Getting your kids to bed can be a task and a half, but believe it or not bedtime can be blissful. The first step to a stress-free bedtime is to make sure your child is tired. No matter how snooze worthy your routine is, if he's not tired, your son's just going to lay in the dark, calling your name every five minutes. So fill his day with activities that exercise both his mind and body. At the end of the day, talk to him about everything he's done; it'll help remind his body just how busy he's been all day. If you know what's on the agenda, preview what he'll be doing the next day; this will help his brain recognize that he needs to rest up.
Step two is the gradual wind-down. Do you know how tired you have to be in order to just lay down and fall asleep? Nearly exhausted! Unless your daughter is studying for the SATs and training for a marathon, she's going to need a bedtime routine to help her ease into sleep. If she is exhausted -i.e. running in circles one minute and sleep under the dining room table the next- she's probably not getting enough sleep! In either case you need to establish a bedtime routine that will help calm her down and help her prepare her mind and body for bed.
Example: How to get your 4 year old to sleep before 9:30pm
6pm: Clean up! Put away the toys, especially anything that makes noise or flashes (start limiting the stimulation after this point - no more outside or video games) then wash hands and get ready for dinner.
6:15pm: Dinner Time! Family discussion about the day and a preview of what everyone will be doing tomorrow.
7:00pm :Wind Down: the last 1/2 hour of mellow age appropriate TV (nothing that will rile them back up) or try complex toy play like Lego's and then clean up.
7:30pm: Bath Time: wash the day away
8:00pm: Simple Play Time: a puzzle, a coloring book, etc. simple stationary toys that are easy to put away, quiet, and don't require lots of moving around.
8:20pm: Story time: Settle in for some family reading.
8:40pm: Tuck in and lights out
You may be checking in on your little one for awhile but hopefully by 9:30pm she's out for the count.
*NOTE: Times are just guides don't stress if it takes 45 minutes to get your little one to help clean up.