“I want a drink of water”
“I need to go to the bathroom”
“I can’t go to sleep”
Are these some of the things you hear from your kids night after night when they are finally in bed, but not asleep?
Here’s one idea to help kids settle down at night and be ready to sleep.
Twenty minutes before bedtime Announce, “In 20 minutes, that’s 8:00, I’m going to read out loud in my bed. Anyone who is ALL ready for bed is invited”.
ALL ready for bed might need to be defined a head of time. That way, after the reading when the kids are relaxed the spell is not broken by extra activity between your bed and theirs. Our routine was pajamas on, teeth brushed, prayer said, already used the bathroom and got a last drink. Then you can add ANYTHING else your family does as part of a nightly routine.
Ten minutes later say, “Reading in my bed in 10 minutes, hope you’re there”
And when it’s time to start say something like, “Reading fun will now begin” Or something that makes them realize that this activity is a real treat.
Also, I accepted latecomers. If they were not quite ready when the reading began they could finish getting ready and then join us. Missing part of the story seemed to be it’s own punishment for tardiness. There were times when a child was not ready and they could not seem to understand why I would not wait for them to get there before I began. It was a good chance for me to teach them to accept responsibility by saying, “I said I was starting to read at 8:00 so I need to start now. Go ahead and finish getting ready quickly and then come. It would not be fair to everyone who was ready to have to wait. Maybe tomorrow you need to start getting ready a little earlier”.
I have sweet memories of evenings with a bed full of kids, pillows and a good book.
When the reading is done and the kids are relaxed they can be sent (or carried is even more fun for them) gently and quietly to their own beds.
I think there is no shortage of book lists available to give you ideas for good reads. If you need some help to begin try Scholastic , International Reading Association, Teachers First (scroll down to “100 Best Books”). Or just go to the library and let you kids choose some of their own books! Don’t get too stressed over trying to find books that fit the age of every child listening. I think almost any age child will not complain with a good picture book even if it is technically below them in ability. And I found that often a young child will listen to a chapter book.
A few of our favorite books that come to mind:
The Empty Pot
How Much is a Million
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
The 5 Chinese Brothers
Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel
Little House on the Prairie series (my favorites are House in the Big Woods and
Cricket in Time Square
Mouse and the Motor Cycle
Trumpet of the Swan
Indian In the Cupboard
Reading at bedtime can help calm kids, and raise a reader at the same time.