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How to Create the Best Bedtime Routine

The first step toward a good night's rest: Create a routine that takes you out of the equation before your child drifts off:

Set a bedtime. Going to bed at the same hour every night will help set your child's internal clock. If the time has slowly creeped up, or you want to change it, take a few days to move the time back in deliberate 15-minute increments.

Pick three or four calming activities, such as stories, lullaby tapes, a back rub, or tucking in a doll. Start the routine at the same time every night, and plan for it to last about 30 to 45 minutes (including bathtime, using the bathroom, and brushing teeth). Reading the same stories or singing the same songs every night might be a little bit deadly for you, but it's what kids love and it'll soothe them to sleep.

Mark what you've accomplished. Some kids love a bedtime chart, says Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., author of Sleeping Through the Night. It's satisfying to check off each itemĀ --and it makes clear to everyone (kid, you and dad, the babysitter) what's expected.

End the routine in your child's room, in bed. Whether it's with a final story or song or a special tuck-in, you want your child to consider his bed a place where positive things happen, rather than where he's banished to sleep.

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