Letting my Preschooler Pick His Bedtime

It seems like kids have a magic moment in time when they are tired enough to go to bed but not so tired that they revolt every step of the way. But it’s only a moment, and then it’s gone. Bedtime becomes a battle, at the time of day when both parties are too tired to fight nicely.

So what’s working? Letting our preschooler pick his own bedtime.

Don’t get me wrong, he still goes into his room on my time. The bedtime routine starts at 7pm and he’s in his room by 730. From there, it’s up to him. His room has a small selection of toys that don’t make noise or light up bright. He has a few small flashlights and enough light from his nightlights to play. His current favorite is the toddler-size legos. He uses his imagination to play in his room until he decides to go to bed.

Does it work?

The first night or two he stayed up pretty late. But he did get into bed eventually. Now he pretty consistently gets into his bed between 8 and 830. He does talk to me through his door sometimes, mostly to either request a glow stick or get me to come tuck him in.
I do still tuck him in sometimes. Most nights he puts himself into bed. Some nights he has some excuse to get me to come in his room, then I help him into his bed and tuck him in. He’s generally quite talkative at this point, so I try to keep conversation to a minimum and encourage him to dream good things and tell me more in the morning.
I also always check on him before I go to bed. This way I can make sure the path to his potty is clear, that he isn’t lying on any hard objects, and save battery life in his flashlights. This is also when I turn off the bedroom light if it’s on.
While this method won’t work for all families, it works great for us. I no longer feel like I need to constantly tell him to get back into bed, to be quiet, or to quit playing. I don’t have to play a guessing game with what time is his magic moment of tiredness to go to bed. I simply have to complete the bedtime routine and let him control the rest.
Moms and dads, any thoughts or tricks of your own?

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