How To Get Kids to Sleep: 10 Gentle Ways to End Bedtime Battles

Let’s be honest. After a long day of parenting, most of us look forward to the time our children go to bed. We need a little break to refuel and start up the next day again.

Figuring out how to get kids to sleep can be tough though. Patience is thin. Frustrations are high. And everyone is tired.

How to Get Kids to Sleep: End Bedtime Battles

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Believe it or not, you can make bedtime fun for the whole family. The key is to create a gentle routine, where everyone can thrive.

Here are 10 tips to end bedtime battles and make the nighttime routine enjoyable for the whole family:

How to Get Kids to Sleep #1. Do the Hard Stuff First

Right after dinner, get kids washed up, in pajamas and teeth flossed and brushed. You may even want to do all of it downstairs (or away from the bedroom) so it’s clear to your kids that bedtime isn’t imminent. It’s all about starting the bedtime early so there’s plenty of time to get everything done without a battle. Be sure that they know that they need to do these things first before they can enjoy the other fun nighttime events. Of course, if they are unwilling to do the clean up activities of bedtime, you can let them know that they won’t be able to do the fun stuff. Give them choices, and let them have their consequences… which leads us to the second tip.

How to Get Kids to Sleep #2. Offer Choices

Once that is completed, offer your child choices so they can help shape the bedtime ritual. According to the book Parenting with Love and Logic, a smooth bedtime is all about empowering your kids with options so they feel like they have a role. You’ll see a bunch of options outlined below. You can ask your child “do you want to do this or this tonight?” and let them select the things that sound best to them. You’ll find their choices can change depending on their mood, energy levels, and emotional needs. Just like us, kids are changeable and by offering choices you’re honoring their developmental needs. One tip, keep the choices relatively contained as to not overwhelm them.

How to Get Kids to Sleep #3. Dim the Lights

Dimming the lights during or after supper will help your family wind down from their hectic, busy day. In fact, the artificial lighting that so many of our homes is filled with can be stimulating and disruptive to our natural rhythms. Even more, lower light helps to stimulate the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Keep the lights dim while the children take their bath and go through their bedtime routine. The combination of warm water and low lighting will relax them and help them feel sleepy. Older kids can shower with the lights turned down low or with a candle burning in the bathroom.

How to Get Kids to Sleep #4. Turn on the Music

Soft or melodic music soothes a child and provides a comforting atmosphere as they transition into bedtime. After bedtime routines have been performed and your child is in bed, allow her to listen to her favorite music — at low volumes, of course. While soft music plays in the background, you can talk about your child’s day, or read a bedtime story. You can also sway to the music… sing along… and lull your little one to sleep. Some good children’s albums include this one and this one.

How to Get Kids to Sleep #5. Engage in Gentle Play

Once your child has settled into bed, cuddle up next to him and take turns creating a story. You can go first, and then let him have his turn making up what happens next. You can also play a spontaneous game of Charades. A tickle attack is always welcomed and can get the last minute giggles out before your little one falls asleep.

How to Get Kids to Sleep #6. Show Time

Another option, which could be the occasional treat, involves watching a special show about a half an hour before bedtime. Again, you want to be sure they’re all brushed up and in their pajamas before you begin. You can all snuggle together as a family and watch a favorite show or child-friendly nature documentary. Give your child a couple of show options and let him pick. Be sure he knows the boundary that it includes just one show. Keep the TV at a low volume in order to create a relaxing, quiet atmosphere that will help your family fall asleep.

How to Get Kids to Sleep #7. Count the Stars

Another fun nighttime ritual in the summer is to go out into the backyard, lay a blanket on the grass, and lay down together under the night sky. If the temperature is cool, bring out extra blankets and snuggle together beneath them. You can bring binoculars and look for constellations, count the stars, search for shooting stars, point out planets, or simply talk quietly about their day.  Have them pay close attention to all the wonderful nighttime sounds — you can even make a game out of guessing what each sound is; “which insect chirps like that? Which bird is still awake?” Use the time under the open sky to relax and wind down; if your kids fall asleep before you can move them inside, simply pick them up and carry them to bed (if they are small enough to be carried, that is.) This is a ritual that even older kids will enjoy.

How to Get Kids to Sleep #8. Bedtime Snack

Kids love having a snack before bed, and you can incorporate this into your routine. Prepare a special snack together as an incentive for your little ones to get ready — it can be something healthy and yummy, like apple slices or strawberries, or you can occasionally indulge their sweet tooth by offering a small bowl of ice cream eaten together as a family — just as long as they brush their teeth afterwards! Another great idea is to give them a calcium-rich treat like yogurt or kefir, sweetened with a touch of fruit, honey, or stevia, which will calm them before bed and give them a probiotic boost.

How to Get Kids to Sleep #9. Explore New Stories Together

Make a point to go to the library regularly and check out a dozen new books each time you go. Let your child pick the books (with your gentle guidance) and you’ll find that she’s extra excited to read the stories she selected. Let her pick a new story to reach each night before bed, and then cuddle in bed together while you read it. Once you’ve gone through your book pile, return the them to the library and load up on a new stack to explore during the upcoming week.

How to Get Kids to Sleep #10. Pajama Walk

Walks can be invigorating to grownups, while also being an excellent way for children to burn off excess energy (weather permitting). We read about the Pajama Walk in a book called No Regrets Parenting by Harley A. Rotbart. The Pajama Walk is a simple, effective way to tire your little one out while also getting in some quality family time. Have your child (or children) change into their pajamas before heading out for a walk around the neighborhood each evening. For children too young to walk, you can push them in a stroller or pull them in a wagon cushioned with blankets and pillows. Or if your child wants, he can ride his bike alongside you. The fresh air and elements tire out little ones and even more importantly, you’re creating a unique nightly ritual that will bond you as a family and will be remembered for years to come.

Creating Lasting Memories

Hopefully these ideas give you some bedtime inspiration. It’s all about our attitude and approach. We can show up to the evening with excitement, anticipation, and joy… or boredom and dread.

By implementing some of these fun routines, we can all find enjoyment in the evening. Everyone thrives within a gentle structure, and of course options, and that is what you’re lovingly creating for your child. Bedtime rituals can create lasting impressions that your kids will cherish forever — and so will you.

Would love to hear from YOU

How do you avoid the bedtime battles in your household? Share with us in the comments below!

 

8 Comments

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  1. I find that keeping the children away from the TV, Video Games, computer phone/tablet, etc. about an hour or so before bedtime helps to calm them down before bedtime. Replace that TV time with something relaxing and easy, like a board game, or reading. Make it purposefully not exciting, to help soothe your child. I also found that a bath before bedtime works wonders to soothe a child’s mind and muscles, and help them get a more restful sleep.

  2. I have a three year old and a five month old. Any tips to get their bedtime routine together? Right now dad does one and I do the other. Maybe a combined one will happen soon enough.

    • My husband leads a combined routine most nights – our kids seem to accept that they have less bargaining power with him, and tend to go down a little more easily. 😀

  3. Hi Genevieve,
    I am really interestred to know your opinion on the Ferber methtod for sleep “training”. I have a one-year old and my husband (and surrounding people) give me real pressure to start “training” the baby this way. I find it harsh and I am not ready to even try. On the other hand it seems like everybody is practicing it?
    It will be amazing to hear your point of view on this subject.

  4. My girls love JJ Heller’s lullabies cd and my husband will play the guitar until they sleep. I also love Raffi’s Baby Beluga song. My son listens to audio cds to fall asleep.

  5. I love these! My little one is almost a year and he loves playing before bed-the pajama walk sounds super soothing. I know he would also LOVE counting stars, we are going to play with that!! Thanks xx

  6. Love the pajama walk idea! Definitely adding that to our routine. Thanks!!

  7. Good ideas but after dinner is always outdoor play time for us! So no pjs before that 😉 But we definitely find that we get him in the door early enough, and do jammies and pick out the bedtime books before a snack or 10 minutes of some indoor play. Then teeth, books, bed. Trying hard! 3.5 is hard over here! 😉

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