Bedtime can be a sweet time, but it can also be a hair-raising nightmare. Sometimes, the same old routine just doesn’t cut it for your little tiger who’s still bouncing off the walls 30 minutes after “lights out.” It is in those moments that you must get creative or risk getting committed to a psych ward.

So, here are six ways to break up the monotony of putting kids to bed while adding a bunch of fun. Same old, same old gets…well…old. If you’re stuck in the same routine each night and want to change things up, try one of these methods:

1. Jump out the wiggles.

Kids have energy. Lots of energy. Some kids simply walk past a piece of candy and start wiggling. They have a lot of energy because they’re so full of life. With that comes the test of a parent’s daily endurance. Oftentimes, parents feel more ready for bed than they are. OK, every time. Adding a set time to be intentionally active (WITH mom/dad) right before bed will help kids wind down in a fun and different way.

ACTION STEP: When bedtime approaches and the little ones are still racing from one end of the house to the other, try throwing every soft item in your living room, i.e. cushions, pillows, and blankets, into the middle of the floor. Honestly, the kids take it from there. It’s like lining the flooring underneath with magnets; kids simply have to pounce. You can also play music and join in the fun.

2.  Build a “Story Time Tent.”

Many families curl up on the couch to read bedtime stories, but sometimes children get wiggly or bored – or both.

ACTION STEP: Try constructing a tent with several chairs and a bed sheet. Line the floor of the tent with a blanket and some pillows. Turn out the lights, snuggle in, and read by flashlight. Kids love crawling into places that offer a new experience or some discovery. Imagination plays a big part in the fun. Kids just so happen to be experts in that department.

When we provide creative avenues in which our children can use their imagination, studies show that we’re actually helping them get a grip on reality. According to a study released on the Wall Street Journal, imagination is an integral tool for children as they learn about events that happened in other places in the world or in the past – events they couldn’t see. It also helps them wrestle with the proverbial question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

No flashlight in the house? Grab a flashlight app for your phone if the real thing isn’t handy.

3. Listen to audio books.

This option may not be as exhilarating as throwing a light switch rave or turning the house into a giant maze, but when you want the children to wind down, this can change things up. It also has a more important benefit. According to Tricia at The Domestic Fringe, routinely teaching your children to sit still and listen to audible books or songs helps them develop the patience to sit still in other settings like church, the doctor’s office, etc.

ACTION STEP: Designate a special reading area or reading chair for your child. Tricia recommends one hour each day if your goal is to train your child to sit still. Less time may be sufficient if you simply wish to add variety to storytime.

4. Get in on their game.

Do you remember that ridiculous video of a yoga class being led by a toddler? It looked like a fun workout as each adult tried to mimic the wild and sporadic movements of their tiny instructor. You can bet the child was having the time of his life. Imagine your own child leading in one of his or her games tonight. The Childhood Development Institute reports that playing with our kids tells them that we love them, and “it’s also a great stress reducer for overworked parents.”

ACTION STEP: Try putting down what you’re doing tonight, even if you’re tired, and playing what your children are playing. Get floor-level. You’ll be amazed what you’ll discover when they take the lead.

So often parents feel the need to monitor play time like we’re security guards on patrol. Give yourself permission to build a tower out of blocks or paint nails or jump into a pile of pillows tonight.

5. Let them scribble.

“Don’t write on that!” is a common expression in most households. You probably have planners and notebooks and perhaps a journal resting in various parts of your house. It’s alright for kids to learn that those items are off limits, but what if you permitted them to write or draw something special for you – under your guidance? According to the American Psychological Association, one very important responsibility for parents is to nurture children as they develop their own interests. Another way to say it is this:

“Parents and caregivers offer their children love, acceptance, appreciation, encouragement, and guidance. They provide the most intimate context for the nurturing and protection of children as they develop their personalities and identities and also as they mature physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially.” – APA

ACTION STEP: Your challenge is to sit down with your children before bed and let them write a special note in your notebook or journal. Give them the freedom to express themselves in a way they normally don’t get to.

For example:

Your children can dictate a story, draw a picture, sign their name, tell you about their day, or just scribble. If they’re too young to draw, trace their handprint and label it with your child’s name, age and the date.

Someday, you will flip through that journal, see their scrawlings, and it will be a cherished memory. Or you’ll burst out laughing. These are both excellent reasons to try this.

Don’t have a journal?  Grab a spiral bound notebook and start one.

6. Skype with friends and family.

Many families have at least one parent who works evenings. It can be hard to miss so many good night hugs and kisses from one’s children. Research also says the irregular night shifts so many parents face has the potential to impact a child’s development. To help combat that, start a new routine at bedtime.

ACTION STEP: Depending on your significant other’s occupation, schedule Skype or FaceTime dates to let the children speak with their working dad or mom before bed. This also works great for out of town grandparents or cousins (who are also getting ready for bed. See the added benefit?).

Routine and structure are great things, but sometimes life calls for a change up. For the sake of your sanity and that of your amazing kids, try something new tonight.

What are some ways you’ve spiced up an old routine to make it fun for everyone?

Featured photo credit: 137 – Look Up! / David D. via flickr.com

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