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How To Teach Your Kids The Four-Step Bedtime Dance!

By Vicki Durr

Imagine tucking your four year old in bed, kissing her goodnight, and confidently saying sweet dreams. You then tiptoe out of her room to join your husband on the couch for a romantic movie. I know exactly what you are thinking, this sounds too good to be true, right? Well it can happen and it's easier than you think. Simply follow the time- tested steps for tucking your kids in bed at night, ONCE and you'll soon be listening to the sounds of music, your children snoring!

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids between the ages of two and three need twelve to fourteen hours of sleep each day, ages three to five need eleven to twelve, and kids five through twelve need ten to eleven. Children that have a regular bedtime ritual get their proper sleep and have been proven to be happier, healthier kids. Below are the keys to successfully tuck your children in bed at night, once.

1. Set a bedtime and stick to it

Depending on your children's age and your work schedule set a bedtime for each child. How early you have to get them up in the morning is an important fact you need to consider when setting an age appropriate bedtime. Once set stick to it! Consistency encourages the proper amount of sleep and is the single most important thing you can do to successfully tucking in your children once at night.

2-3 year olds
7:00 PM with an afternoon nap lasting 2-2 hours

4-5 year olds
7:30 PM with an afternoon nap lasting 1 -2 hours

6-8 year olds
8:00 PM

9-12 year olds
9:00 PM

2. Wind down activity

Stimulating activities that involve physical exertion should be avoided, as should television and computer/video games. In fact the biggest cause of insomnia in today's children is having a computer or television in their bedroom. Instead choose an activity that encourages interaction and bonding time between you and your child. These relaxing activities could be a bath, bedtime story, music or table game. In addition remembering to close or draw the window coverings is a great way to create a cozy, dimmer room environment conducive for snuggling.

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When our girls were younger I worked fulltime outside the home so I was always looking for ways to prioritize and simplify the bedtime ritual. Household chores like washing the dinner dishes after we had the kids tucked in for the night allowed my husband and I more quality time with our daughters before bed.

3. PBDF - pajamas, brush teeth, drink, favorite blanket, pillow or toy

Now it's time to prepare for bed. First, parents may need to assist their younger children in putting their pajamas on and brushing and flossing their teeth properly. As your child's capability increases your assistance will decrease. Eventually your children will become totally independent when preparing for bed. This will vary depending on your child's unique personality and drive. With my girls, I assisted till about the age of six.

Second, have your child get a drink, go to the bathroom and choose their favorite blanket, pillow or toy that they want to sleep with. Security objects are by no means a hindrance to good sleep habits or something that should be discouraged. Rest assured this is a natural childhood security that they will grow out of all on their own. However, don't be surprised if your child secretly keeps their security item for years to come. In fact, my 21 and 26 year-old daughters both still have their favorite blankets that were hand sown by their grandmother.

4. NPT sealed with a kiss - Night light, prayers, and tuck in

Many toddlers are frightened by complete darkness and feel more secure with a night light in their room or hallway. Nightlights are fairly dim and do not directly affect the cool, dark and quiet bedroom environment for ensuring proper sleep patterns. Kids will eventually grow out of needing a nightlight on their own which in itself is a huge self-esteem booster and should be celebrated as a sign of growing independence.

Praying at night with your child is an excellent opportunity for parents to model and encourage good prayer habits. Kids look up to parents for that spiritual guidance and feel loved when receiving positive one-on-one attention.

Then comes my favorite part, tucking my precious child into bed, wishing them sweet dreams, sleep tight, and see you in the morning light. As we kiss and hug them goodnight my heart is content and gracious for the wonderful blessings God has granted my husband and I with as they return our affection with hugs and kisses of their own.

The reason why the "NPT sealed with a kiss" is last is because the bedtime routine needs to end in the bedroom.

Recommending reading:
`Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers and Their Parent's Can Get A Good Nights Sleep' by Harper Collins 1997
`Don't Make These Six-Mistakes When Your Child Is Having Nightmares' by Vicki Durr

© Vicki Durr
Vicki Durr is an experienced parent and daycare professional. She published "Down Home News" and has been interviewed live from the Dallas, Texas studios of WBAP News/Talk 820, and ABC/Disney Company. She has been married for 27 years and has two grown children.


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