During the summer, bedtime is a free-for all. It doesn’t matter who goes to bed when and there’s usually no reason to get up early in the morning, so everyone can sleep late if they need to.
The school year is a whole different ballgame though.
Recently on Facebook, a lot of my friends have been venting about the tough job of getting kids to bed on time, in a reasonable manner. My kids are older now and our routines are pretty set at this point, but I *so* remember those days.
Setting a bedtime routine is so tough. You have to determine a bedtime, first off and then stick to it. You have to determine what you’re willing to do at bedtime (read a story? Watch an episode of something? Have a tickle fight?) and what you’re not. You have to make sure the kids do their jobs at bedtime (“bathroom, hands and teeth” is our mantra to this day) and still make sure they’re in bed on time.
Sometimes it seems like you need to start at noon in order to get them in bed, on time, with everything done, and staying in bed.
Early on, when we just had Caroline, we’d watch one short video (on a video TAPE) before bed. That worked well for her, as a wind-down routine, and we’d read a story.
With Elizabeth, we found that watching TV wound her up, instead of winding her down.
With Alex, I think most nights we practically threw her in (figuratively, not literally), shut off the light and shut the door, she was so easy.
But there came a time when we had preschoolers and toddlers that getting all three in bed on time just seemed hopeless. We had three kids with three different bedtime routines and we needed to figure out what one thing would work for all of us. It didn’t seem possible.
Until we came up with The First One in Bed challenge.
I don’t even know which one of us came up with it, to be honest.
Let’s just say it was me, for now.
It probably wasn’t though. Don’s always better at creating a challenge.
In a nutshell, here’s how it worked:
Each child had a sticker book (which was a small notebook of some sort, I remember two of them had Strawberry Shortcake on them at one point) and we parents had a big ole’ pile of stickers. All different kinds of stickers worked best, rather than just one kind.
The challenge was to be the First One in Bed. If you were, with all your jobs done, you got three stickers. Second one in bed got two and the last one in bed got one. Or maybe it was four, three and two. I don’t remember, but you get the gist.
You had to be in bed, under the covers in order to pick out your stickers. You had to already have done the whole “bathroom, hands, and teeth” routine.
You had to yell it from your room, really loud: FIRST ONE IN BEEDDDDDD!!!!!!
The others would follow, yelling out that they were in bed too. Ties were allowed. We didn’t want to start a fight or make anyone cry, rather we wanted to get everyone in bed and fast, so we could go out in the living room and sit down for more than three seconds at a clip.
Elizabeth in particular is VERY competitive and loves a challenge. She wanted to win EVERY time. She was known to leap over a smaller child and roll the rest of the way down the hall, in order to get into that bedroom first. (Well not really, but she’d race down that hallway and leap into bed, for sure.)
She was also known to get in there and not be 100% honest about whether her teeth were brushed, and have to get back up, losing her First One in Bed spot.
Their goal was to fill their notebook pages with stickers. Lots and lots of stickers.
This went on for months and months, until somehow we phased it out. I don’t remember how or when, but it was a while ago.
The point is, it worked for us. We were able to create a bedtime routine that worked for all of our kids and let us keep our sanity at the same time. It only cost us a few stickers and a few notebooks.
Hopefully this will help someone else with that particularly challenging time at their house too. I hope so. If not, maybe it’ll spark a different idea that works for you and your child/children at bedtime.
And in our house, to this very day, there are still some occasional nights when we hear someone yell out from their rooms, “FIRST ONE IN BED!!!!” just for the fun of it.