I love my youngest dearly but he’s go go go all day long, which can make it really difficult come bedtime. No matter how much you love your kids, sometimes mama just needs them to go to sleep without a thousand complaints and delays. Every kid is different; some of mine went to bed easily and others, well, not so much. My youngest child falls into the latter category, so I’ve had to find some strategies that will help him wind down at the end of the day and make bedtime less of a battle. The more well rested he is, the easier the mornings are too so there’s a definite benefit for a smooth (and relatively early) bedtime. Here are some tips for smoother bedtime transitions for your preschooler and kindergartener.
Tips to Make Bedtime Easier
- As much as possible, try to have a consistent bedtime every night. Sure there will be special occasions where bedtime gets pushed later, but they should be the exception not the rule.
- Allow enough time to do the things that need to be done before bed so it’s not a rush. Most kids in this age group need between ten and twelve hours of sleep a night. So to find bedtime, figure out what time your child needs to be asleep by, and work backwards. Your timing will be based on how long it takes to do all the things that need to be done before bed. So if brushing teeth takes 20 minutes, then you need to add an extra 20 minutes into your schedule for that. If your kid complains that it’s too early to start getting ready for bed, you can explain that if they show you they can do it more quickly for 3 nights in a row, you will start the bedtime routine later.
- Have a predictable bedtime routine. Having a routine will help your child be able to anticipate getting ready for bed. Even if your schedule changes, if your child knows there’s an extra 20 minutes in the bedtime routine on certain days for bathtime, they’re less likely to fight it. You can create a picture chart of the steps in their bedtime routine so your child can help be responsible for doing all of the things on the list. A sample list could be getting on PJs, brushing teeth, washing their face, using the toilet, getting a drink of water, and picking out a story. This also will lessen the amount of nagging you need to do – a win-win in my books!
- Anticipate and eliminate the delaying tactics. If you incorporated the usual delay tactics your kid tries to use into your schedule, it should help avoid the “I’m thirsty / need to pee / one more story” requests that can push bedtime back later and later. As kids get older, books get longer so I like to set a 10 or 15 minute limit to bedtime stories. Sometimes it’s a chapter of a book, sometimes it’s 2 short books, but when time’s up, we wrap up what we’re reading and it’s lights out.
- Wind them down. The hour before you start your bedtime routine should be as calm as possible. With evening activities, it isn’t always easy, but limiting electronics on the ride home is a good start. At home, limit electronics after dinner. Roughhousing or other rambunctious games can make it hard for kids to be calm enough for bedtime so those should be before dinner activities.
I love my little ball of energy all of the time, but when he goes to bed without a fuss and wakes up on the right side of the bed because he had enough sleep, we’re both much happier.