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this has worked for two whole weeks

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We have bedtime struggles. As parents of a 4-year-old I suppose this goes without saying. There is much stalling and much ignoring of desperate parent pleas. Finally, after a few days (weeks?) of really horrible bedtimes where the process from bath to sleep was upwards of 3 hours Jim and I sat down and came up with a plan. It was actually a plan that had been marinating in my mind for ages, but finally put into action at this point.

We made a list of all the things that had to be done at bedtime, making sure to include a couple of fun items. This is what our list looked like:

  • Eat a good dinner
  • Do a chore (this is actually a fun item, Pia loves doing “chores” and she often would use them as a bedtime stall tactic)
  • Take a bath
  • Brush teeth
  • Put on pajamas and a pull-up
  • Play a family board game
  • Read books in bed (5)
  • Snack
  • Sleep

Ridiculously long list, I know. And I’m sure some people raise and eyebrow at the snack right before sleep, but after two years of trying to break the habit we have made peace with the fact that Pia simply needs to eat a snack right before dozing off. Anyway. With the list laid out, Jim and I found some sturdy cardstock and cut out 4×6 cards. We busted out the markers and drew pictures of each item on the list (this was loads of fun), punched holes in the cards and slipped them onto binder rings. I had an old picture frame that was shaped like an easel so I took the glass out and replaced it with the cards-on-rings. The cards can then be flipped through in order. These pictures will explain much better than I am doing with words:

The next night we held our breath as we unveiled our new bedtime strategy to Pia. And lo and behold she ate it up. She adored flipping through the cards and the anticipation of what would come next. Each item was exciting. Brush teeth!! Yay!! And since we had included a family game and a ‘chore’ in the routine we had basically called her stalling bluff and those things stopped dragging on forever… because she was more excited about seeing what the next card would be.

But anything can be exciting and cool once. I didn’t blog about it at first because I was certain the novelty would wear off. But here we are, two weeks later, and she still loves the cards (and still acts surprised when she flips the cards, even though nothing ever changes in the line up). She even initiates the process right after dinner, saying “I gotta do my cards”. So, hopefully we can ride this wave of bedtime bliss for at least a while longer. Though I am sure by writing this I have just jinxed us.


2 responses »

  1. I was wondering what those cards were when I saw them at your house… This is a great idea that I may try for our horrendous hours from 4 pm till bedtime. Maybe the boys just need more structure during this time. Thanks for the idea!

  2. This is a great idea, and I like Bethney’s idea of adapting it for other challenging times. I need one for late afternoon until dinnertime. Yesterday I asked Tea to (GASP!) pick 3 books off of the floor while I was cooking and, well, let’s just say the neighbors probably know the whole story.


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