Deviate from your routine
For most working parents, this includes some variation of picking up children from school, deciding what’s for dinner, and relaxing with some casual entertainment as the night approaches. One huge factor in prepping our little people for bedtime is making sure they have had a fun-filled day. Think about it. Would you be able to go to sleep if your day was not jam-packed full of work, physical activity, stress and children? Probably not. Expect that your children will feel the same. It’s easy to commit to leaving our offices, buying takeout and parking ourselves in front of the television for the evening, but that’s not the best option for our little ones. Limit your TV time to one hour per evening (or watch after your children are tucked away) and go outside and play. Fly kites at a neighborhood park. Take a long walk. Have dinner on the back patio, instead of at the kitchen table. Your work and school night will be infinitely more entertaining.
Incorporate the entire family
With iPhones, iPads, Xbox 360’s and all things electronic, I have heard friends tell me how it can take all of five minutes for a family of five to end up in five separate rooms once arriving at home for the evening. It’s easy to limit the time your children spend with their “toys,” but that still doesn’t dictate what is to be done with their time. Incorporate your older children into your evening plans. If you have three children, for example, allow them to each have a night when they can decide what is for dinner. Get them to help you cook that dinner. Another fun option: Once a week, get the family together, go buy a good, old-fashioned board game, and have a game night.
Read, read, and read some more
My household has gotten so book friendly with a toddler that I’ve actually found books hidden underneath my husband’s side of the bed! With smaller children, reading one book may turn into reading eight, nine or ten. It’s a good problem to have. Yes, you may get tired of reading Green Eggs and Ham for the fifth time in a row, but equating books with fun and, later on, bedtime, can help your smaller child understand what comes next. Finding adventure/sci-fi books with audio can also be a good activity for older children who may like reading, but need a change.
Make a tent!
Yes, really. While parents are usually ready to fall into bed when that time comes, the monotony in a routine for a child will eventually kick in if every night is the same. Surprise your little ones by grabbing extra sheets and comforters and throwing them on the floor in the middle of their room. Create space by moving furniture around and “play camping.” If your child is not interested in camping, you could always “build” a pirate ship, a rocket ship, or a castle that you can both sleep in for one night. Throw in a late night snack and you just might become the favorite parent!
Photo: Marlena Rice