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Tips & Tricks

Bedtime Book Bin

Recommended by Dr. Erin Leichman

Does your little one stall a bit at bedtime because she wants to pick just the right story? Does she have too many choices – so it seems to take forever? Does she always seem to pick the longest books that she can find?

Consider choosing books ahead of time and putting them in the “bedtime book bin.” This is simply a designated area – plastic bin, cardboard box (that you can decorate!), or a special shelf – for several (about five) bedtime books that you choose ahead of time. You can pick books that are relaxing and on the shorter side. Your little one then has fewer to choose from – it will take a bit less time for her to go through her bedtime choices – and you already know that they won’t take forever to read. Enjoy!

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Sleep Training: The Distraction Plan

Recommended by Dr. Melisa Moore

Those first few nights of sleep training can be hard. When I did sleep training with my little one, I needed a plan to distract myself during those first few nights. I also hear this from a lot of parents and caregivers – and often recommend lining up some distractions that are specifically for when you start sleep training. For example, after putting your baby into bed: take a long shower, watch an episode of a favorite tv show, or read a compelling chapter of a mystery. Setting up calls with friends or family members who know what you’re doing and support you can also be incredibly helpful. While you are of course monitoring your little one for safety, getting the support and distraction that you need can make all the difference to be successful on those first tough nights.

Dr. Jodi Mindell

Good Morning Light

Recommended by Dr. Jodi Mindell

Does your toddler or preschooler wake up too early in the morning? Does he wake up during the night checking to see if it is time to get up for the day or time to crawl into bed with you? You can help your little guy know when it is time to start his day. To do this, try using a good morning light.

A good morning light is simply a nightlight on a timer that is set to turn on when it is okay for your little one to call out to you and start the day. Set him up for success – start by setting the timer so the light goes on a bit before when he usually wakes up or at a time that is somewhat reasonable (such as 5:00 am). Move the timer later by about 15-20 minutes every day or two until it is set at an appropriate wake-up time (somewhere between 6:00 and 8:00 a.m.). Be sure to tell your little one the rules of the good morning light before you start using it. When your little one wakes in the morning and the light is on, praise him for waiting for the light to go on and excitedly start the day. If he wakes when the light is still off, go into his room and give let him know that it’s still nighttime “the light is off – it’s still night-night time, I love you and will see you in the morning.” Some little ones also do well with a small reward (sticker, stamp, reading a favorite book) if they wait for the good morning light to turn on. You can also modify the use of the “good morning” light and make it a “snuggle light” (or whatever) – when it goes on that’s when it’s OK to come snuggle in bed with you.

For a video that describes a good morning light, see Dr. Sonia Rubens in this video

Bedtime Pass

Recommended by Dr. Erin Leichman

Be honest. How many time does your toddler or preschooler ask you for something at bedtime or after lights out? Five? Ten? Have you stopped counting? Try a bedtime pass.

This is simply a card, picture, or object that serves as a “coupon” for that one last hug, glass of water, snuggle, answer to a question about the day, or whatever else (within reason) your little one might be asking for to stall at bedtime. The easiest thing to do is to give your little one a few index cards at bedtime (one to three, but depends on how many times she’s asking for things). You can decorate the index cards any way you want or simply glue pictures to them. If your little one needs something more concrete than a card, use something like a not-so-exciting block or figurine. Let your little one know that she can use the cards after lights out for those last requests. When your little one exchanges a card, you can give that one last hug or small glass of water. If she does not have any more cards, then give a consistent response such as “It’s bedtime, goodnight.” Or, “You don’t have a pass, I love you, goodnight.” For many little ones, simply having the cards helps reduce the number of times they ask for things. For other little ones, putting a small reward in the mix also helps. So, if she keeps the cards until morning she can exchange them for a small reward. Rewards can really vary, just make sure it’s something your little one likes and doesn’t get all of the time, such as a small healthy and tasty snack, sticker, time doing a favorite activity, or a few minutes of playtime with a favorite toy or game that she is only allowed to play with when she has coupons in the morning.

Consider using a sleep sack

Recommended by Dr. Jocelyn Thomas

A sleep sack is a wearable blanket designed for newborns through preschool-aged children. Loose bedding materials, such as a regular blanket, can increase the risk of SIDS and suffocation and is not recommended for babies younger than 12-months-old. Instead, try a sleep sack – it’s a great alternative! Even after your little one is 12-months-old (when loose bedding is permitted) young children are often restless and a blanket often doesn’t stay on them throughout the night. A sleep sack can solve this problem and help a child sleep comfortably! A sleep sack also has the added benefit of helping prevent some children from climbing out of the crib. The longer you can keep your little one safely in the crib without climbing out before you transition her to a bed the better, as sleep often falls apart if they move to a bed before they are really ready. A sleep sack can delay the age at which your child needs to transition from a crib to a bed – wait until your little one is 3-years-old if you can.

mother and baby sleep sack

Make bedtime easier with a bedtime routine chart

Recommended by Dr. Jocelyn Thomas

Create a chart that shows each step of your child’s bedtime routine to help everyone in the family move through bedtime easily. They are great for toddlers and preschoolers. Using a chart that includes pictures or drawings of the bedtime routine has several benefits. First, it can help create smooth transitions between activities by giving a visual reminder of what is happening now and what will happen next. This can be especially helpful for children who have trouble staying on task, or for children who tend to worry about what comes next. Second, it gives your child something that she can see and hold. This can help your little one stay on task and decrease requests for something like one more drink of water or one more story that might make the routine longer and delay bedtime. Finally, a chart can help parents and caregivers too! The chart will help increase the consistency of the bedtime routine. Everyone will have a visual reminder of the routine, making it more likely that everyone includes the same steps of the routine each night regardless of who puts the child to bed.

To make one for your family, you can cut out pictures from magazines, use free stock photos or clip art, draw pictures with your child, and/or photograph your child doing each step of the routine. Once you have all of the pictures, put them in order on a piece of paper or cardboard. The pictures should be printed and displayed in a way that your child can view the entire routine at once. You can even laminate the schedule so it lasts longer!

Click here for more posts on visual schedules and bedtime routine charts

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