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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

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3. Work as a team.

It's important to discuss and agree on a sleep strategy for your child with your spouse or partner beforehand and work together as a team to carry it out consistently. Otherwise, you can't expect your child to learn or change her behavior. 

If you are starting a new sleep routine for your child, make her part of the team by explaining the new plan to her if she is old enough to understand. For a young child, try using a picture chart to help your child learn the new routine. Changing clothes, brushing teeth, and reading a book can easily be shown through pictures.

4. Routine, routine, routine.

Kids love it, they thrive on it, and it works. In fact, a 2009 article in the journal Sleep found that a consistent nighttime routine improved sleep in children who had mild to moderate sleep problems. A nightly bedtime routine helps your child learn to be sleepy, just like reading in bed often puts adults to sleep. The structure of bedtime routines also associates the bedroom with good feelings and provides a sense of security and control. Routines can take the stress out of bedtime and help make it a special time. 

There is no one right routine for everyone, but in general, your routine should include all the things that your child needs to do before going to sleep, including brushing teeth, washing up, putting on PJs, and having a snack or drink of water. Your child may want to be read to, talk about the day, or be told a story. Whatever you choose to do, keep the routine short (30 minutes or less, not including a bath) and be firm about ending it when it's time to sleep.

5. Bedtime snacks.

Children need more than three meals a day to keep them going, so a small snack before bedtime can help their bodies stay fueled through the night. Healthy options include whole-grain cereal with milk, graham crackers, or a piece of fruit. Avoid large snacks too close to bed, especially with older kids, because a full stomach can interfere with sleep.

 

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