What has worked for you to get your small child to sleep at bedtime? My daughter is 7, bedtime is 8:30. It's currently 11:10 and she is still calling because she can't sleep. We've counted sheep and I have tried relaxation techniques I learned in a psych class. Nothing seems to work.
Our foster kids are 7 and 8 and we're still figuring things out but here's what I've found that make a difference:
- Absolutely no chocolate after 4 PM.
- They need a lot of exercise during the day to be physically tired.
- Soft music. We actually have this goofy iPad app called Jazz Radio set to Smooth Jazz.
- Fiddle with the lights. Sometimes they need the nightlights on, sometimes they need it off because it is too bright.
- Get a nightlight that is just bright enough to read by and let her read.
- Reading to them until they fall asleep. We've been working on the same volume of Harry Potter since August. I don't think they have any idea what is happening in the story, they just want to hear our voices.
For us it's been about routine. We do the same thing every night; dinner, bath, story, bed. Part of it is that learning to go to sleep is actually a thing, especially if you're not particularly tired.
In times when we've changed timezones we've used exercise to great effect, and general stimulus; cutting out TV since that uses fewer calories and less brain power than sleep itself (!). When ours do watch lots of TV, that's when they are hardest to get to sleep, so we cut it down.
It may not be the issue, but we have had good success in this area, although every child is very different.
Also I've just thought -- take the pressure of going to sleep off. The most annoying thing about going to sleep is the thought "I must go to sleep but I'm still awake!". Our LO reads on his own and turns his light off on his own. At first he'd read for ages, but now he regulates himself very well (only 6 months on) so if he's tired he just won't read very long, thereby learning how he feels and how to deal with it.
The typical reading a story helped me. For whatever reason, I decided the "Phantom Tollbooth" would be fun to read to her at that age. The irony of her falling asleep in the Doldrums! It seemed that a calm, peaceful voice in a structured setting (i.e. her listening and not talking since I was reading) helped mellow out her hyperness.
Our psychiatrist constantly gives me handouts about better sleep, calling it sleep hygiene, so I looked it up and found this article on WebMD (scroll down to the numbered list). Due to the age, some things are clearly irrelevant to your child, but many things are on topic.
Side Note: A couple of years later is when I guess "Phantom Tollbooth" is targeted for kids. She laughed when she came home and told me that's what they were reading.
All my children around that age had a certain time that was just right. Put them to bed early and they would be too excited to sleep until way after their bedtime. Put them to bed too late and they would stay up late, too. What time this was depended a lot on the children, age, and time of year. (In winter, when it's dark early, they are tired, and sleep earlier, too.)
As others have said, routine helps a lot, too, as does not exciting children before bedtime (play hide and seek), but relaxing them (read a story).
If all else fails, read this answer.