Baths were taken. Snacks were eaten. Teeth were brushed. Prayers said.
The day was done.
And yet, before I could rest my weary self on our comfy couch, I could hear feet on stairs. Before I could press power on our remote, small, blonde heads peeked around the corner.
Bedtime could take all night.
In our family, most of our children share a room. We love the boyish banter that lifts after lights are out. We can manage the mess and we encourage the negotiations that happen when space is shared.
But, close quarters does not always lend itself to sleepy calm, and our bedtime routine had become too long.
In an effort to get a handle on the chaos, we read books, perused the web and sought the advice of experts. We created structure, kept things quiet, read books and lowered lights.
Still our kids did not go to sleep. Most nights, one or more would pop right up and meet us downstairs for more-- more time, more talk, more water, more momma, more daddy, more….
So we had to try something new.
In an effort to keep our kids in bed at night, we began playing recorded storybooks for them after we turned off the lights. Our routine remained: bath, jammies, snack, water, teeth, book, prayers, snuggles, lights out. But, just as we walked out of the room, we hit play on a stereo and the book began.
It worked like a charm!
The stories distracted our children from their plans of getting up and filled their imaginations with amazing new things. We began to play a wide variety of books for them, even some that they may not have been interested in reading otherwise.
There are other advantages to listening to recorded books. Studies have shown that children who listen to a wide variety of voices reading fluently become more fluent and expressive readers themselves. These children also have increased vocabulary and are familiar with a wider selection of literary works.
Audio books are easy to get. Most libraries have books on tape or CD available for check-out. Some school libraries offer them, as well. Podcasts are available in iTunes, including our sister ministry Kids Corner. There are also apps for this that can be used on e-readers for access to a wider selection of books. (Check audible.com or itunes for titles and availability.)
When we began playing recorded books for our children, our motives were focused on a more peaceful night. We wanted our children to stay in bed, talk less and sleep more. We met these goals but also found that our children were sharing stories that would become a part of their life together. They had books to recall and retell and music that became a part of the soundtrack of their childhood.
And how amazing, for my husband and I, to have time to relax, reconnect and regroup after our children had all gone to bed.