If you are a parent, you probably have some kind of bedtime routine with your child. I hope it involves snuggling up to read some favorite stories, and I bet it includes a bath, teeth brushing, and a goodnight kiss. We create these routines with our children both for their sake and for ours: children do best with routines.
It makes sense if you think about it. There are so many things children don't know: What will be for dinner? Where are we going? Why? Who? What? A routine lets them know what is coming next, and gives some structure to their days. It lets them prepare themselves for what is next.
Teaching 3-5 year olds, we needed a rest/nap time each afternoon. What started out as a pretty simple routine - use the restroom, read some books, then lay down on our nap mats - later became a much more satisfying routine that worked beautifully.
About 10 years ago I read an article in Exchange magazine about "pillow talk". I'd always had some quiet one-one time with my boys at bedtime, and we had some of our best conversations in the quiet of a darkened room at the end of the day. To help them find peaceful sleep, we had "happy thoughts" each night. Each boy would tell me 3 good things about their day. This sounded a whole lot like "pillow talk".
A few years later, I was trying to figure out ways to calm a child who took forever to close eyes and sleep (and then couldn't be woken for hours!), and saw an article about the soothing scent of lavender. If you've deal with a child like this, you know you'll try just about anything! I bought a bottle of lavender scented lotion, and started offering that to everyone at rest time too.
Anyway, here's the routine that evolved.
First: everyone used the rest room, and picked one book to read. Yes, everyone. With 12 students in the class we had to limit the books to fairly short ones, and occasionally we had to do fewer, but most days we had 12 stories! I'd read the more exciting ones first, and save the calmer, slower, or musical books for last. It's really nice to end with a song!
Next: everyone went to their mats. I closed the blinds both to make it a little darker, and to eliminate all the exciting things to be seen outside.
Then: I turned on quiet, calm music, grabbed that lavender lotion, and went from child to child, offering hand lotion and asking for happy thoughts. Almost everyone had something nice to tell me each day, and it often started, "Mommy and daddy and brother and...." As they talked they'd rub the lotion into their hands, and we'd have a few special moments, just the two of us in a room full of friends. Having an adult's undivided attention, even for 30 seconds, is a powerful and often coveted thing in a preschool classroom! I'd end our minute together by offering a kiss on the forehead.
When everyone had been tucked in, the room was dark and smelled of lavender, and sweet music played, I'd sit on the couch with a book until they fell asleep. Yes, some children would invent reasons to wiggle, talk, or need the bathroom again (twice!). No, it didn't always go as planned. But almost every day we managed to get 12 children to sleep for at least part of the rest time.
Maybe some elements of our routine will help you to calm your kiddos and find some peaceful moments in your day. I hope so!
Welcome to Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten! My class blog is the place I share information about some of the fun learning activities we are doing at school. I hope to provide parents with insight into what we are doing, and why, and to share ideas with other early childhood educators. Please don't use the photos or text of this blog without permission, but please do use any ideas you find useful. Thank you for stopping by!