WFMW: Getting Kids to Sleep Instead of Play

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This is my first time participating in Works for Me Wednesday, and it’s a good thing that I picked a backwards edition because I need HELP. My son goes to bed by 8p every night after a half hour bedtime routine. Generally speaking, though he doesn’t go to sleep until more like 10p or 11p. Once we’ve left the room, he’s up and playing. He comes out several times to “tell us important things,” and to visit the potty several times. This has been going on for over a year now and I just don’t know what to do. The problem is that I work at night, so I really REALLY need him to go to sleep/stay in his room/stop playing, but I don’t know how. He’s completely afraid of the dark, so we have a low level light on, which facilitates play, but I know he won’t ever sleep without it (and neither will anyone else).

So, what works for you to get kids to sleep at bedtime?

8 thoughts on “WFMW: Getting Kids to Sleep Instead of Play

  1. You know, I suspect the reason there are SO MANY books on this subject is that almost no one has an easy time with this! (And when they DO, it may be something that is inherent in the child).

    I remember one “tip” about getting a clock that lights up when it’s OK to get up so that an early rising 3 year old would know to stay in bed! That would not work with my kids unless the clock could climb into bed and HOLD THEM DOWN until it lit up! : )

    M never really seemed to sleep more than a few hours a night until we started his GH shots. I think if we hadn’t been able to co-sleep w/ M, I would NEVER have gotten any sleep. At almost 6, he NOW usually sleeps alone & through the night ~ but not always.

    C goes to sleep very easily with a routine, but can’t stay asleep and gets up very early. We co-lseep with him as well, but for a different reason (and we think we can stop a lot sooner as his adjusts to us).

    I am hoping son #3 will like to sleep more! I honestly think this might just be a giant crap-shoot.

  2. We tried this for a while and it worked well:
    Our son was given three “trinkets” at bedtime — for us it was plastic bear math counters. They sat on his nighttable. If he got out of bed for any reason other than to potty, we took a bear away. When all bears were used up, if he got up again, punishment would follow. If he had all three bears in the morning, he earned a privilege (such as getting to play a video game).
    Of course, make sure he has all he needs before the actual bedtime — including water and one last bathroom break. Takes away those little excuses!
    Good luck!

  3. My son is 3 and also goes to bed at 8pm. He gets his last drink of the night at 6pm. He gets a bath at 7pm. This is when he gets an opportunity to watch a show. He always picks Curious George. We forward through the real life experiments at the end to shorten the time to about 20 minutes. There is no play time during this. Then we read some books for 15-20 minutes. Bedtime is actually about 8:15 when it all gets done. Ever since he was a very little baby, we have played a lullaby CD the entire night. We put him to bed and turn on his music. We tell him he can’t get out of bed and it actually works (for now). We are done with dinner at 5:30. So from 5:30-7 pm is really wild play. We run around and do a ton of stuff. I try to wear him out, if that is possible. This might not work for you, since every kid is different, especially little boys, but I thought I would share our routine. Glad you participated this week, or I would not have found you. 🙂

  4. Well, I do agree it’s a giant crap shoot!!
    But here are 2 things no one else mentioned:
    make sure your son is getting fresh air and exercise every day. I bundle my kids up and send them OUT at least once a day.
    Also, my daughter is four and sometimes falls asleep during her afternoon quiet time. I never let her sleep more than 45-60 minutes and I always wake her by 3. I’ve noticed on days I don’t do this, she is awake until 9 or 10pm.
    Good luck!!

  5. I suppose I should say, in the spirit of this, what has worked for us…

    Since C goes to sleep pretty easily with a routine, that’s probably no help. For M, well, bed, book, book (backrub after he was weaned) and song while I lay with him…sometimes until I lost my voice worked more than it didn’t. But you wouldn’t get any work done that way. If you’re like me, you’d fall asleep as well!

    Bribery worked best after age 3 with M. We’d still go through our routines, but he’d also earn a star for each time he did whatever it was we were trying to get him to do (poop in the potty, go to bed, etc). For 5 stars, he would get a prize. Sometimes that was an special outing. Sometimes it was a new plastic dinosaur.

  6. my daughter use to go down right away but seems to be at that stage like yours if we were not in the room with her she wouldnt go to sleep.

    my husband now stays with her for 15 minutes (average) and she usually falls asleep with him in the room thinking she will get in trouble if she doesnt (not sure why cause she never gets in trouble with him)

    for me i let i refuse to lay with her so I give her two animals and let her have her flashlight if she wants it. i just have to go in once she is asleep and turn the light off or she will wake up in the middle of the night

  7. No clue if any of this will work for you (kids are you know, individuals, yadda) but for my boys I didn’t have a lot of sleep issues. I think it’s a few of these things combined:

    Someone else mentioned it above, but YES on the outdoor play. No less than a half hour (for healthy kids) outside when it’s super hot or cold and no less than an hour on regular days. Go play, use up some of that energy, the longer the better. If you have an open field nearby, then super score. They’ll play awesomely if there is some open space to make believe, run, and chase. No worries if you don’t, of course. If it’s utter crap outside, dance in the living room until they are just done.

    Short naps or no nap. With mine, when they started having problems going to bed at 7pm, I learned quickly that it meant they needed less daytime sleep or none.

    Also, my kids went to bed at 7pm and then went to sleep. Sometimes, they stayed up and read a bit…but then 7:30 was the final bedtime. Now they always got up at 7am, which was earlier than their friends, but they went to bed without a fight.

    The bedtime routine started at 5pm. Dinner, then a long no-rush bath, then maybe a bit of tv or what my mom called a sleepy movie*, a book, then goodnight. No more potty or drink time (within reason, of course). If they get up you just say quietly, “goodnight, love” and lead them back to bed gently.

    If he goes to bed at say, 7pm, and then is getting up too early in the morning, just adjust bedtime. The key is consistency, really. I wanted mine to naturally wake up, no alarm clock, even when they started school. So, even today my 13 year old just naturally gets up at 7am (he now has an 8pm bedtime, really early compared to his friends, but he’s the only one not dropping for a nap after school). Often, they’ll even put themselves to bed early if it’s been a hectic day.

    Now, if only I could get myself on their schedule…

    *Oh, sleepy movies! My mom has this little list of movies that to this day, knock my teenagers out cold if they watch them. They don’t think they’ve seen the end of these movies, ever. And no, they don’t watch a lot of tv at all, if any on some days. A few of her sleepy movies are:

    Dark Crystal
    Forrest Gump

    But man, it’s tough to figure out how your kid works and then they change once you get it down. I wish you the very best!

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