Welcome to the Nighttime Talk Blog – the go-to place for ideas about what to discuss with children at bedtime.
It’s June, and school’s out for the summer! It’s the time of year when parents and caretakers plan endless activities for their children’s summer vacation. Camp. Travel. Staycations. Pool days. Beach time. Museum visits. Park play. Hanging outside. Sleepovers. Et cetera.
All these activities have one thing in common, something that all kids love – they involve games. Games keep kids active and busy all day. One great thing about games is they typically support developmental milestones related to language or physical, social, and emotional growth. My toddler is approaching the age when everything is a game. Just this morning, my little one was having a good old time toasting her sippy cup to my coffee mug. In her mind, it was a game, and we can play it at mealtimes to make them more enjoyable.
Games are fun. That’s why playing a game at bedtime is a great way to make your child look forward to going to sleep. Some games are so simple that you can play them while your child is bathing or lying in bed.
Below are games that you can play at bedtime. Take turns being the game leader, and engage your child in conversation as you play to bond over the experience.
- Peek-a-Boo: Peek-a-boo helps children understand an object exists even if they can’t see it. It also builds trust by showing your child that you will come back after not being in sight. Use your hands to cover your eyes. Hide behind the door or the shower curtain. Pop under a blanket. Or hold a book in front of your face. As early as crawling age, you can play hide and seek instead, which will get your child to move and release energy before bed.
- I Spy: Expand your child’s awareness and vocabulary by playing I Spy. Describe objects in the bedroom or in the bathroom. “I spy with my little eye something rectangular and white.” Allow time for your child to respond. If your child is not talking, wait a few seconds and then point to the object. “The bathtub!” This is a game that you can adapt to explore other senses. “I hear with my little ears an animal noise…A cricket!” “I smell with my little noise something sweet…Lotion!”
- Simon Says: Play Simon Says to teach your child different ways to move. “Simon says wiggle your fingers.” “Simon says jump.” “Simon says flutter like a butterfly.” Toward the end of the game, choose movements that will help your child wind down. “Simon says stretch your arms.” “Simon says close your eyes.” “Simon says lay down.”
- Role Play: Role play is a form of imaginary play that forms children’s thinking skills. Let your child pretend to be the parent or caretaker, either with a doll or with you. Give young children prompts to guide them through leading the bedtime routine. “Is it time for the baby’s nighttime bottle?” “Where does the baby go to sleep?” As they get older, let them take the lead on the bedtime routine and follow their instructions.
- Hand Shadow: Make hand shadows to develop your child’s fine motor skills. Demonstrate how to move your hands and fingers to create shadows using light. It’s a fun game you can play together with most or all of the lights off. Use natural light from the setting sun, a lamp, or the flashlight on your phone.
- Draw on My Back: Draw lines, shapes, and letters on your child’s back. This game teaches your child how to sense touch. Switch places so your child can learn and practice drawing and writing. This is another game you can play with most or all of the lights off to create a relaxing atmosphere that prepares your child for sleep.
- Sing-along: Music has many positive effects on children’s development. Lullabies help children relax. Singing supports language formation and inspires creativity. Turn your child’s favorite lullaby or song into a game by having a karaoke session or simply singing it together. Create a playlist that you can rotate through over time. Add dance to incorporate a physical element to the fun.
After all that talk, your child will enjoy reading: I Spy with My Little Eye by Paula Vásquez
Where to Buy: https://www.amazon.com/I-Spy-My-Little-Eye/dp/1423646878
Based on I Spy, this book encourages children to use their imagination while playing. The characters, Mouse and Bear play together by spotting shapes of various colors and then imagining what objects they could be. A red triangle becomes a volcano. A white circle becomes the moon. Mouse and Bear play until they are so tired that they fall asleep, making this book the perfect transition from game time to bedtime.
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