"I don't want to see your face until morning!" might be an accurate representation of how you might feel at bedtime, but it's not the most loving way to say goodnight to your child. Making her bedtime routine sweet or funny or interesting might help you move her through teeth-brushing and into bed a little faster, and gives you a few minutes of bonding time at the end of another busy day.
1. Get Creative
A screeching cat might sound more pleasant than your singing voice, but a toddler or preschooler is too young to care. Singing a personalized goodnight song is quick and easy and won't rile up a rambunctious tot. Make up your own little musical tune or take a shortcut and just rewrite the words to a classic tune such as "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." Write lines such as "Now it's time to go sleep, Emmy will not make a peep," and so forth. Once she's all tucked in and cozy, spend 20 seconds singing the song, give her a last kiss and you're out the door.
2. Speak a New Language
She hasn't quite mastered English yet, but your kiddo can still appreciate learning new languages. Make your nighttime ritual an ode to foreign languages and teach your child about other cultures along the way. Each night or each week, pick one new language and learn how to say "goodnight." Write the words on a card and tack them to a bulletin board in your child's room. Hang up a map, too, so you can point out the countries that use the language. Practice saying the phrase to each other, then repeat a few of your favorite versions from other languages. She might not dream about foreign lands, but she'll start to understand that children around the world speak differently but are still alike.
3. Reflect ...
On a particularly stressful day, the last thing you want to do is go back over every detail. For a young child, reflecting on the day can help her think about what she can do differently in the future, and she might share some details with you that you haven't heard yet. Set a timer for a few minutes if your little one tends to be long-winded, and ask her to think back on the day and name her favorite and least favorite moments. To wrap up, ask her to name one thing she was grateful for that day, and share one gratitude of your own. She'll go off into dreamland with a clear mind and happy thoughts.
4. ... Or Look Ahead
Prepare your child for anything stressful or unpleasant that's coming up tomorrow or get her excited for something new by making "tomorrow" the theme of your last minutes together each night. Give her a brief rundown of what she'll be doing the next day, and remind her of tips that might help her succeed. For instance, if she'll be playing with a child she tends to squabble with, say something such as "If Amanda does something you don't like, are you going to punch her like last time? Or do something different?" Channel a cheerleader as you try to get her looking forward to the next day -- a big smile and bright eyes might be enough to convince her you're excited too -- before giving her a last kiss and hug. Trudge off to finish your laundry or the dishes, and get excited yourself -- there will be more of those tomorrow, too.
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