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Your Children's Bedtime Rituals

Readers share how they tackled the task of getting their children to sleep

When my son Max was small, he didn't sleep well. The thing that helped him sleep better was holding my hair. I had to sit on the floor outside his crib and let him hold my hair through the bars. Whenever he was upset, it was always my hair that soothed him. Around the time he turned 2, I hit upon a better idea. I bought him a faux hairpiece at an accessories shop in the mall. He called it his "mama hair," and he sleeps with it to this day (he's 4 now). The original piece eventually looked like dreadlocked roadkill so we've replaced it several times, but it's still the only thing that soothes him in the nighttime.— Melissa A. Kidd, New Hampshire

We have two kids, Haley, 19 months, and Nicholas, 3 1/2. When it's time for the nightly routine to begin, my husband and I call out "jams, teeth, and books!" Both kids get undressed, and when they're down to their underwear/ diaper, they do a "junk out," which means running around the house like crazy! Nicholas coined the term: One night, when he was undressed, he started running around the house, and when we asked him what he was doing, he said, "I'm running my junk out!" — Julie LeBlanc, Wisconsin

My husband sang a Spanish song about baby chicks to our kids when they were babies. So when the request came for "Los Pollitos," I had to quickly learn Spanish. Now I can sing the song like a native. And when Abuela (their grandmother) comes to visit, we get to hear the second verse.— Kathleen Rush, Florida

When Tristan, our 18-month-old grandson, is ready for bed, we bundle him up in his favorite blanket and step outside to tell the moon "night-night."— Lourdes Collins, Washington

Since Gracie was an infant she has loved the whirling, twirling motion of mobiles, wind chimes, and pinwheels. We keep a pinwheel at the head of her bed. After her bath, toothbrushing, a book, and a snuggle, Gracie whispers her special "pinwheel wish" and blows gently if it's a small one or unleashes a virtual typhoon if it's an important one. — Cathy Mealey, Massachusetts

With little strokes of my fingers on my 4-year-old daughter Emma's head, I take out all the bad dreams, monsters, and ghosts and throw them out the window. Next I pull the good dreams from my pocket and put those into her head: lollipops, butterflies, My Little Ponies, and so on. After her dad sprays some good dream spray (air freshener), it's hugs and kisses, and she's off to sleep.— Nancy Amiaga, New Jersey

When our three children were all under age 4, bedtime could quickly become a chore for all of us. As an attempt at distraction, I started clipping magazine pictures of items they would like (animals, preschool characters, nature, foods). While my husband read to them or helped them brush their teeth, I would hide a picture under each of their pillows. They couldn't look at it until they were completely ready for bed.— April Murrie, Texas

Before I shut off the lights, my infant son and I shared a special nose-to-nose kiss. When he was 1, I added a butterfly kiss, fluttering my eyelashes on his cheek. At 2, he made up a rhino kiss (we rub foreheads). By 3, he added a mommy kiss; we kiss on the lips loudly. We will add a kiss each year.— Amanda McPherson, Arizona

When my daughter was little, she had a blanket she would not sleep without. Right before bed we would hide it and go on a blankie hunt. We would wander around the house looking everywhere for it. Meanwhile, we were brushing teeth, putting pajamas on, getting ready for sleep. When we found the blanket it was time for bed.— Tiffeny Shockey, Wyoming

Just before our two kids are ready to calm down and read, my husband gathers all the socks in his drawer and calls for a sock fight. He sits on our bed and the kids have to throw sock balls at him. I'm on the other side of the room and the kids are on their knees giggling and laughing and getting hit with socks. We set a timer (usually about four minutes or so), and once the timer is off, that's it. They giggle their way to their bedroom.— Melina Bischoff, Georgia

When it's time for our kids, ages 1 and 3, to wind down for bed, we dim the lights in the living room, cuddle up on the couch, and pull out a cloth bag filled with plastic glow-in-the-dark stars. Each person pulls a star out of the bag and says a prayer out loud for someone — a family member, friend, or even someone in the military or the community that we have heard about recently. The 1-year-old can't talk yet, but he loves pulling the star out of the bag when it's his turn. — Josephine Dibble, California

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