You put your child to sleep. You walk into the living room and the child follows behind. It is a normal routine for many families. Bedtime is difficult for many children. Seeing a child a few times each night as they come out for one more hug or scoot out of the hallway to say they miss you – this is pretty normal for most families. Allowing children to keep themselves up late sets poor habits and leads to a difficult struggle to get through the following day.
In the midst of the struggles to get a child to bed, parents understand they are losing valuable sleep time. They know that a lost hour of sleep will turn into a tired and grumpy child the next day. The evening battle of wills will cause a child to wake up the next morning cranky and fighting their parents through the next day.
Children need a rhythm to their day. From morning to evening, it is important that young children are easily moving from one transition to another with ease. This is even more important as the day wraps up in the evening. Children and parents are tired from the long day and need every tool available to make bedtime smooth and comfortable.
A bedtime routine chart can be a helpful tool assisting parents and children to find a rhythm to bedtime. The chart will lay out the final steps of the day from changing into pajamas, brushing teeth, and hearing a story in bed. The chart can use illustrations of each step of the bedtime routine. If you use interchangeable labels, children can have an opportunity to put their parts of the routine in order with help from the parents. Giving children a chance to have a say in their evening routine can go a long way in giving ownership to the sometimes stubborn child.
In our home, we have used charts for the daytime and bedtime. Our bedtime routine chart has a picture of an owl perched on a tree limb. To the side sits five magnets ready to receive the activity labels – which are golden stars. We have found that nice homemade charts bring much more appeal than a simple printed off sheet found on the internet. While you can add more activity labels, we use some that are fairly generic – brush teeth, put on pj’s, go to the bathroom, story time, bath time, etc. My wife has drawn illustrations on each label so that both child and parent can “read” the label.
While no chart or routine will make each evening 100% perfect, we have found a helpful amount of rhythm in using our charts in our home. Our child appreciates the appeal and has made a connection to the owl. Just this past week, he spent several days using his imagination as he said he was an owl – even to the point of sharing what little animal parts you could find in his pellets (such an imagination).
If you would like to create your own chart, head to your local craft store and even take your child with you to help. If you are not the crafty type, you might search on the internet to see if you could purchase one for yourself. In our home, we have tried to stay away from simple free internet printouts. We want the chart to become part of our home and our evening routine. It will need to be sturdy enough to make it through the basic abuse brought upon it by both my son and his younger brother. Best wishes to your family and may your adventure towards evening simplicity be a blessing on your home.