After a day full of scheduled activity, you can provide an opportunity for your child to reflect in his or her own words by asking bedtime questions. It is important to let your child know that you are curious about how he or she experiences the world. And, it is important to acknowledge your child's likes and dislikes. Like adults, children have wish lists. You cannot expect to attain everything on the list, but sometimes it's comforting to know someone has read it.
Author Mark Papadas offers the types of questions parents should focus on while putting little ones to sleep.
According to Papadas, "One of the best ways to ensure retention of learned material is to go over it before bedtime. Then, review it again in the morning, after the brain has had time to process the previous day's experience. It is also a great time to ask open-ended questions to get insight into how your child's thought process works."
Examples of content questions include:
- Who did you play with today?
- Did anything funny happen today?
- What was your favorite part of the day?
- Why do you think we sleep when the moon comes out and the sun goes away?
- Why do you think sleep is good for your body?
- Did you know some animals only stay awake at night and sleep all day?
- Did you know kids on the other side of the world are just waking up to go to school when you fall asleep?
Papadas states that it is important to "ask kids questions about their goals and dreams. Keep asking them to be more and more specific about what it looks, smells, sounds, and feels like. Ask why they want things if they offer up desires. The more they think about these things, the more likely they are to happen."
Examples of manifestation questions include:
- What would you like to dream about tonight?
- Where do you think dreams come from?
- What is one thing you would like to do together tomorrow?
- What do you want the first thing you do tomorrow to be?
"If there was a behavioral matter (positive or negative) during the day, bedtime is often a good time to reflect," says Mark. He continues, "Away from the triggers and emotions, parents can discuss with the child what happened and ask questions about why they responded a certain way. Find out what would have been a more appropriate response, or offer praise for good decisions. Finally, be sure to ask what they want to do differently in the future."
Examples of behavioral questions include:
- Was there anything you wish had happened differently today?
- Is there something new you would like to try tomorrow that you didn’t do today?
- What makes you feel the safest?
- Did anything make you angry today?
As your child settles in for the night, get his or her mind working toward the next task: falling asleep. Asking questions that settle the mind and body will help your child, and you, get a good night’s rest.
Examples of quiet-time questions include:
- Do you think mommies and daddies dream, too?
- Do you think grownups have different dreams from children?
- How do you relax your body to fall asleep?
- What is your favorite thing to wear to bed?
- Do you think your teacher sleeps at school?
Ms. Longo says that "bedtime is the final separation of the day between you and your child. Asking questions assures them that you are thinking of them and that they will be thinking of you. Questions that deal with events in the future both push a child to think more abstractly and offer comfort that there are things to look forward to on the other end of sleep. The quiet conversation right before dozing off can offer you, as a parent, some rare insight into the imaginings of your child."
Extra tip: Infant and child sleep consultant Krista Guenther suggests that you share three things you love about your child. As your child gets older, he can share three things he loves about himself.