Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Better Sleep Routine: Building Language and Reading Readiness Through Dramatic Play

Sleep. Children try to avoid it, and parents can't get enough of it.  And I feel like it's constantly on my mind.  Especially lately.  Especially since baby bookworm decided for one week straight that she would boycott all naps and declare an 11:00 bedtime.  I guess this is what is considered "overtime" for the stay-at-home mom job.  Except I don't get to reap the benefits of time-and-a-half pay.  Luckily, once baby bookworm is asleep, she's out for the night, but the getting to sleep part has been challenging to say the least.  It could be teething (which I feel like is a mother's excuse for most crazy-child moments that can't be otherwise explained), or it could be that she's just not tired (conveniently using the "growth spurt" excuse), or it could be that baby bookworm has gotten smart enough to realize: hey, if I cry and scream, mommy eventually gives in.  I'm surprised she hasn't shouted "sucker" yet. 

So, we've been having fun (if you want to call it that) lately establishing a (better) bed time routine.  And I think it's working (and as I write this I just knocked on wood, crossed my fingers, and said a little prayer). 

Baby Stella
The two major things that I have done to help our bedtime process have been to introduce Baby Stella (who may secretly be renamed by mommy bookworm to Baby Jesus), and to read "sleepy-time" stories.  "Sleepy-time" stories are not to be confused with bedtime stories (or ANY stories you read right before bed).  "Sleepy-time" stories are stories that have to do with sleep, bedtime, or naptime in some way, shape, or form.  And in case you were wondering - yes, I did just make up these two definitions.  But, I do think there is a difference, and I do think that reading stories specifically about sleep, bedtime, or naptime has helped baby bookworm to realize that this is not just another story hour, but time to shut those little peepers and go to s-l-e-e-p.  

Now, back to Baby Jesus - eeerr, I mean Baby Stella.  I bought Baby Stella so that baby bookworm could role play her own bed time routine.  So, we gave Baby Stella a pretend bath in baby bookworm's old bathtub, we changed her diaper, put her jammies on, fed her some milk, gave her a binky, and sang hush-a-bye baby to her.  Then, we all curled up under the covers in a dimly lit room to read our favorite "sleepy-time" stories.  When I shut the lights out I told baby bookworm...."ssh" Baby Stella needs her rest (and so does mommy). 

Pretend Play with Baby Stella - she's getting a bottle

Here's our favorite "sleepy-time" books. 

The Napping House
by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood

I am a big fan of the Wood family, for they have some wonderful books for toddlers. The Napping House is a book about a house "where everyone is sleeping" (namely, a granny, child, dog, cat, and mouse), until a wakeful flee comes along.  It's a cumulative story (much like There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly), and baby bookworm loves to see which character is about to wake up and sleepily stumble onto the pile of sleepers on the cozy bed.  We actually read this book before nap time today and it worked like a charm.

Piggies is also another great sleepy-time story by these authors that we have read in the past.  The illustrations are delightfully intricate, and the story line ends with good night kisses.  You can't beat that.

Midnight Babies
by Margaret Wild and Illustrated by Ann James

This book is about a baby named Brenda who sneaks out of bed to meet up with her friends at the midnight cafe, a place where they feast and dance themselves silly until morning.  I think this book is cute because it conveniently and cleverly explains why babies just won't eat their breakfast sometimes. I'd like to believe that baby bookworm is a "midnight baby" and that her resistance to bed time is sparked by her excitement for meeting up with her playmates.  Baby bookworm LOVES this book, and I've caught her repeating many of the baby-talk words from it (such as wibble wobble - who knows, maybe there is a secret baby language after all).  She also learned the word "dashing" from this book too.

Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep!
by Mo Willems

We can't seem to get away from Mo Willems books (luckily).  But Time to Sleep (my famous last words) is a very simply worded book about going to sleep.  Sometimes simple IS better.  The main character is Cat the Cat who tells each of her friends that it's time to sleep. They so nicely concur with phrases like "sure thing" or "no problem" (can you say positive role modeling!); except for Owl the Owl....for obvious reasons.  Cute and clever, and a fun sleepy-time story that we will be reading for awhile.  If you like this book, check out the other books in the Cat the Cat series.

Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late
by Mo Willems

Ok, so we really like Mr. Willems.  And we really like that sly pigeon.  Especially his bed time excuses. I'm sure if baby bookworm was a little bit older she'd be using the same ones.  In the end, pigeon does fall asleep.  Can you say more positive role modeling?!  Another thumbs up for Mo.

Goodnight Moon
by Margaret Wise Brown and pictures by Clement Hurd

An oldie, but a goodie, and I'm fairly certain one of the most classic sleepy-time stories around.  This is a soothing tale about saying goodnight to all of the things in a room.  I'll admit the first time I reread this book as an adult, I was kinda thinking, "Huh? A bowl full of mush?  We're really saying goodnight to that?"  But, the book has grown on me and baby bookworm loves it.  Plus, we've also started saying goodnight to everything under the sun before going to bed ourselves (goodnight Elmo, goodnight daddy, goodnight puppets, goodnight books.....). 

Llama Llama Red Pajama
by Anna Dewdney

This book has a very good message which is why I like it.  It is also full of fun rhymes which is why baby bookworm likes it.  In Llama Llama Red Pajama, llama's mama tucks him into bed for the night and goes downstairs. But, he begins to feel afraid in the dark of his room without his mama llama.  As he calls for his mama llama, she is downstairs attending to other things.  When she doesn't respond after a few of his calls, baby llama has a very big tizzy fit!  At the conclusion of the story, baby llama learns that he needs to be patient (a word baby bookworm now uses, thank you Ms. Dewdney) for his mama llama, and she tucks him back into bed with a kiss goodnight.  I really hope baby bookworm was listening well to this one.

And just for good measure, I'm going to throw in a few of our favorite sleepy-time board books.  All of these would be perfect for bedtime, especially if your child is under one. 

Sweet dreams.

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