Updated: Feb 21
Transitions can be tough for most kids, transitions between playtime and clean up and/or bedtime in particular. During summer many families get into different routines and get used to a later bedtime, and now that school year is approaching, you might be wondering how to win in the battle of earlier bedtime...
Setting Yourself Up for Success
Setting routines is truly important to help our little ones with their moods and to get them adjusted to school/preschool. Many parents struggle with setting boundaries around this and allow kids to go to bed later for a while, thus often catching themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and moodiness. Using playfulness turns off alarm system of their brain and helps children feel safe and secure, on the same side with us rather than fighting us - so less likely to protest and more likely to engage.
Here is a few pointers to help you make transition to bedtime happen in peace, both using playfulness and common sense!
1️⃣ If you see it as a battle, you are already on the losing side. Remember that your child and you are really on the same side, and they aren't fighting bedtime just to get to you - they are simply engaged in their activity, their body likely adjusted to a different routine during summer, and they can't understand reasoning quite yet because of brain immaturity.
2️⃣ Set timers and give several "warnings" that you are going to bed in 15-10-5-1 minute. This approach can be extremely helpful with some kids, though not everyone - but worth giving it a try.
3️⃣ Calm yourself down first. Do a few exhales, yoga, pranayama, or just drink some soothing tea before starting your bedtime ritual - whatever helps you cool off. Our limbic system affects our children's limbic system and if you are frustrated before you even announce that it's bedtime and getting ready for a battle, you'll definitely get one.
4️⃣ Make sure their schedule during the day makes sense for earlier bedtime. Yes, some kids can nap 3-5 even at age 5, and then be ready for bed at 8, but those cases are extremely rare, so shorten the nap, or say no to it for kids 3+ if after taking a nap you can’t put them down until 10 p.m.
5️⃣ Finally, use PLAY. Using playfulness for transitions, including to bedtime, as mentioned above, turns off the alarm center of the brain and helps children feel safe and secure - so less likely to protest and more likely to engage!
Here is a few options:
🦶🏻Add this fun math game to help your child transition to bed! Ask "Can you predict how many steps it will take to get to your bed?" As you walk, count each step as you go. Next time change it up by taking tiny steps or GIANT steps. Or talk about why the total number of steps might be more or less depending on how far you step!
🚂 Choo choo train: All aboard! Let your child stand on your feet as you walk him or her to bed as you stop for the "stations": a snack, teeth brushing, good night to a favorite toy - you name it. The final destination is bed.
🐰 Offer a playful choice: "It's time for bed! Would you rather hop like a bunny or crawl like a snake?" Waddling like a penguin, flying like a bird, hopping like a froggy are all valid options as well! Only offer two options at a time, having more than 2-3 options at younger ages can be overwhelming, and then you can always alternate the next day. You can also let them pick between two pajamas, two different books to read or a couple of lullabies to listen to!
🛶 Let’s get in our canoe and row-row-row our boat to bed! You can turn on (or sing) the song as you go as well! If your kid is into transportation, you can change up your options on a daily basis. Like “buckle up brum-brum-brum, time to drive upstairs and off to Dreamland now!”
Do your kids struggle with bedtime? What works the best for them? What about you - how do you handle bedtime? Any other transitions that you struggle with?