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Bedtime Rituals for Big Kids

9. Piece it together

Find a spot where you can set up a puzzle table, and break out a major-league jigsaw  -- 500 to 1,000 pieces will work well. The idea is that there's no way you can complete this puzzle in one night. Work on it with your kids for 20 minutes or so every evening until it's done. Says Michelle Ganon, a mom in San Diego who also likes to tackle mega-K'Nex and Lego projects with her three kids: "It's a nice exercise in patience, teamwork, and dedication to finally finish this big project. Plus, it gives us a calm activity before bed  -- we can chat as we work."

10. Toast the twilight

Initiate an old-fashioned warm-milk ritual before bed. You'll feel as if you're nurturing your not-so- little one, and he'll be delighted with the treat and extra attention. Plus, milk contains tryptophan, which promotes sleep. To make a gourmet, Starbucks-like drink, whip warm milk with one of those foaming gadgets from a housewares store, and sprinkle a bit of cocoa powder on top. Or opt for a mug of Ovaltine, a good cocoa stand-in. It's caffeine free  -- a crucial point at this time of day. Church also suggests making cinnamon toast, a comfort food many parents remember from their own childhoods.

11. Speak to their senses

You know it firsthand: Indulging your senses  -- whether that means taking a warm bath or curling up in front of a fireplace  -- is a great way to unwind before bed. Try the same concept with your kid. Brush her hair, give her a foot rub, or cuddle up under your favorite old blanket together and listen to some jazz, folk, or classical music.

12. Wish on a penny

Coax a moment of shared reflection: Right before bed, give your child a penny and ask him to make a wish  -- for someone else (a friend, a favorite teacher). Then you do the same. "When the jar is filled with the wishes and pennies, donate the money to a charity your child chooses," suggests Church.

Linda Flayer is a New York City-based writer who specializes in parenting topics.

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