Here are some routines to help kids transition from busy days to restful nights:
Putting Binky to Bed
I wanted to encourage my 2-year-old son to become less dependent on his pacifier at night. After providing him with a small box, crayons and stickers, I explained that we were decorating a bed for his pacifier. At bedtime, he placed the pacifier in its new bed, covered it up with a little blanket (a scrap of cloth) and said good night. Although he cried for an hour the first night, by the second night he only cried for 15 minutes — and by the third night he was over his nighttime dependency.
My 6-year-old daughter’s long hair was beautiful, but it took a long time to dry after a bath. So I asked her to pray with me while we dried her hair. She agreed. We named the people we thought needed help and prayed for each one. Soon it became our hair-drying ritual.
Bible Story Mix-Ups
Rainy days and bedtimes are great opportunities for telling Bible stories to our kids. As my children got older, I often told the stories incorrectly on purpose, just to test their knowledge. How they loved correcting me! Then we would tell the true version of the story together. Doing this was fun, and it helped my kids review their Bible knowledge.
Listening is an important communication skill to foster in children. So on the weekends when my kids crawl into bed, we all turn on walkie-talkies in our separate rooms, and the kids take turns talking about their week. The walkie-talkies don’t let anyone interrupt while someone is talking, and everyone has to listen until a person is done. My kids know they have everyone’s attention. I listen to them, and they listen to each other.
You can use glow-in-the-dark duct tape to make a cross on the wall in your children’s bedrooms. Kids love seeing this reassuring symbol of God’s love glowing in the dark as they go to sleep at night.
Most three- and four-year-olds will sleep about twelve hours each night. A daytime nap may continue to be part of your child’s routine, but don’t be surprised when it is phased out during the next several months.
Remember that bedtime should be early because your child needs the sleep and you need time with other children, your spouse, or yourself. During the middle of summer, this can be a challenge. The sun may still be shining, and all sorts of activity may still be going on outside at what is normally bedtime.
You will need to decide how much to bend your routines to match the seasons, or perhaps invest in heavy window shades if you need to darken your child’s room at this time of year. You may also need to exercise sensible flexibility to accommodate family work schedules.
The activities that surround getting tucked in should become a familiar and quieting routine. At this age, bedtime can be a delightful, enlightening experience. You can introduce your child to some wonderful stories, including books with several chapters that can create eager anticipation for the next night’s installment. Your child’s desire to keep the lights on and you in the room as long as possible will usually cause her to be remarkably transparent and receptive.
Expect to hear some of her private thoughts (“I think I know what Buster is saying when he barks . . .”) or to tackle some riddles of the universe (“Where is heaven?”). Without being manipulated too much, allow enough slack in your day so you can relax during these wide-eyed sessions.
You will probably have many more opportunities at bedtime to talk about God and the values you care about than during family devotions or even at church, Sunday school, or other formal religious teaching sessions.
—The Complete Guide to Baby and Child Care