As parents who have watched our son grow up from infant to now pre-teen, we have some fabulous memories about times we spent with him throughout his first 12 years. We both truly miss the baby and toddler days. We constantly think back about the fun those days brought. We even remember how much fun we had with him at bedtime. Many young kids do not like going to bed, but we found ways to make bedtime easier by making it a fun time for a few extra minutes each night.
As our son starting walking and running at age 1, he also started to realize when his bedtime approached. He could not yet tell time, but he knew what the 7 on our digital clock looked like. Other parents questioned our chosen bedtime saying that 7:00 p.m. was too late for a toddler. We both teach and usually stay at school to complete our paper grading so we do not have to bring so much home. This meant that we needed time with our son before we put him to bed, and he still got a good 11-12 hours of sleep each night. He soon figured out that when he saw that 7 he had to go to bed.
One Friday night we knew that he would not go to sleep right away, so we gave him a little extra time. An original Scooby-Doo episode came on, and he just loved the theme song. He noticed that it came on right as the 7 appeared on the clock. As the show ended, we let him hear the song again before putting him to bed. This time, he did a be-bop of a dance making all three of us laugh hard, and then off to dream land he went.
Over the weekend, our son asked if he could hear the song before going to bed, but the show did not come on again until Monday night. When Monday night came, he waited for the Scooby-Doo theme song. The 7 appeared, and he ran to the living room to hear the song. By this time, the theme song became his nightly cue that bedtime had come. We got to see the bee-bop dance that would tire him out just enough each night.
We read to our son almost every night from his birth until he started reading his own full-length novels on his own. Each night we would read a bedtime story. This served a few purposes. It gave us a chance to bond with him while he held him and laughed along with the stories. It helped calm him down physically and settle into bed. Finally, it imparted a love for reading that he still has. Story time followed the Scooby-Doo be-bop, and then he knew what came next.
For the last part of the nightly bedtime ritual, one of us would sing a few songs with him. We always had to start with what he called “Ball Song,” the chorus for “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” We then sang two or three children’s Bible songs. Finally, we would turn on his radio or CD player and let him fall asleep to more children’s Bible songs.
Night-Night, “Chicken Nugget”
My son is quite the jokester. From age 3 to current, he has called me all kinds of funny names including his favorite foods. Of course, I have returned the favors. One night as the evening bedtime ritual came to close, he called out to me, “Night-night, Chicken Nugget.” He had just had his favorite chicken nuggets for his dinner so he thought he would get the last laugh of the evening. This naturally became part of the ritual to make bedtime just a tiny bit more fun. We have said “Night-Night” to Pizza Face, French Fry, Hamburger Head, or whatever other funny names we could think up.
At age 12, our son does not follow those baby and toddler bedtime rituals anymore. He now puts himself to bed. We still make sure to spend some time with him each night talking about the day at school or the baseball game he just played, playing a game, or simply watching television with him. We have to let him grow up, but we cherish the memories we have made so far. These methods gave him a few more minutes of fun each night and made putting him to bed much easier on all of us. Still, though, for old time’s sake, we will occasionally tell him, “Night-night, Chicken Nugget.”
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The Alphabet Walkway And Other Methods of Teaching the ABC’s
Read to your kids every night: A dad’s perspective