Having trouble transitioning from chaos to calm at bedtime? If so, you're not alone. Luckily, parents and experts who've discovered the secret to bedtime sanity and success agree on a simple formula: The early start—and routine, routine, routine! We asked a celeb mom, a pediatric sleep specialist, and a parenting educator about the best way to make bedtime blissful, every night of the week.
Jewel, acclaimed singer, actress, and mom, and the author of the new children's book called That's What I'd Do
"So many kids have issues calming down from a busy day, and may also feel like they're missing something exciting when they're in bed. With my son, I've found it very beneficial to begin the wind-down process well before bedtime—several hours, if possible—by introducing calmer activities. Dad can rough-house with him all he wants earlier in the day, but after dinner, it's quiet, 'together' time. A big key for my son is reading a book, together as a family, in his room. It helps calm him, allows our family to bond, and has become a ritual in the house that Kase looks forward to, and can expect, each evening. And because we're consistent in our routine, he knows that it's time for bed when the story is done."
Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, pediatric sleep specialist and author of Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep
"Many parents think that if they keep their child up late, he will then crash for the night, but this will backfire. Set an early bedtime, between 7 and 8 o' clock, and keep it the same every night. You'll be surprised how much easier bedtime is for everyone when your child is not overtired. He'll feel better the next day, too. Research shows that children who go to bed later actually have a harder time falling asleep, wake more often at night, and get less sleep overall."The second key to fewer bedtime struggles is a consistent bedtime routine. The same three to four activities every night will keep everyone heading in the right direction. Once your child is about 3 years old, it helps to make a bedtime chart that shows each step of this routine: a bath, brushing teeth, pajamas, and two books, for example. Literally indicating two books on the chart will keep negotiations to a minimum, and keep your child (and you!) on track; you can always refer back to the chart when fielding requests for more books, or for other activities altogether."
Elizabeth Pantley, parenting educator and author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers & Preschoolers
"If you want to give your child choices at bedtime, make them simple choices: 'Your ducky pajamas or your footie pajamas?'; 'Do you want to tiptoe like a mouse to bed, or to stomp like an elephant?' This will keep things calm and under control. Other chaos-busting tips include providing plenty of time for your routine, keeping it TV-free, and dimming the lights early on. Add some soft lullaby music to create a peaceful ambiance, and most importantly—whatever the specifics of your family's routine—view bedtime as special bonding time to be treasured."