Q. I'm trying to keep my 4-year-old on a 7:30 p.m. bedtime, but she keeps telling me it's daytime because it isn't dark out yet. Any tips on helping her stick to her 7:30 bedtime?
A. First, make sure her bedroom is optimally set for sleep, says Rebecca Kammerer, a pediatric sleep coach who owns Sleep Cadets in Mineola. Invest in blackout shades or blackout curtains so the bedroom is dark even if it is light outside. Add a night light -- Kammerer recommends using a red bulb for soothing light -- so you can maneuver in her room in the dark and so she won't be afraid of the darkness. You might also add a sound machine so she hears and feels the hum of white noise -- even a box fan would do the trick, Kammerer says.
Then, when it's time to go to sleep but she tells you it's still light outside, explain to her that the time she goes to bed stays the same in every season, so that she wakes up feeling rested and happy. To get her to the bedroom, say this: "We're not going to go to sleep yet, but we're going to get ready," Kammerer suggests. Then, go through your nighttime routine of putting on pajamas and brushing teeth. "She wants to stay up to be with you," Kammerer says. So go with her into her dark bedroom, read her a story or two and sing to her. This gives her the cue that it's bedtime, and the dark room will reinforce it.