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5 Tips for Optimizing Bedtime

Updated: 6 days ago

Over the years, being a preschool teacher and running my Daycare, I have come across my fair share of issues dealing with naptime or bedtime. I have found that most parents think that when a child is having difficulty going to sleep at night, it's time to cut out naptime.

There may be some truth in that. However, I have come to experience that in most cases, there are other factors to consider. For one, there is a huge difference in how boys and girls react to naptime/bedtime. In my years of experience, I have literally had no more than 5 boys versus too many girls to count and have difficulty sleeping at night.

In the past year and a half, I have researched the differences between boys and girls and how their natural instincts affect their behaviors and responses.

Some of My Findings

Boys and girls do instinctual things without even realizing it. It's unconscious, biological, and primal. In other words, it's what we were born with.

Boys tend to be single-focused, meaning they focus on one specific thing and do not go on to the next thing until they have produced the result they set out to build on the first thing.

If a boy attempts to do more than one thing at a time, whatever they are trying to accomplish will usually be compromised; they will not attain the desired results because their brains are literally built to be single focused.

Girls tend to have diffuse awareness, meaning they can and accomplish many things at once, going from one thing to another very quickly, even before completing the first thing. We often refer to this as "multi-tasking".

When girls "multi-task", they are generally quite successful in accomplishing their desired results due to their diffuse natural awareness. Girls' brains are literally built to have multiple tasks going at once.

A Quick Visualization

These train tracks may help you to visualize the differences between boys' and girls' brains!

Visual Metaphor for a Boy's Brain

Visual Metaphor for a Girl's Brain

What This Means at Bedtime

In terms of bedtime, this means that most boys will have a much easier time going to sleep than most girls. Once boys finish their task, their brain quiets down. Girls have a much harder time going to sleep because

Tips for Optimizing Bedtime

They have the endless "To-Do List" of various tasks, or may even re-evaluate what they accomplished all day," or just be busy thinking of "stuff" in general. Their brains tend to not turn off so readily.

Often a parent will want naptime during the day to go away, thinking it's no longer needed. But in reality, we all need downtime to quiet our minds. Imagine yourself at work, with no lunch break to unwind, chat with co-workers about things other than work, or not be able to take a break to go outside, or go for a little walk. A child's naptime is just that – a break from their day, a time to quiet their minds and get recharged for the remainder of the day and evening.

Helping Bedtime Rituals Go Smoothly

Create and adhere to boundaries. Children like boundaries. They provide the child a chance to know what it takes to be successful in a given situation! If you waiver from these boundaries you are essentially telling them that the boundaries are not important and can be ignored.

Countdown to bedtime. This allows them the mental capacity to understand that bedtime is approaching. Set a time, start at 15 minutes prior, then 10, then 5. Let them know that when the timer goes off this last time, it's time to go to bed. And then stick to it. This sets them up to win!

Before bed, avoid stimulating activities. At the end of this tip sheet, I provide suggestions for helping kids wind down before bedtime.

Create a ritual. At bedtime, children need to do these things. Examples are: go potty, wash hands, brush teeth, take a sip of water, read a book, hugs and kisses, then lights off. Adjust to what works for your family. What you do isn't as important as always doing the same thing. These rituals become cues and signals that bedtime is coming.

Darken the room. Naturally occurring melatonin plays a big role in sleep. The production and release of melatonin in the brain are connected to a time of day, including the natural darkness as nighttime progress. Increasing darkness and decreasing brightness will help with the release of melatonin.

The Tricky Part Than Can End in Frustration

The kids are finally all tucked into bed, you sit down to relax, or get busy finishing your own "To Do" list, and BAM! someone's out of bed! Girls tend to do this more than boys, again because their brains have difficulty shutting off. They emerge out of their beds, saying "I can't sleep."

Try These

Have them pick something special, perhaps a small stuffed animal. Have them lay down and put the stuffed animal on their tummy and breath in and out, watching their animal move up and down with their breathing. This will quiet their minds while they focus on their stuffed animal. Over time this will become second nature to them.

Stay calm and remind them, "it's bedtime, time for sleep so that tomorrow, you won't feel tired and grumpy." Give just enough detail so as not to be distracting. Be firm but loving. State what is needed,

Ruth Maille

Tips for Optimizing Bedtime

and what it provides. This also reaffirms the boundaries.

Realize that this may take a while. It usually takes three weeks or longer to make or break a habit.

Have compassion for them and yourself. It's not easy being a parent! It is only human to lose our patience or feel guilty for every little thing that doesn't go as planned. The truth is, no one handed us a "Parents 101 Manual"! We are all doing the best we can with what we have.

Celebrate Every Little Success!

You should be so proud to have taken these steps to help understand and put to use new knowledge, creating the partnerships we all long for with our children. Congratulations on this huge step towards partnership.

Some Quiet Time Activities

For the Younger Child

Books: A basket full of books will entertain many kids for hours. "Where's Waldo" is a good one! Or find books that light up your child. Rotate and mix them up often.

Puzzles: Chunky puzzles are best for younger children.

Pretend Play: Dolls, cards, a small grocery store, or tool bench – all these help stretch the imagination and encourage independent play.

Drawing and Coloring – no explanation necessary!

For the Older Child

Puzzles: Larger puzzles with more pieces are best for older children. You can even purchase a puzzle roll-up so that the puzzle in the process can be set aside and completed over several days.

Journaling: Journals are an excellent outlet! When a child can write down her or his thoughts, studies show it helps them gain clarity and is a great outlet for expressing themselves. A journal needs to be a safe place for your child, so it's important to respect their privacy and, if they share with you, appreciate that they did share. (This is huge... it means you made it safe for them to share!) There is no right or wrong way to journal. Journaling also helps with developing writing skills.

Lego or other Building Sets: These are quiet yet creative.

Loom Knitting: This is something that my daughter and her Girl Scouts did when they were just 8

years old, making knitted baby hats for a local hospital. It is such an easy way to learn how to knit, and there are various loom sizes to make all types of hats, scarfs, and much more. You can find them just about anywhere. Google "Loom Knitting."

These are just a few suggestions. Give your child the ability to add to these ideas! It is amazing what they will come up with, and it helps to get them on board.

Wishing You Many Happy and Peaceful Bedtimes!

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