As many parents can attest to, kids are experts at drawing out bedtime routines to the point where you suddenly realize that bedtime was an hour ago! Children quickly learn that taking charge of the show means that she or he can significantly delay bedtime. These tactics include requesting glasses of water, switching the stuffed animals until the perfect combination is found, and asking questions that desperately needed to be answered or it will keep him or her awake all night.
The trick is to allow your child some flexibility within the routine, but keep things under your control by limiting the choices available. Keep the number of stuffed animals fixed, but the stuffed animals can be different each night. Let your child choose a story and a song, but not the whole CD or whole book. Try and keep the bedtime routine to under 30 minutes total. As your child gets older, you should be able to gradually begin to step back and let him or her become more in charge of the bedtime routine. This provides a way to help children become more self-reliant.
Here are some suggestions for bedtime routines:
For school-age children, try and include a quick tidy-up as part of the bedtime routine. Not only will it help to make their room more pleasant to rest in, the mornings go more smoothly if everything is neat and easy to find. Tasks may include putting books and toys back on their shelves, and putting clothes away in closets, drawers, or hampers.
By middle school, you can generally extend weekend bedtimes a bit, as the day is less scheduled than a school day. While your child may sleep a bit later on weekend mornings, try and keep their wake-up time to within an hour of their school week wake-up time. If they sleep too long, it only takes a few days to start shifting the sleep phase (periods of waking and sleeping) and cause problems getting back on the usual schedule. When he or she is drowsy when awoken on school days, school performance may suffer.