love to feel in charge and make choices. However, if given too many options they get overwhelmed. The key to the sweet spot is to not offer more than two choices. For example, ask “Do you want to wear your train pajamas or your truck pajamas?” By involving your child in the process, he will be less likely to protest when it’s time for bed.
As with most things, consistency is key. Try and do the same thing every night; hopefully, at least one of these tips will help you get your child to bed on time so you can have some “me time!”