With summer looming around the corner, the days are becoming longer, our schedules are changing, and it seems the sun is working against our efforts to maintain bedtime order as the evenings become a time for play.
I don’t claim to have it all figured out. Bedtime at our home is often chaotic, but in the end, we do finally go to sleep, and there are a few tricks I have up my sleeve that help to get the job done.
Creating a Routine
What are some of the most important things you wish to accomplish before your children go to sleep? Make a list of them and create a bedtime chart. This was an idea I got from “The No-Cry Sleep Solution” by Elizabeth Pantley, and making the chart has been a real lifesaver for me. However, I don’t recommend spending hours pouring through magazines to find the perfect picture like I did. Your time is worth something too. I recommend doing an image search to find a good picture to represent your task and printing it out. My list consisted of
- Get a drink
- Bedtime snack
- Clean up the toys
- Story time
- Brush your teeth
- Go potty
- Hug Mommy and Daddy
- Say your prayers
- Go to sleep
In retrospect I would have added “Put on your pajamas”. Oh well. I made my chart by cutting out pictures and the title, pasting them on a colorful piece of cardstock, decorating it with stickers, then laminating it at a local office supply store.
Then I put velcro dots by each item. My permanent “stickers” were made by cutting out a variety of shapes, coloring and decorating them with stickers, laminating them, and putting the other side of the velcro dots on the back side. This chart was made in conjunction with my “Spackman Preschool” chart which is pictured here. The stickers are for this chart too. The bedtime chart has helped to remove me from being the bedtime dictator, and has reinforced that certain things just need to get done before we go to sleep.
One of the first things from our routine that we neglect is the “clean up the toys” item. My solution to this is to have a “bedtime activity” that requires a clean floor. Even if they don’t help me clean up, at least they are willing to part with their toys in anticipation of the activity. Autumn leaves and the math pond are two cases in point. But one of my children’s favorite is one we call “Twinkle, Twinkle little star.” The floor is cleared, I place some glow-in-the-dark plastic stars under a bright light, scatter them on the floor, turn off the light, and sing the classic nursery rhyme as the children giggle, run around the stars, or simply crawl to the nearest one and put it in their mouth, as the case may be. Extension activity: teach the different kinds of astronomical items if your stars are applicable. Vocabulary introduced to my little boy includes planet, rings, shooting star, galaxy, star, moon, gas giant, and Earth.
For the longest time, my ultimate bedtime plan was to nurse Helen to sleep and then to help Peter. Well, Helen has self-weaned because of my pregnancy, and I needed a new plan. She loves to be close to me and still needs some special attention before she goes to sleep at night. Massage has turned out to be my lifesaver in that endeavor. Peter enjoys our sessions too!
I have been to a few workshops on baby massage, and they have told me to use baby lotion or essential oils like lavender to help the child go to sleep. Sometimes I do this. But the thing that helps the most is to just do it. Almost always Helen gets a good foot rub and it really helps her relax. It is her “go to sleep” cue, and it usually works.
For my preschooler, I like to tell the farming story my Dad always did with me when I was little. First run your fingers down their back and tell them that you are plowing the fields. Then plant the seeds as if you were typing on their back. The rain comes down as your fingers become lighter. Then tell your child that the wheat has grown so tall, and you love to run your hand over the grass. Beginning at the shoulders, gently stroke the back downwards. Then finish your harvest by rubbing in just a little bit firmer for a grand finish.
Bedtime can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. We don’t have a set time that we go to bed, and admittedly, it’s usually rather late. But beginning the routine helps the children know that it’s time to wind down, and in the end, we all go fast asleep. Good luck with your summer schedules, and sweet dreams!