How To Help Your Child Go To Sleep: Bedtime Tips

How To Help Your Child Go To Sleep: Bedtime Tips

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Now that school has been in full swing for about a month, there is one common thread I hear while chatting with other mommas. The dreaded BEDTIME.  Yep, it can be a bitch.  And let’s face it, if your child isn’t sleeping, you aren’t sleeping.  This not only interferes with your sleep, but can also seriously interfere with your work.  This may be especially true if you work from the house, have a side hustle, or are building a new business and need to work when your child goes to bed. It can also impact your time to wind down, have “me” time, or spend quality time with your partner. For your kiddos, lack of enough sleep may result in behavioral issues and difficulty learning. In short, it’s tough stuff when your kids won’t go to bed. Everyone feels cranky, emotions run wild, and over-reactions to little problems happen frequently (oh, yeah, the kids overact as well).  😉

Do one or more of the following scenarios sound familiar? Your sweet boy has been in a good mood throughout dinner and is now starting to get sleepy. That’s perfect because bedtime is 15 minutes away.  You’ve given sweet, sleepy boy the 15-minute warning.  Sweet boy then suddenly looks like a live wire zapped him as his eyes open wider and he begins running through the house and jumping on furniture, yelling at the top of his lungs that he’s not tired at all!  Little Jane suddenly announces she’s thirsty and hungry and remembers homework she has to do TONIGHT or her teacher will “literally kill her”. The toddler?  He cooperates with getting into jammies and bed but then proceeds to crawl out of bed laughing the whole time for the next 2 flippin’ hours.  Oh yeah, this could drive you to drink.  It can certainly cause us mommas to dread bedtime, that time of the day when our children “turn”.

Don’t worry, I have some tips on how to support your kiddos in going to sleep before the roosters start crowing. First of all, please know it’s not uncommon for children to test boundaries at bedtime. You are not alone in this tough struggle, and while there aren’t always “easy” fixes, the following strategies are important to have in your “toolbox”.

In this post we will explore strategies from 2 main areas: cognitive/behavioral strategies and sensory strategies. You will benefit from consistently using several strategies from each category to form the nighttime routine. These strategies are for use with toddlers and children of all ages.  They are not for use with infants.

Cognitive/Behavioral Strategies:

  • Post a visual schedule of the bedtime routine, perhaps in the bathroom your child uses.  You can make your own, or look for a free one online.  (Heads up, I’ll be posting a variety of visual bedtime schedules in a few days.  Check back soon).
  • Consistent routine.  Seriously, consistency is KEY.
  • Go over expectations with your kiddo before implementing. Nothing lengthy or emotional; just go over the new rules.
  • You may need to gradually back up the bedtime to get to the ideal time.  This is called bedtime fading.
  • Stop tv and tech at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Give a 10 or 15 minute “heads-up”.  Time Timers are great to use with young kids.
  • Positive behavior chart.  This is a reward chart for your child following the bedtime routine.  The reward might be a sticker, or you could choose to have the child work toward a larger reward.  For example, “After you earn 3 stickers, you can choose a toy from the special toy basket”. (You have purchased toys from the Dollar Tree or Target Dollar spot ahead of time and placed them in a basket).

Sensory Strategies:

  • Turn off tv and tech at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime.
  • Start to turn down dimmer switch 15-30 min prior to bedtime.
  • If you don’t have a dimmer switch, turn off overhead light & turn on lamps.
  • Warm bath
  • Use essential oils or fragrances that are calming, such as lavender and chamomile (bath wash, body lotion, diffuser).
  • Comfortable pajamas and bedding. Remove tags if they bother the child.
  • Cool room
  • Bedtime yoga
  • Breathing: 2 deep breaths
  • Deep pressure/heavy work activities (proprioceptive input) have a calming and organizing effect on the nervous system. Incorporate such activity 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime.  Examples include bear hugs or pushing a box of stuffed animals (with books in the bottom of the box for weight) down the hall to their bedroom.
  • Calming music, such as nature sounds or classical music.
  • White noise (repetitive low frequency).
  • Tent bed
  • Stuffed animal or pillow cocoon (Do not use with a baby or very young child who cannot move in the bed easily due to risk of SIDs).
  • Bedtime story
  • Soft stuffy or favorite cuddly blanket to hold during the bedtime story.
  • Weighted blanket or heavy quilt (but do not cover the face or overheat).
  • Use your own voice to demonstrate slowing down, becoming calmer, more monotone.

Additional Tips:

  • Stay calm (at least your outer demeanor), keep a calm voice, don’t argue.
  • Broken record: Once it’s time for your child to be in bed, when he /she tries to talk with you about something else say, “We’ll talk about that tomorrow”.  Just keep saying that same thing.
  • Remember that kiddos will try to bend, stretch, and break every rule in a variety of ways…stay consistent and determined.  This is KEY.
  • A child’s protests often increase at the beginning of a new routine implementation.  This is normal and will likely pass.
  • Even if you have tried several of these strategies in the past, please hear me…it’s using a combination of them and finding the right combination for your child that makes all the difference.  That, and your consistency with the routine.  Hang in there; don’t give up.

Sample Routine To Get You Started:

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I’ll get you started with a sample routine…Let’s say you have a 6 year old whose bedtime is 7:30pm but he has been staying up regularly until 9:00pm.  Rather than initially setting the new bedtime for 7:30pm, start with 8:30pm.  After 2-3 weeks, back it up to 8:00pm, then eventually to 7:30pm.  Implement the following:

  • Make a visual schedule (just draw pics on paper or print out a freebie).
  • Make a reward chart (this can be as simple as drawing circles for stickers on a sheet of paper).
  • Go over the schedule and reward chart with your kiddo.
  • 30 minutes before bedtime turn tv and tech off. Redirect to quiet activities.
  • Turn off overhead light and turn on lamp.
  • Turn on calming music.
  • Get in some proprioceptive (deep pressure/heavy work) activity: Play a game where you give each other bear hugs for 5-10 seconds each. Then you each give yourselves bear hugs. You could even make up a sweet bear story to go along with this).
  • Give a 15 minute “heads up”.  You could use a time timer so there is a visual.
  • Walk with your kiddo to bed and turn on a diffuser with lavender or chamomile.
  • While your child holds or rubs a soft stuffed animal or blanket, you read a bedtime story in a calm, somewhat monotone voice.

Remember that a combination of strategies is frequently needed and that often involves some trial and error.  And then of course, as your child grows the strategies might need to be tweaked as well.  But you know what?  That’s okay because we are strong mommas and you have some kick-ass strategies in your tool belt! (And then there’s wine…).

If you continue to struggle with bedtime or feel your family needs extra help, reach out to your pediatrician, local pediatric occupational therapist, a counselor, or your county’s public health department for assistance.

-Kristen M. Rodgers

Back-To-School and BatShit Crazy

Back-To-School and BatShit Crazy

Does back-to-school have you feeling BatShit Crazy? Not to worry momma, you are not alone.  And there is help. Based on a recent study (that included myself and three other tired, BatShit Crazy mommas), we have found proven ways to move from BatShit Crazy to “I Can Make It One More Day Before I Lose My Shit”. The effective treatments?  I’m so glad you asked…

The 1st treatment is a simple 5-step process:

  1. Open a bottle of wine.
  2. Drink from the bottle of wine.
  3. Pass to the friend on your right.
  4. Continue this process until said bottle of wine is empty.
  5. Repeat as needed.

The 2nd treatment involves a high-end gym. (By high-end, I mean they have childcare and allow members to bring guests). Now wait, hear me out…even if you are on a tight budget (raising my hand), you can make this happen.

  1. Make friends with a momma who is a member of aforementioned high-end gym.  Yes, you can do this.  It’s for your sanity.  If you don’t want a new friend, see step #1a.                                                                                                                                                 (#1a.Tell the momma that if she doesn’t invite you, you’ll have to visit her at her home frequently to feel relaxed. You’ll get an invitation to the gym verrrrry quickly).
  2. With your invitation, go to the gym and drop your kids off at the gym childcare. Tell your kids you are going to exercise. Make sure you look miserable.
  3. Lounge by the pool with music or a good book.  Can you remember the last time you were able to lounge by the pool?  I couldn’t either until yesterday when a friend took me to her gym! Heaven.

*Side note: Do not, under any circumstances, pick your kids up in a bathing suit cover-up and wet hair.  Even if they are young. I did this. The 4 year-old busted me.

The 3rd treatment for tired, BatShit Crazy mommas is as follows:

  1. Buy and hide a chocolate bar. Don’t hide it in your tampon box.  Kids (and husbands) are getting wise to this spot.  Hide it in an empty box of prunes.  No one will look there.
  2. When the time comes, make sure you are wearing yoga pants. Trust me.
  3. Loudly announce your stomach hurts and get out the box of prunes.
  4. Quickly, place the chocolate bar in the waistband of your yoga pants. Cover with shirt.
  5. Casually walk through the house and into the bathroom with the chocolate in your waistband. Because you have complained about your stomach, and “taken prunes”, you will have approximately 2.3 minutes of uninterrupted time. Enjoy!

Keep hanging in there, BatShit Crazy mommas! You are amazing!

-Kristen M. Rodgers

7 Easy Last Minute Easter Activities

 

YOU GUYS, I totally let Easter sneak up on me and didn’t prep amazing crafts and activities for my kiddo to do this weekend!! But hey, this happens to most of us at some point.  Honestly, it happens to me quite often and I’m okay with that.  Because, ladies, we are creative, flexible thinkers. Whether we like it or not 😉  Here are some simple, on-the-fly-but -super-fun Easter activities to do with your kids when you didn’t plan in advance…

Make “bunny rabbit tails” by blowing bubbles.  Try to catch 2 bubbles on the bubble wand…those are bunny ears!

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Take construction paper and draw egg shapes or crosses.  Next, cut out strips of different colored construction paper.  If you have a hole punch, use it to make tiny dots from colored paper.  If you have decorative paper punches or craft scissors with wavy lines, score!  If the kids are old enough, let them draw, cut, and use the punches. They are having fun with an Easter craft while you are sneaking in hand strengthening and visual motor coordination.

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Use sidewalk chalk in the driveway or yard to draw Easter eggs, crosses, an angel, or the tomb with a stone rolled away.  You can work on simple patterns as well (example: 1 pink zig zag, 1 green zig zag, 2 polka dots, repeat).

If you have plastic eggs, use them to make an awesome Easter activity. Write a variety of directions (mostly movement activities) on strips of paper and place 1 into each egg.  For example, you could write, “Hop like a bunny rabbit”, “walk and cheep like a baby chick”, “roll like an Easter egg”.  You could also include things like, “Draw a carrot in the dirt.  Draw it with your eyes closed” (did you know you just worked on awareness of the body in space?).  You are rockin’ it momma!

Use sidewalk chalk to draw a picture of a bunny head with ears but leave out a few body parts (maybe 1 ear and half the whiskers).  Have your kids fill in the missing parts (this addresses visual perceptual skills).

If you forgot to buy the egg coloring kits at the store, no worries.  If you have food coloring, eggs, vinegar, and a spoon & cup at home, you’re good to go.  (Just like when we were kids, am I right?) You can also draw or write on the eggs with a white crayon before dying.  The dye won’t cling to the white crayon…it’s like magic to little kids!  You can use this as a way to work on writing their name or words.

If you have plastic eggs (or the ones you dyed are dry), you are all set to hide Easter eggs.  This will entertain the kids for a long time!  And no, you do not have to put candy in those eggs.  There is a joy in finding the eggs just as they are.

And that’s all there is to it.  It doesn’t matter that you didn’t plan ahead. You are creating wonderful memories with your kiddos while having a blast!

Happy Easter!

— Kristen Rodgers