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Developing a naptime & bedtime routine for your child(ren) will ensure Mr. Sandman's early visit with a sack of pleasant dreams.

These tips will work from infancy on up. The type of materials you use to soothe your child(ren) will change as they get older, but the favored routine will still be the same. If begun at an early age, nap/bedtime will be one of the highlights of the day. Your child(ren) will wait all day in anticipation.

Begin by letting your child know that it will soon be time for a nap or bedtime. Give the same amount of time, such as 5 or 10 minutes. But keep the time the same. Then announce that it's bedtime. Make going to bed fun with these great ideas!

(1) Begin by having family members wish the child "Goodnight" with hugs & kisses and the Three Most Important Words, "I Love You!".

(2) Then have your infant/child wave and wish his favorite toys, stuffed animals and framed preschool television characters goodnight. Sing Barney's "I love you" song, or make up a song to go with the bedroom border of Sesame Street characters. But always follow the same routine.

(3) Slow the mood down to a quiet, calm period where you read a particular book(s) in a soothing, soft voice. Or have the child choose a book as soon as you enter the room and before you begin saying goodnight to the favorites. Sit in the "Special Chair", just for reading books at nap/bedtime. ( A great idea, could be to name your chair/nightlamp, a special name, and refer to it by name as though it were a Person, Aunt or Friend. Children love this!) Making up a "special" story just for your child will delight and satisfy them when it is "time to hush and go to sleep."

(4) For the preschooler on up, turn off the lights and have your child tell the day's events, making sure it ends on a positive note. Help him problem-solve negative situations and plan for the future. This takes some time, so shouldn't be done on a night you're exhausted and possibly impatient with him/her to fall asleep. This talk session can also be done in the day. But for most busy parents it won't come until evening.

(5) Building a bond with your child that will last through their teen years on up into their adult lives, lies with the security he/she develops in infancy and early childhood. So don't be afraid to lull him/her to sleep by holding and rocking while they are infants and toddlers. Even "tickling" or rubbing their back when they get older is a powerful tranquilizer.

As your child becomes a pre-teen, this routine may well change into just a family reading period and possibly a kiss and tuck into bed, but you must NEVER let your kids go to bed without an, "I Love You ________".