One particularly fidgety night though a couple of years ago, I stumbled on to a little trick that really does make bedtime a lot more fun for everyone in our family. I call it "the sleep assignment."
Nowadays, several of my children regularly ask for a sleep assignment before we say goodnight; it makes them go to bed more cheerfully, and it gives us something to talk about at breakfast. Double win!
So what is a sleep assignment? It's just a question that a child would enjoy thinking about...for a long, long time. They will lay in their beds, mulling it over, and sooner or later, distract themselves to sleep.
Here are some examples of the kinds of sleep assignments that have gotten good results around our house:
- Imagine that you are asked to train an animal to perform tricks at a circus. What kind of animal would you like to train? What is its name, and what tricks do you teach him?
- If you were to fill the local pool full to the brim with something fun or funny to surprise everyone, what would it be? How would different people react?
- One day you are exploring the dark jungles of Peru and you discover a new, fantastic kind of fruit that no one has ever seen before. What will you name it? How does it grow? What does it look like, smell like, and how does it taste?
- Imagine that this bedroom is turned upside down, and all the furniture that was on the floor is now stuck to the ceiling. What kinds of troubles would you have, and how would you manage?
- Tonight Maple (our dog) is going to suddenly learn to speak human. She will snuggle up in your bed with you and whisper all kinds of secrets. What will she say? What does her voice sound like? How did she learn to talk?
Generally, I've found that topics having to do with food, inventions, animals, and humor are great for exciting child creativity. And of course, the zanier the better!
I try to remember to follow up with the answers the next morning so they are motivated to give it their best. Plus, it's fun to learn about my kids' inner workings this way!