We're all keen to get our kids as active as possible during the day, whether it's bouncing on trampolines or running around the park with a bat and ball. However, this boundless energy can become problematic if it spills over into bedtime.
Hyped-up children might be less likely to stay in bed when they're supposed to - and that could add up to a recipe for grumpy little ones the following day, not to mention fed-up parents. It's therefore important to incorporate some winding-down activities into a busy day's play so that sleep time is sacrosanct.
It can seem hard to think up even more things to do when you've already been inventing games left, right and centre, but these bedtime pursuits don't have to be complicated at all - in fact, they mostly focus on creating a routine that will lead to yawns and an association with tiredness. Here are a few suggestions to get you started off.
Stop the exercise in good time
Getting toddlers in particular to stop running around can be a challenge, but try to avoid anything too physical for at least an hour before bedtime. Instead, get youngsters doing quiet things such as building Lego, making friendship bracelets or writing about their day in a journal. This will settle their mind down without making them think they're being bundled off for bed too soon, as well as providing developmental skills while they're busy. We know it's tempting to want to tire them out whenever possible, but remember that you'd probably find it hard to sleep after doing a session at the gym - it's just the same for them, even if said gym is actually a back garden playground or indoor trampoline.
Avoid electronic gadgets
Today's kids are proficient in gadgetry from an early age, but research has shown that the light from things like games consoles and tablets can interrupt the production of sleep hormones and keep even us adults awake. Set a time (again, preferably a good hour before bed) when computers and the like have to be packed away until tomorrow - and stick to it. If they're used to electronic things not being around after a certain time, they won't even question the matter and you'll get some peace from the bleeping and blinking.
Give a ten-minute warning
If you want your little ones in bed around seven, gently warn them around ten to that they should be finishing up what they're doing because it's nearly time for bed. Springing it on them can result in tantrums, which in turn can hype them up and make sleep difficult. Everyone likes an advance warning, after all.
Establish an off-to-bed routine
Kids respond well to structure, so try to do the same or similar things each night so they associate them with being quiet and falling asleep. Brush their teeth, then put their sleepwear on if you haven't already, then choose a book from a select few on a shelf near the bed - too many can cause 'playing for time' - and get them to climb into bed.
Reading the book to them in a gentle voice should make children feel nice and calm, meaning they have no trouble dropping off. If you're looking for a good book to read at nighttime, we have a handy blog to help.
When the book is finished, you might want to sing a quick lullaby or say a sort of sleep time mantra (it can just be as easy as 'night night, sleep tight, see you in the morning'), which will again become associated in their mind with sleep. We know lots of families always finish the day with the same poem or song and it really is surprisingly effective, so it's well worth a try.
Winding down after exciting activities is important for everyone, no matter what their age, so you may find that applying any of these tips results in your evenings being more relaxing too!