Tuck in routines to help you and your little one connect
Whether you work outside the home with limited family time at night, or you’re home all day desperate for silence and solitude at the end of it, most moms are feeling pretty ‘done’ by the time the bedtime routine rolls around. But it’s comforting to your child to be able to count on a connection time before bed, and there’s nothing worse than ending the evening with guilt or angst ridden negotiations. You want to know you’ve seen, soothed your child, and done all you can to make them feel safe and secure before they surrender to slumber. Try these tactics for meaningful connections that will leave your little one relaxed and ready for bed.
1) Roses and thorns – emotional recall. One of the first ways I got my little guy to engage in open ended questions was with a game of roses and thorns. Your “rose” from the day was the best part of your day, and your “thorn” was the worst bit. It’s important to remember that the thorns don’t have to be “bad” parts of the day, just the least favorite. If your little one struggles to come up with a rose and thorn, it’s a great opportunity to talk through the events of the day with good transition words and descriptions. When your child matures and gets better at this little game, you can have them describe the emotions and feelings that went with the day’s events. It’s wonderful to have someone listen to you at the end of the day, and over the years I’ve learned all sorts of interesting tidbits about my kid’s experiences that I would never have known had they not been named as roses and thorns! If your child takes to this type of external processing, it’s a great time to let them ask you a few of the many questions on their mind!
2) Spiders and letters – body relaxation. My kids like the old diddy that goes, Criss, cross, apple sauce! (draw a big X on their back) Spiders crawling up your back! (spider hands up their back and head!), spiders crawling down! (same thing back down) One over here, one over there! (spider scratch each shoulder) Tight squeeze! (shoulder squeeze) cool breeze! (blow a breeze over their hair) Now you’ve got the shivers! (gentle spider tickles all over) They also love a dozen eggs “cracked” over their head with the yoke running down their backs as the grand finale. Try drawing letters, numbers or simple words on their back if you need more material, or even do simple drawings on the inside of their arms.
3) Tickles and volume play – energy out. If your child becomes clingy or fidgety, or what we call in our house, ‘flip floppy’ after dinner (throwing themselves over furniture and siblings when everyone else is trying to calm down), you might have one more burst of energy to burn off before bed. Even a 1-minute surprise pillow fight or a quick tickle fest does wonders for the night time wiggles. If you need a bit more order, make rules like ‘a point for every time you hit my knees’ or use a book with guided tickle rhymes and games. Spontaneous voice modulation is a great outlet for this need as well. Play a ‘copycat’ game with your child and ask them to repeat funny phrases or clips of songs after you in different volume levels. Some of our best giggles have come from these little surprise outbursts before bed!
Your kiddos might like all three of these tactics, or you might find they need one more consistently than the others. Make more things up as you go, but do your best to agree on a “plan” before you start so you both know what to expect in terms of energy out and time spent. Even just 10 minutes of attention and engagement with a loving parent can go a long way for your child feeling centered and loved after a long day.
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