Set up a bedtime routine. As with adults, avoid digital screens during the wind-down time. Instead, dim the lights, cuddle your child, and grab a book. WebMD recommends the four B’s: bath, brushing teeth, books, and bed, with the routine. When I asked my 7-year old how parents could help their kids get to sleep, she mostly echoed those suggestions, adding her own conditions, of course: “Snuggle with mom all night, read the longest book you have, hear a story that goes on and on until the kid is asleep.” More qualified experts say the routine should last between 30 minutes and an hour before the kid should be asleep. (Kids need around 10 to 11 hours of sleep plus naps for the first three years, then about 10 to 12 hours for big kids, according to Babycenter.)
Start the routine early enough. You can’t actually control how long your child sleeps, but you should try to start the routine at around the same time each day. If your child is showing signs of being frequently overtired, try moving the routine start time 30 minutes earlier.
Stay consistent. Everyone in the family has to maintain the routine, which is hard if parents’ schedules are irregular. This is also a time when toddlers start toddling out of bed and older kids start negotiating to stay up longer—just ten more minutes pleeeeease! Try to stick to the plan (perhaps even have a sticker chart or a drawing of the routine in the bedroom), because doing the same steps each night actually can help the child fall asleep more easily by giving her body cues it’s time to induce sleep.
But don’t stress it. Dr. Verma says if you’re stressing to get the kids to go to sleep on time, they’ll pick up on it and it’ll only make matters worse.