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6 Ways For Parents to Add More Family Fun Before Bedtime

6 Ways For Parents to Add More Family Fun Before Bedtime

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Published on May 21, 2021

Bedtimes For Kids At Different Ages (Your Go-To Guide)

Bedtimes For Kids At Different Ages (Your Go-To Guide)

Bedtimes for kids might be one of the most challenging parts of the day. Parents are tired and ready to relax, while kids of all ages seem to find extra energy and want nothing to do with sleep. One more story, one more trip to the bathroom, and one more question quickly make for a late-night, and no one gets the rest they need.

If this happens often, you might start wondering if you and your child are getting the proper amount of sleep and how to make bedtime easier. Why is it so crucial for your child to get enough sleep? What does sleep deprivation look like? How do you improve bedtimes for kids?

How Sleep Impacts Your Child’s Health

Whether young or old, sleep is a vital part of staying healthy. There are many benefits to getting the right amount of sleep while not getting enough can have negative consequences. How does it impact your child?[1]

  • Brain Function – Sleep is linked to certain brain functions such as concentration, productivity, and cognition. These all impact a child’s behavior and academic success.
  • Weight – Sleep patterns affect the hormones responsible for appetite. A lack of sleep interferes with the ability to regulate food intake, making overeating more likely.
  • Physical Performance – Sleep impacts a person’s physical abilities. Proper rest means better performance, concentration, energy, mental clarity, and faster speed.
  • Physical Health – There are many ways sleep promotes health. Sleep heals the body but also helps prevent disease and health issues. Getting proper rest will regulate blood pressure, help prevent heart disease, reduce chances of sleep apnea, reduce inflammation, boost immune system, and lower risk of weight gain.
  • Improve Mental Health – A lack of sleep has a negative impact on mood and social and emotional intelligence. A child not getting proper sleep is more likely to experience depression, lack empathy and be unaware of other people’s emotions and reactions.

Sleep, Risky Behavior, and Teens

Studies found that teens were more likely to engage in risky behavior when they are sleep-deprived. They’ll have problems regulating their mood, making them more short-tempered, aggressive, and impulsive. Their inability to self-regulate can even look like the symptoms of ADHD.[2]

Sleep deprivation becomes hazardous when teens are driving. The impulsiveness and risk-taking, along with exhaustion, put them at a higher risk for accidents. In fact, driving tired is comparable to driving with a blood alcohol content of .08.[3]

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You can see why sleep is so essential to everyone’s health, but how much is needed? What do pediatricians recommend? Is it the same for all ages?

Sleep Recommendations From Pediatricians

Sleep requirements vary by age. It won’t be the same for every individual. Some people find that they need more sleep than others.

Here is a basic guideline of what pediatricians now recommend:[4]

  • Ages 4-12 months: 12-16 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (including naps)
  • Age 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
  • Age 13-18 years: 8-10 hours

Increase the amount of sleep if your child isn’t thriving on the recommended amount.

Signs Your Child Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep

There are ways to tell if your child is getting adequate sleep beyond the usual grumpiness. Here are specific things to watch out for:[5]

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  • Excessive sleepiness during the day
  • Difficulty waking up on time
  • Hyperactivity
  • Depression
  • Inattention
  • Mood swings
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Impulse control

As you can see, prolonged lack of sleep can cause relational problems and hinder your child’s ability to do well in school. What can you do if you realize your child is not getting enough sleep? How can you improve bedtimes for your kids?

How to Set Up a Bedtime Routine

Sleep hygiene or a bedtime schedule will help your child fall asleep faster. It will also improve the quality of sleep. You will need to adjust to what works for your family, but the following suggestions can help everyone have a more pleasant bedtime.

For Babies

Most people think they have to let their baby “cry it out” at bedtime. However, there are ways you can teach a baby to sleep without tears, making the experience more pleasant for everyone. In fact, studies show the faded bedtime method—or gentle sleep training—is just as effective as leaving a baby to cry but without the stress.[6] What is gentle sleep training?

Gentle Sleep Training

This method eases babies and young children into falling asleep on their own. There are two ways to do this:

1. Positive Routines With Faded Bedtime

Kids learn to fall asleep easily by using comforting, quiet, and predictable rituals, up to twenty minutes long. The key is to choose a bedtime that’s not too early. A child that isn’t tired will only fight sleep.

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Start the process when your baby or child is sleepy, even if it’s later than you’d prefer. You’ll notice a pattern and quickly discover the time they naturally start winding down. Make this their bedtime for now. They will learn to associate sleep with the routine, and you’ll be able to start fifteen to twenty minutes earlier to slowly adjust their schedule.

2. Sleep With Parental Presence

With this method, you lie down with your baby or child until they fall asleep. Over time, you pay less attention to your child, gradually sitting up, then sitting in a chair. Eventually, your child will be able to sleep without you. A study showed that using this method helped infants sleep longer and wake up less.[7]

Both of these ways take time but are effective and less traumatic than leaving an infant or young child to cry.

More Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep Better

You want to build a routine, but how? What are practical things you can do to help your baby get ready for bed?

Here are tips for a soothing and calm bedtime:[8]

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  • Help set their “internal clock” by exposing them to natural daylight, daytime activities, and the calmness of evening.
  • Block blue light exposure.
  • Make the hour up to bedtime calm, peaceful, and pleasant.
  • Learn how to keep stress minimal for you and your baby.
  • Don’t force sleep. It will increase anxiety and make rest more difficult.
  • Avoid late afternoon naps
  • Prolong the time between nap and bedtime.
  • Feed baby right before bed.
  • Avoid intervening too soon if the baby starts to wake up. Give your child a chance to fall back asleep without your help.

For Elementary-Aged Children

It’s easier to follow a routine if you start young, but it’s never too late to begin. The good news is it only takes a few nights to notice an improvement in your child’s sleep.

These ideas will help you set up a schedule that will encourage your child to fall asleep easier, faster, and for a more extended period.[9]

  • Offer them a nutritious snack.
  • Bathe them.
  • Brush their teeth and go to the bathroom.
  • Read them a story.
  • Sing them a song.
  • Cuddle or massage them.
  • Talk about the day.

For best results, choose a handful of activities and do them in the same order each night. Dim the lights and keep activity minimal to help everyone slow down.

For Teens

They might fight the idea of getting more sleep, but teens will benefit from a routine, too. They’re usually capable of overseeing their bedtime, but a little structure and oversight can help them get the sleep they need. By implementing the following tips, your teen can get better rest.[10]

  • Avoid caffeine in the evening.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Avoid late-night binging.
  • Exercise, ideally sixty minutes a day.
  • Keep the bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
  • Talk through problems.

Quality Sleep for a Healthy Life

Bedtimes for kids can be an enjoyable part of the day with proper sleep hygiene in place. Not only can it be quality time with your child, but it can also set them on the road to good health and high performance. By implementing these tips, you can ensure proper rest for the whole family and better bedtimes for kids.

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Featured photo credit: Igordoon Primus via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Medical News Today: Why Sleep Is Essential For Health
[2] Child Mind Institute: Teens And Sleep: The Cost Of Sleep Deprivation
[3] Depart of Health: Drowsy Driving Prevention, Teens Ages 16 To 19
[4] AAP publications: AAP Endorses New Recommendations On Sleep Times
[5] Journal of Excellence in Nursing Leadership: Sleep Deprivation In Children A Growing Public Health Concern
[6] Parenting Science: Gentle Infant Sleep Training
[7] BetterHealth: Solutions to sleep concerns (11) – babies 6 to 12 months
[8] Parenting Science: 15 Evidence-Based Baby Sleep Tips
[9] Sleep Foundation: Bedtime Routines For Children
[10] NHS: Sleep Tips For Teenagers

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