Some nights a snack, a bedtime story, a snuggle and chat, and lights out while the music quietly plays is enough for the boy to fall asleep. Other nights, however, he needs something more to help him sleep. During our nightly chat, we talk about our days - the highs and lows, our hopes and plans for the next day - and I often end our talk with a calming game to help him wind down and fall asleep. Whether I stay and play with him or just leave him to it himself, these games are great ways to relax the body and soothe the mind while waiting for sleep to come.
A fun twist on the traditional counting sheep game, "Goodnight Toes" involves saying goodnight to each of their body parts, starting at their toes and going all the way up to their nose. "Close your eyes. Now say goodnight to each of your body parts, and relax it as you say goodnight to it. Ready? Goodnight toes...goodnight feet...goodnight ankles....."
Because he's a four year old boy and because I just can't resist the inevitable gale of laughter that follows, we're always sure to say goodnight to our poop as well. And our pee, and our blood, and our bones, and all of our organs. This might not be terribly Grandma-friendly, but it's a great nightly review of anatomy once the poop-induced giggle fest abates!
Similar to "Goodnight Toes", this games replaces body parts with people we love. "Lie in bed, close your eyes, and say goodnight to everyone you love," I instruct. Blessed with fairly large extended families and many dear friends, his list can get quite long. I often don't hear another word from him once I've left him to say goodnight to everyone he loves.
What Did We Do Tomorrow?
Not the grammatical error you might think it is, "What Did We Do Tomorrow?" is a game the boy came up with himself, and it is one of our favourites. It usually begins with a more grammatically-correct review of "what did we do yesterday?" and "what did we do today?", where we simply talk together about how the day(s) went and the various activities we did. The boy then flashes me his impish grin and asks me, "what did we do tomorrow?"
Well! Just let me tell you what we did tomorrow! Why, we went to the moon, we did! We had a picnic right there, but it was so windy that dust got all over our food and it wasn't as tasty as we'd hoped. So we flew back home, rinsed our mouths out with water, and had a picnic in our living room instead. And then those two sweet boys of mine? Why they put themselves to bed! Early, at that! It was fantastic. Mommy stayed up for a while and ate chocolate pudding (and saved some for the boys to eat in the morning, of course) and then went to bed early and had a wonderful looooong uninterrupted sleep. And that, my friends, is what we did tomorrow.
Our stories cover everything from the mundane to the fantastical. Sometimes (as with the early bedtime and chocolate pudding above) they're a mother's fantasies; other times, they're a child's dream come true; still other stories are so dull and boring that they come around the circle and become hilarious. After I've told a few, the boy tells me his stories, also ranging from the common to the exotic. Not only is this storytelling a nice way of winding down, but it's a great way to bond and to hear his perspective on things.
What have you found helps your child to relax at bedtime? Any tips, techniques, or games to share?