In case you experience the same bedtime problems with your children like I have with my son, it’s important to remember that at this age (1-5) their logic and reasoning are not yet fully developed.
What seems rational to us (“it’s late”, “you must be tired”, “time to go to sleep”), the whole shebang makes no sense to them. They feel just fine! They are having fun and want more of it.
For many toddlers, preschoolers bedtime is the pits. No matter what argument we bring, it falls on deaf ears. We often get irritated because in one instance the child acts reasonably – moments later, just the opposite.
To catch our breath, we often let them watch TV (my bad, I know). And they want to keep on watching. Why don’t we let them?! What have they done wrong? Having to go to sleep feels like a punishment they didn’t deserve. “Mommy, Daddy, you are so mean!” (In my case just Mommy – no Daddy around anymore, but I diverge).
But my 4 year old son has to go to sleep. Like right now! And I know what’s coming next. The bedtime battles. Of course I “win” at the end, but at what price? He is sad and angry and hates my guts, I am miserable because he now goes to bed strongly considering matricide. But does it have to be like that? Night after night: drama, drama, drama?
What can we do better?
How can we avoid the habitual turmoil and motivate our kids to contentedly go to sleep? I might have found the solution.
Well, a form of… nicer.
Let me explain how it all started. First of all, Twixxie Twinklefy is my nom de plume (sounds so much more suave in French than “pseudonym”, doesn’t it?) I am between 30 (I wish) and 39 years old, live in Europe and work, let’s not get too specific, within the broad field of neuroscience. The reason I am unwilling to divulge my name is… well you might call it cowardice. I call it clever, pragmatic and only just a tiny bit spineless. I’ve got enough on my hands already. If my illustrious colleagues found out I write bedtime stories in my spare time, I will be the butt of their jokes like forever. I love them, I really do, but they are such nerds. Scholarly, erudite, Savant-nerds coquetting with the Nobel Prize! I rest my case.
So this is what happened and I will try to keep it short:
One evening, almost a year ago, my son made me feel again like a Nazi after imposing my will on the bedtime issue. I started to read a story to him but he was sulking as usual, covering his ears, totally ignoring my existence. So I sat down by his side, pulled out my IPad and immersed myself in a PDF about Yoga (unfortunately never got around doing it. Maybe when he goes to college?)
There were lots of photos and some links to videos on YouTube showing Yoga poses for beginners.
I tried a few out just to make him laugh but no such luck. He was determined to punish me for the injustice. But all of a sudden I caught him looking over my shoulder, watching what was happening on the screen. I explained what it was all about and he asked me, yay!!!, to read aloud to him. Yoga? Seriously now? Not his favorite book instead? But nope, he wanted “that stuff” on the IPad. Go figure.
The text was not easy to follow and he didn’t want me to explain. “Go on, on”, he kept saying. So what got him so enthralled, allowing me by the way to hold his hand and plant dozens of kisses on his forehead while reading? It dawned on me a bit later. It must have been the short videos! The next evening he struck a deal with me, promising he will go to bed without a fuss if “we read Yoga on the IPad” again. I was proven right. He couldn’t wait till the next video came up.
Folks, my Eureka moment! Not the perennial unresolved mystery of how the brain creates consciousness everybody in my field struggles to solve first, but close enough. If a few short videos will prevent my son not going ballistic on me, then that’s what it takes.
Hoping to have solved our bedtime problems once and for all, I hastily created over the weekend a PDF with a story I knew by heart, adorned the text with copyright-free illustrations I found using Google Image Search and of course a few YouTube links to some short cartoon videos in some way fitting to my story. My son loved it! That was the only book (which honestly wasn’t that great) he wanted me to read at bedtime and that week after week.
Bedtime problems bye-bye!
Going to bed became suddenly whoopee! I discussed this with my next door neighbor. A very kind young man who, the poor thing, was so often exposed to the bedtime Armageddon emanating through the thin walls separating our apartments. He was impressed. Not only that, he made me a business proposal. A book making bedtime more engaging?! Why don’t we market this together? Not the PDF I have right now, better of course, much better, state-of-the art better. I just couldn’t believe what was happening. All of a sudden I was an entrepreneur.
As I found out, Tom (not his real name and unfortunately way too young for me, otherwise who knows..) and his team had start-up creating apps and video games for several international customers. He invited me to their “zoo” as they liked to call their working place. “Zoo” because they all love animals, belonged to an animal protection group and took in all the stray cats and dogs which crossed their paths. You can imagine the smell.
These boys and girls had the time of their life and the mood was infectious. They took me in their midst as if we knew each other for ages, bombarded me with improvements. For one, no links to YouTube. Better shorter videos which could be contained in the eBook. So if someone is somewhere where there is no WLAN around, the videos are there to watch. They also wanted include interactions with the touch-screen animations they were considering building in, music and lots other stuff of which I understood approximately zilch. A few weeks later they showed me the first prototype. A shorter version of our eBook as it’s now but good enough to test it out. Good enough?
My son went bananas!
We lacked the money for proper marketing research so we gave copies of the prototype to all friends and relatives having similar bedtime problems with their kids (aged 1 to 6)..
We told everybody we tested this for a third party in order to avoid that someone felt compelled being nice about it. (I told them the truth only after the results came and they all agreed not to spill the beans about my true identity). Eight out eleven children loved it.
The three who didn’t were into monsters, action and suspense and rolled their eyes at Doggy’s first adventure with Little Star. Oh, I forgot to mention – that is the theme of my first book and the following two I intended to write. “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” was the lullaby I sang to my son each and every night since he was born. And Doggy… well you probably guessed who came up with the idea having animals as our main characters in the book. But monsters, action & suspense? Not really conducive to sleep Lucy, Marianne & Ted. And also not your real names, ha ha.
We got lots of praise:
a). feel-good story, adorable characters, heart warming; b) the right kind of entertainment at bedtime (not agitating as on TV); c). kids loved to engage with the touch-screen animations, better than passive, restless listening. d). the 432 Hz calming, soothing music makes sleepy (Zoomers, that was a super idea!!!) e). eBooks don’t kill trees (I liked that) f). it’s gluten-free (very helpful “Ted”, ha ha).
We also got some criticism and quite a few excellent suggestions for improvement. We discovered that children older than 5 proved not to be our fans. Kids between the ages 1 to 5 were fascinated by the eBook, so that age group will be the audience we will try to reach.
The main criticism we got was about the “blue-light” issue. I knew of course that blue light can hinder the pineal gland from discharging melatonin, hence reducing sleepiness. But I also knew that you can download blue-light filter apps from GooglePlay and App Store for free. With less television in the evening and a blue light filter installed on the smartphone or tablet, there shouldn’t be a problem.
The suggestions for improvement were fantastic.
Tom’s sister was “complaining” that her daughter loved the book so much as a bedtime lecture that she wanted her to start all over again. Again & again. Which was actually a compliment, but don’t forget, my intention was to create a tool making life easier for parents having a hard time getting their kids to sleep. Tom came up with a brilliant idea: why don’t we include in the eBook an audio file with someone reading the story? Then, when the child asks for “One more time”, Mom or Dad can say it’s too late for one more time, but you can listen to the story. I could have kissed him. We did just that and tested it on my son. Each and every time he fell asleep while listening to the story.
We were on to something!
Admittedly a group of 8 out of 8 enthusiastic subjects (the 8 remaining after we excluded the 3 older ones) sounds pretty good, yet way too small to be statistically significant. Nobody had to tell me that. But the “Zoomers”, as I was calling them now, were not bothered and decided to take the risk. Development, marketing and production was their part. All I had to do was to write good-feel stories. But under what name?
My son was totally gaga about a stray dog (Twixxie) and a cat (Twinklefy), which astoundingly became inseparable during their sojourn in the “Zoo” and begged me to take them home. So we are now the proud owners of a little Havanese and a grey & white striped feline of unspecified ancestry disgorging hair balls 24/7.
Tom couldn’t help hearing me yelling their names all the time and baptized me “Twixxie Twinkley the bedtime problems solver”.
And that’s how the Twinkleyfy SweetDreams Playbooks project came to life. It’s located in a high-tech loft also functioning as a sanctuary for stray animals and half a dozen adorable guys and gals I would take a bullet for. They are so positive, so enthusiastic, so creative, so sensitive to all issues pertaining children. And none have any, can you believe that? Their generation is sooo much cooler than mine…
Our first eBook...
“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little, Star – Adventure in the Sky” is available now. We are so proud. We included even more cool features into it. The eBook has 64 fully illustrated pages (as we found out, the same material, if printed, so many illustrations would make the book exorbitantly expensive), dozens of animations and interactions. We noticed that the children like to interact with the touch-screen animations and start the short videos (fifteen of them!) by themselves. They appreciate to be empowered and participate in the process. Besides the audiobook, we also included a lullaby and a link to one hour sleepy making music (the file was too large for the eBook) and also a fantastic suggestion from one of my best friends. Bless your heart, you know who you are. But if you tell anyone who I am, I will beat you to a pulp! …(No I won’t, I love you!!! The thing is… when you get all excited you can’t keep a secret and you know that)
Susan (not her real name) told me that unfortunately every now and then she just doesn’t have the time to read aloud to her son but he asks for “Ticklestar” (that’s what her toddler calls it) all the time. Why don’t we include a Videobook as well? So we did. All one needs to do is click on start.
Thank you “Susan”!
Thank you Zoomers for adopting me. I promise to become a vegetarian as soon as I wean my son off cheeseburgers.
To all our wonderful friends and relatives who took their time helping us with our project: Thank you, Merci, Tack so mycket, Dankeschön!
And thanks to you too, for showing interest and visited my blog. Do you say “visited”? I never blogged before, was it too long? …Boring? Please say no.
So bye for now.
P.S. I forgot to tell you why my serendipitous solution for the bedtime woes I had (had, yay!!) with my son is essentially a bribe. I only read the eBook to him after he brushed his teeth and snugly tucked up in bed. Only then! It’s a special treat for not giving me an ulcer at bedtime. Now it’s a special moment we enjoy together.