Wednesday, 11 July 2012

It's bedtime

Just a simple sharing about my experience of bedtime with Kah Yen.

Yesterday when it was bedtime, Kah Yen was still playing with Daddy, as usual. Daddy was building the tower while Kah Yen helped to take out the blocks one by one. It was 7:45pm and our usual time to change her and prepare her to sleep. So I told her "Kah Yen, after you helped Daddy take out all the blocks, it is time to change and sleep", then I stood by the side and watched them playing. Kah Yen kept saying "There are more, more" in Chinese as she continued taking out the blocks. Finally when she took out the last piece and passed to Daddy, we applauded her for helping out and for such a beautiful tower they have built. What happened next totally came as a surprise. Kah Yen, stood up from the floor, walked right into me and extended her hands - she was asking me to carry her to sleep! 

Both husband and I did not expect her to be SO cooperative and even spontaneous when it comes to transiting to bedtime. She is a 19-month active toddler after all. Though our bedtime routine with her has been relatively easy - most days she will be in bed by 8:30pm - it does involve a lot of coaxing or repetitive commanding or using of force. Sometimes she was running around the house so I had to catch her and grab her to the bedroom; Sometimes she was in the middle of playing a toy and she would refuse to leave it at my first or second attempt to remove her, I'd usually give in and wait for another 2-5 minutes to try again. On bad days when she simply did not like to go to sleep, then you would see her screaming and kicking while we lied her down to change her.

I usually use the time method. It is too complicated to tell her "7:45pm", so I'd normally say "It is almost 8 o'clock and mummy is going to change you in another 2 (or 5) minutes time." Of course I don't expect her to under what is "8 o'clock" and what is "2 minutes" yet, although she does look up to the clock every time I say "8 o'clock", it does serve as a verbal warning to convey the message that "Mummy is going to change me soon". When 2 minutes is over and I go to pick her up, she has already been prepared mentally to leave the toy behind, so we won't have a power struggle, though as I have shared, there are times I have to forcefully grab her or give in another 2-3 minutes, the end result is usually met. But since she does not have the full ability to measure time yet, I think it might be better for me to use the timer/alarm clock method. I have heard good things about it but haven't tried it yet.

Another way I am working on is emphasizing on transition. What do I mean? Whenever I am transiting her from one activity to another, give a name for the next activity and purposely go overboard with enthusiasm and excitement to get her attention. It works perfectly for "Shower time" and "Milk time". Every time I shout "It is shower time", she will drop everything she is doing and run towards the bathroom, same goes for "Milk time". So I try to use the the phase "Change time" whenever it is time to change her (On weekdays she will take bath after dinner at our Nanny's place, so we don't give her shower at home). She hasn't quite gotten the meaning of change yet though, and also she likes shower and milk much more than changing of course so I am not expecting her to run to me when I call "Change time", but at least, coupled with the time method, it enhances the effect.

Lastly it is the method I was using yesterday - using the end of an event as the timer. Example, after building a tower or finishing drawing a picture or solving a simple puzzle. Of course Mummy needs to have the wisdom to know the event can be finished in the next few minutes. Some form of play you can't simply put an end to it, like "playing with the toy car", Mummy will need to think of other ways then. Yesterday was the first time it worked almost perfectly, I reckon the reason being the instruction is simple and clear and she is capable of understanding it fully. I will definitely try this method more often.

Of course all these methods only work when there is already a bedtime routine in place - your toddler goes to bed at about the same time every day and the sequence of events lead to bed are the same.

Mums out there, what is your most effective way of getting your toddler to bed? I'd love to learn from you.


  1. Having a bedtime routine is probably the best thing for young kids. Though they do still go through the phase of trying to test our limits and push their boundaries. For us, it's usually bath, pjs, milk, brush teeth, and bedtime story, and finally prayer. It's been quite okay so far. I think it's good that you prep her by saying what's coming up next. I still use that quite often too, even though my older one is already 3. :)

    1. Hi June, Thanks for dropping by, We do have a bedtime routine for Kah Yen too. On weekends it is shower, milk, read, saying goodnight to the house, prayer and lights out. However on weekdays, she baths at our Nanny's place. She plays while husband and I have our dinner. Hence it is a bit of challenge to take her away from her toy straight into the bedroom.

  2. Those are all really good ideas. I may try to implement them. I generally have the same effect as you when I say "milk" or "bath" but I suspect with things like "lunch" or "change" she will run away. Sophia's routine is roughly bath, walk, milk, brush (violently protested), carried into bed. Here's when there's a divergence depending on who is putting her into bed. If its me then its lights off and I hold her hand till she falls sleep. If its grandpa then he carries her for a while, then puts her down and pat her to sleep, all with lights on.

    1. Sophia's routine is good. Good for you that you have more time in the evening coz you can still bring her for a walk after bath, it will help to dissipate all the remaining energy she has I guess. On weekends if we are not outside, we will also take her for a walk in the park after dinner, and bath her when we are back, in this case she hardly protests.