Guest Post by Leah Hoffmaster

There are few things in life more precious than a sleeping baby. One of my favorite things to do during my children’s infancy was to lay them on my chest and allow my beating heart and warm embrace to soothe them into a peaceful slumber. Oh, how often I would wish that for just one moment, time could stand still.

Yet, surely enough, to quote the old adage, “time marches on” and our babies continue to blossom and grow and turn into their own beautiful little people with strong, individual identities. This often happens more quickly than we are ready to accept or admit! The past few years have flown by so quickly and have transformed into memories before my very eyes, and still, I long to share those quiet moments of joy with my children.

I have found one of my most fulfilling duties as a mother to be when I lovingly tuck a babe (or 4) snugly into their beds after an eventful day. This has also become one of my most challenging duties to tackle! It seems as if the kids aren’t always “feeling” the need to unwind quite like I am, and somehow they no longer find sleep as desirable or as easy to attain. Who would have thought?!

As I’ve come to realize how important a good night’s sleep is for my sanity my children, I have set out to find ways to help make their transition to bedtime as easy as possible.

Here are some of the things that work for our clan:

Establish a bedtime routine that is functional, yet fun.

Most kids find it easier to relax when they have an idea of what’s coming next. Slow-paced activities that they enjoy also help to settle them down a bit from a busy day. Our kids love baths, so we start off our evening routine with that. (If your kids hate getting in the tub, maybe the morning would be a better time for them, instead!)

Keep a few special books, games, or stuffed animals set aside ‘for bedtime use only’ and allow several minutes of quiet time play on the bed. This will encourage them to think of their bed as “a special place” and not the “enemy”.

Start early.

Our youngest three have a bedtime of 7pm. Really! In order to have adequate time to bathe, read, sing, etc., this means we need to start at approximately 6pm.

Kids are more likely to enjoy bedtime if they are not exhausted or cranky. Plus, I know I am much better suited for the task if I don’t have to rush. I tend to be more patient in the earlier hours of evening as well.

Consider using room darkening blinds.

No one wants to go to sleep with the sun shining in their eyes! Not only that, but studies have shown that our bodies actually are best rested when we get at least 8 hours of “dark time” sleep a night..and that time increases for children. We were able to buy our blinds for just $10 a piece.

Evaluate naptimes.

If you would like to get your children to bed earlier at night, it might be necessary to keep them awake for a longer stretch of time during the day.

Our girls need at least 6 hours between naptime and bedtime to be able to get to sleep easily. Now that they take just one nap per day, fitting it into mid-morning works best to keep their bedtime routine running smoothly. If they seem to be getting a bit restless later in the afternoon, a short quiet time activity or video can do wonders.

Be creative.

Some of the best childhood memories I have are from my own bedtime. My mother would gather us all together to sing some tunes, sometimes making up different words just for fun.

My dad was a creative genius. He would tell us the most fabulous stories that he would create with his own imagination, and we could not wait to go to bed each night to listen to these wonderful concoctions. Occasionally he would let each of us pick a word or two and then would incorporate those words into the plot to encourage our own creativity and to keep our attention. He also would give us “question tests”, to assess our knowledge in both important and trivial subjects alike.

Even though I have nowhere near the talent he did for those stories, I have started a similar tradition with our oldest son. He is now 10 years old, yet he’d gladly go to bed for me at 7pm as well if he knew he’d get a good story out of the deal. (Do I sense a date night brewing in anyone’s mind?!)

Group ‘em together.

If I’m giving one baby a bath, why not add in two more?! The same goes for story time, prayer, and bedtime around our house. Especially since all 3 little ones currently share a room! It’s much easier on me not to have to repeat the same steps throughout the evening, and then there is the additional blessing of having them all fall asleep around the same time. The children enjoy getting to spend their last moments of the day with one another. It’s a win-win situation.

Stay close by till they’re asleep.

I like to spend some quality time with my older son and husband after the children go to bed at night. Often they’d be waiting for me downstairs in the living room, and I would no sooner go down to meet them before I’d hear the pitter-patter of little feet running across the floor upstairs. After having gone up and down those steps enough times to make a full length work out video, it finally occurred to me that just a few extra minutes upstairs would make all the difference.

If you’re a mama who trains her kids to stay put once they’re tucked in, just knowing you are nearby may be enough to keep them in line, and in bed! I like to peek in and make eye contact every few minutes until they are asleep. This saves me loads of time and frustration!

Start the day with praise!

Every morning we like to greet the new day with singing, dancing, and praising God together as a family. We use a variety of dvd’s, cd’s, musical instruments and dancing scarves to keep things interesting. At night, we almost always end up talking about how fun it’s going to be to worship God together again in the morning, as this is just a bit of enticement for them to get to sleep more quickly. Hey, it works, and I say if it doesn’t hurt anything, then go for it!

If you’d like the chance to win one of our favorite family time praise dvd’s, stop over and check out my giveaway, sponsored by the legendary Donut Man! I know you’ll love him as much as we do!

Enjoy the moment.

Before we know it, our children will be old enough to get to sleep all by themselves, and will grow out of wanting bedtime stories each night. Keeping this in mind helps me to continue on in joy, even on nights where things aren’t working out according to plan.

Let’s join together to give thanks to God for the opportunity to care for the children he’s entrusted to us, remembering to “put on” the grace he offers us to make an impact in their lives, one day (or night) at a time.

How do you make bedtimes better for your little ones?

Leah enjoys a simple life as wife and home schooling mama to 4- ages 9,3,2, and (almost) 1! Through the Lord’s strength and amazing grace she has overcome a past of drug addiction, approval addiction, and atheism, and now knows her true identity as a child of the King! Recently challenged by personal hardship, Leah started her blog, Dance And Be Glad, to share her heart and testimony of the power of God to bring joy, health, and healing back into our homes.

Image credit peasap