Parenting Perspective: Lights out!

October 7, 2010

You can't really blame the little ones, they are just beginning to really interact with the world around them. In addition walking and running has given them a new sense of independence. Toddlers are little explorers who can't wait to wake up each morning and discover new things. The problem is not getting them out of bed to start their day - it's getting them in bed to end it.

In addition to their non-stop minds at work, there are probably a few things going on. For example, around a year old some toddlers experience separation anxiety. When mommy or daddy leave the room they-re just not sure when they are coming back. It happens when parents leave for work or leave the bedroom for the night. So how do you make bedtime more pleasant and less of a battle?

Well I've found routine is important (as it is with most things). But also having some familiar surrounds or rituals so your toddler knows when it's time to give his or her busy body a good night's sleep.

There are a few things I make sure we always do about a half hour before bedtime - that's a bath. It's soothing, relaxing and if you make an effort to make bath time the same time every night, the toddler will know what's coming.

After bedtime, a small snack and a cup of milk are also on the menu. One, the milk is nutritious and if you pick a healthy snack like a sliced apple or a few crackers you don't have to worry about what sugar might do as you try to deactivate "the go mode".

Of course, story time is always a part of the bedtime ritual. Although I've found at this age, getting through an entire book can be a challenge.

Here's a trick that really helps: White noise. You can either buy a sound machine or a very loud fan - either works. The noise not only blocks out other noises in the house but it's very soothing. It's also another cue that the lights are going out (hopefully a full 12 hours).

Here are some other tips I found from that may help prep the little ones for bedtime. Remember you might as well enjoy it - before you know it, you won't be able to get them out of bed!

This one is appreciated by those as young as 2: Hide all your child's getting-ready-for-bed props throughout the house, but in the general direction of his bedroom. Hang pajamas on the coat rack (when he finds them, he has to put them on right there); hide his toothbrush and paste in the refrigerator (he then goes to the bathroom and uses them); place a favorite doll or stuffed animal under a table, and his book on the stairs. Once your child has made it to the last item, he'll have gotten ready for bed almost without knowing it.

At the end of the day, nagging about left-out toys is as tiring as it is ineffective. Instead, do a quick survey of what needs picking up. Then announce a scavenger hunt and arm your kids with baskets or bags. Tell the players - who need only be old enough to walk - which items to search for, calling them out one by one. At the end of the scavenger hunt, players have to put the items away in the correct places (young kids will of course, need some help). If everyone cooperates, you might provide a little prize, such as an extra story.

Fresh air can be invigorating for you at the same time that it's exhausting for your child; in other words, a perfect before-bedtime combo. Susan Reichert of Euclid, OH, has been walking with her son in the evenings since babyhood, in all but the most frigid conditions. Over the years, Connor has progressed from cooing in his stroller to riding his bike while Mom and Dad walk briskly alongside him. "It's a great way for my husband and me to talk, and for Connor to get some exercise," she says. My own family's nightly strolls were so much a part of our evening that if the hour was late and the walk looked threatened, my youngest would consent to getting completely ready for bed, then being pulled in a blanket-cushioned wagon in her pj's while we all talked about our day.

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