Children are a huge blessing.  Between their sweet smiles, innocent eyes, precious hugs, boundless energy, and insatiable desire to explore and learn, it’s easy to love them so much. But we all know how temperamental and exasperating our kids can be when they haven’t had enough sleep.

The problem is, it’s not always such an easy task to get them into bed and asleep for the night.  In my experience, the best results have come only through a consistent and loving bedtime routine.

Here are a few tips for putting your kids to bed with love:

1.  Plan to eat dinner at a specific time each night.   Allow enough time to prepare the food, enjoy your meal together as a family, and complete clean-up without having dinner overlap with the evening bedtime routine.  An ideal time to sit down and eat each night is 5:30 pm.  Determine what works best for you and your family.

2.  Start a bath or shower soon after dinner.  This allows plenty of time for the children to play and unwind in the warmth of the water.   A nice warm bath is relaxing to the body and mind, not just for grown-ups but for children too.  Plus it will help them fall asleep more easily when their head hits the pillow. And, as you know, Fridays should always be very special. Everybody’s home and this is the best part of the week!

3.   Have supplies handy.  While the bathtub is filling, gather necessary clothing and supplies, i.e. towels, diapers, wipes, pajamas… to the bathroom or nearby area.  This allows for quick drying off and dressing upon exiting the bathtub, which also results in less shivering and crying from being cold.

4.  Make brushing and flossing teeth FUN.  We sing our own homemade brushing song to the tune of Jingle Bells.  Correction – I sing while my children brush.  (It’s actually been a tradition since the very first time I put a toothbrush into their mouth.)  Kids love to brush to a tune and it keeps them brushing until the song is over, which is an added bonus.  Cleaner teeth!

5.   Don’t forget ears, hair, and nails.  For girls with long hair, either braid it or otherwise pull it back so it’s not in their face when they sleep.  Otherwise, be sure to help them brush the tangles out of it to aid in less pain and fuss when it’s time to fix her hair in the morning.  Also, pick one day a week to check and groom nails, and clean earwax from ears.

6.  One last potty break.  To avoid bedtime stall tactics or having your child get out of bed five minutes after you’ve said goodnight, announce one final potty break and make sure they actually try to go.  We can’t control when our child has to go to the bathroom, but we can help prevent interruptions to sleep or middle of the night accidents by having them try to go before bed. See also this post about Mom Meltdowns.

7.  Start a family reading tradition.  Allow each child to pick a book of their choice and snuggle up together as a family to read bedtime stories.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well the Berenstain Bears books go over for our girls.  Each book teaches a life lesson in a way children can relate.  Reading a family devotional before bed is also a great option for teaching about God and living a Christian lifestyle.

9.  Establish a special way to say goodnight.   Blow kisses on the way out the door.  Pretend the stuffed animals can talk and are there to help your child go to sleep.  Sing a song to your child.  (I started singing my own edited version of You Are My Sunshine to my girls and they’ve come to love hearing me sing to them.)  It doesn’t matter what you do, just find something uniquely special to you and your child. Remember that alsoYOU need your sleep! Read these tips for first-time moms.

10.  It’s Ok to use a night light or play soft music to lull them to sleep.  Since the day my girls were born, we’ve played Lullabies by Kellie Copeland Swisher on their small bedroom CD player.  The music is beautiful and prayerful.  To this day my six-year-old still listens to it when going to sleep, not because she needs to, but because she enjoys it.