Start Here: 5 Tips for Happier Bedtimes for Kids

Holidays are full of excitement and wonder for children and families, but activity changes, travel, and all the fun can thoroughly disrupt a child’s sleep schedule, right?

So here are 5 tips for getting back to a better bedtime routine as the new year begins—or for creating a new one anytime.

1. Make a plan.
Activities to include in your bedtime plan might include a bath, pajamas, a snack, brushing teeth, reading together, talk time, and prayer.

Consider making a Bible story from a good Bible storybook part of your routine too.

Set specific bedtimes based on each child’s age and activities. Not all children are wired alike; some have definite night-owl tendencies, and trying to put a child to bed before he’s actually tired can backfire.

If your child has been staying up too late, set a temporary bedtime at the time he normally falls asleep and start your new bedtime routine about 30 minutes earlier. Then, once the routine is established, begin to move it back in 15-minute increments until your child is falling asleep easily at the desired time.

2. Be consistent.
Children thrive on routine and knowing what to expect, so unless special circumstances dictate, stick to your plan. When bedtimes are consistent, children can predict what’s going to happen next, which helps them feel secure.

Sometimes gentle reminders are needed: “Three more minutes, then it’s time to get into your pajamas.”

3. Help children relax.
Avoid energetic or competitive games as bedtime approaches, and choose quiet activities instead. Following up with a warm bath or shower, a good hair brushing, or a foot rub can help children relax. Make bedtime snacks sleep inducing, like a cup of warm milk or cocoa.

4. Don’t give up.
If you’re making big changes, the first few nights are likely to be quite challenging. But stick to the new routine—you should start to see substantial improvement with the first few weeks.

In the morning, reward your child for what he did well the night before, without focusing on what didn’t happen. Stickers and praise can work wonders.

5. Get help if you need it.
Some children develop bedtime fears, and many children test limits by resisting going to bed, with repeated questions, unreasonable requests, crying, or coming into your room throughout the night. Everyone in the household needs a good night’s rest, so don’t be ashamed to ask for help instead of letting the situation go on and on.

Your pediatrician is a good place to start, and so are other parents who have experienced the same difficulties—an online search can put you in touch.

Do you have a bedtime tip that’s worked for your family
or a favorite book to read at bedtime?
Share it with others in the comments below.

– Diane

What to Do When Christmas Just Isn’t the Same

three photosWill you be far away from family this Christmas? Has life changed for you this year, and have those circumstances altered Christmas too?

I’ve lived most of my adult life far from my parents and siblings, and we’ve almost never been together at Christmas. When my daughters were 6 and 2 (quite some time ago!), I wrote an article for The Lookout magazine titled “What to Do When You Can’t Go Home for Christmas.”

Since I graduated from college and came to Cincinnati 12 years ago, I have spent only three Christmases with my parents and brother and sister. (I confess, one year I stayed in town to spend part of the holiday with the man I later married.) The cost for our family of four to fly to California every year is prohibitive,and my parents prefer not to visit the Midwest in winter. Not often being about to go “home for Christmas” remains a peculiar heartache. …

You are likely to find yourself in my situation at least once in your life. Death, divorce, illness, finances, work, weather, car that break down–any of these can keep the traditional American family Christmas from happening.

There have been lonely moments during my Christmases away from home, but none of those has been miserable. Maybe some of the coping skills I’ve discovered will help you this year, or any year, if you won’t be going home for Christmas.

Our little family made our own traditions and celebrated joyful Christmases. And Cincinnati, not California, has felt like home for years now. But I thought of that article recently as I reflected on what’s different about Christmas this year.

We’re waiting for grandson number 4 to appear, for one thing, and his parents and siblings are staying close to home until he does. We won’t have everyone under one roof on Christmas Eve. Our in-town grandson and his parents will come on Christmas Day, and then they’ll be out of town until the new year has begun.

It’s all fine, really—it’s just different!

The last heading in my Lookout article was “Try to Be Flexible.” I had realized that from year to year, not one of my adult Christmases had been the same. I’d spent Christmas with friends in Virginia, in my own apartment, as a newlywed (we were married on December 13), at Sea World in San Diego, and at home in Cincinnati with a new baby girl.

Four days before Christmas, Ed and I returned from our wedding trip to an apartment stacked with boxes. We bought the smallest tree we could find, chopped off the top half, and stuck it in a clay flower pot. It was Christmas. …

We have decorated the house and put up our tree right after Thanksgiving, in order to host a Sunday school class party, and we have put up a small live tree just before Christmas and moved it back into the garage immediately after. Last year, when Bethany was a toddler, the tree was in the playpen for safekeeping.

Some years we’ve sent Christmas cards, some years we haven’t. Some years there’s been a reasonable amount of money for gifts, some years we’ve made do with less. We’ve gone to late-night Christmas Eve services and to early family services. Last year Christmas came on a Sunday, in the midst of a stretch of below-freezing temperatures. We decided to spend Christmas Eve at home, to have a short family service, open our gifts, and tuck our girls into be at the usual time.

Flexibility is freeing. The years I haven’t gone home for Christmas have taught me this: Christmas is not primarily an observance of family warmth and togetherness, though every form of media–and many Christians–treat it that way.

No, Christmas is the heart’s celebration of the birth of the Savior King. Christmas is the moment when, like Mary, I listen to the shepherds report the angel’s good tidings of great joy, and I “ponder all these things” in my heart–wherever I am and whomever I am with.

And I remember that Mary and Joseph were a long way from home on that first Christmas Day.

And Jesus, my Redeemer, the King of kings wrapped in swaddling clothes—was a long way from his home too.

 

– Diane

Book Review—For Such a Time as This: Stories of Women from the Bible, Retold for Girls

SuchATime

Author Angie Smith wants today’s girls to know that, like Esther, they too have a purpose and calling in God’s kingdom—and that the stories in Scripture show us this is true.

The title of this book for girls comes, of course, from the book of Esther. A Jewish girl turned queen of Persia is asked by her uncle Mordecai, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Esther’s actions impacted not just the Persian kingdom but the kingdom of God, saving the Jews from extinction.

For Such a Time As This
B&H Kids, 256 pages, hardcover
8.8 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches

Although told from a narrator’s point of view instead of more directly through the eyes of the women in the stories, readers still experience the forty stories in the book, for the most part, as the stories of the women who lived them.

Some stories, such as the story of Mary and Martha, are traditionally told this way. But others—such as the story of Jacob—often are not.

One thing I like about the storytelling in this book is that the author never downplays the significance of the men in the stories as she explores and shines a light on the experiences of the women in the same stories.

Take, for example, the story of Jacob and his wives, Rachel and Leah.

In “The Veil: The Story of Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah,” Leah knows that Jacob favors Rachel and tries to win his love by giving him sons. But when Leah’s fourth son was born, she named him Judah, which means “This time I will praise the Lord.”

She had no idea that her praise was offered to the same Lord who would, many years later, come to earth as a baby from the same family of Judah.

As she rocked her song into the midnight hours, she may have wondered if she would ever be chosen.

But as sure as the start lit the sky, God knew the answer:

You already have been, Love.

But all of the women in these stories aren’t rocking babies! Some, like Jael, are pounding tent pegs through an enemy’s skull. Others, like Delilah, are scheming and deceiving for pay. Yet every story is told with carefully chosen words, appropriate for the book’s audience (probably the 6-10 or 8-12 age groups), and the significance of the event and its part in God’s plan are always communicated.

The forty stories in the book begin with Eve in the garden and end with Priscilla working and teaching in the fledgling church. Each story ends with a devotional in three sections—He, Me, She—that provides a reminder about God’s goodness, an application takeaway for girls, and a prayer parents can offer for their daughters. There’s a Hebrew or Greek word to learn and a memory verse with each story too.

The book is highly illustrated by Breezy Brookshire in a traditional style in both color and black and white. Parents will appreciate the Parent Connection page, and parents and girls will enjoy the extras at the back of the book: “A Peek Behind the Scenes” by Angie and “From Concept to Illustration” by Breezy.

This beautiful storybook is well worth adding to your family’s collection if you’ve got girls!

About These Reviews and Recommendations

My career as a children’s book editor, acquisitions editor, and editorial director greatly influences my response to books. I have high standards for text, illustration, book design, and the purpose of a book.

I understand too that parents, grandparents, and others who buy books want and need good value in the books you choose. Your book budget is not unlimited.

I’m not writing these reviews as hype or promotion for fellow author’s books. I do care about helping authors—after all, I am one. I understand the effort authors pour into every book and the hopes they have for each one. The books I recommend, however, I’m choosing because of the merit I see in the book, no other reason.

I want to point you to the best books more than I want to point out books I don’t like, so I won’t be writing negative reviews. If I can’t support a book, I just won’t write about it. At times, however, I may note details or features I would have changed in a book I otherwise recommend. This is to help you make your own decisions about what books are right for your family.

– Diane

Some of the Bravest Moms I Know

I once walked through a large hall at a missions convention, talking with convention goers waiting to hear a speaker. “Do you know any parents of missionaries?” I asked. “We want to invite them to a special event tomorrow.”

Most people looked at me funny. “Parents of missionaries? I don’t think so.”

But then one woman said, “Yes, me!” and her eyes filled with tears.

On this Mother’s Day weekend, I want to tell you about some of the bravest moms I know.

Avery and her grandmum on a rare Christmas visit

They make huge sacrifices, but they never make the news.

Their children often get attention, but they themselves are usually overlooked.

Their families won’t be getting together for Mother’s Day—except maybe by phone or Skype, if time zones and a good Internet connection coincide.

Want to read more? Please join me over at Christian Children’s Authors where I’m honored to share this post today.

 

– Diane

A Guest Post by Grace Fox

Today I’m happy to host Grace Fox posting about her newest book and the family tradition behind it.

Grace is an international speaker at women’s events and the author of seven books, including 10-Minute Time Outs for Moms, 10-Minute Time Outs for You and Your Kids.

Her latest release is Tuck-Me-In Talks with Your Little Ones: Creating Happy Bedtime Memories (Harvest House).

Welcome, Grace!

Tuck-Me-In Time:
A Bedtime Tradition with Long-Lasting Results

Our five-year-old daughter, Kim, could hardly wait for bedtime. Each evening, she donned pajamas, brushed teeth, and went to the potty without a parental nag or threat. The moment she jumped into bed, she reached under her pillow. Then, wearing a wide grin, she retrieved and opened a zip-locked bag stuffed with little cards. Each card featured one question. “What does it say?” she’d ask, handing the card of her choice to her dad.

One evening the question read “What’s the best way to eat spaghetti?”

“With my hands,” Kim answered. She cupped her hands, put them to her mouth, and slurped make-believe noodles.

“Why not chopsticks?” asked her dad.

“No, not chopsticks,” said Kim. “The noodles would fall off!”

“Maybe an ice-cream scoop,” my husband suggested.

“No, Silly. Scoops are only for ice-cream,” said Kim. “Ice cream is cold but spaghetti is hot, so a scoop won’t work.” Her dad chuckled at the preschool logic.

The banter continued for a several minutes. Finally, convinced a fork was the best option, Kim slipped the card back into the bag and hid it once again under her pillow. Then she crawled under her covers, said her bedtime prayer, and kissed her daddy goodnight.

That bedtime tradition, simple as it was, still carries fond memories nearly two decades later. “I looked forward to bedtime because answering the questions was fun,” says Kim, now 26. “It was like a winding-down play time with my parents.”

Her dad and I remember it fondly too. We adopted it when Kim’s kindergarten teacher suggested parents ask their youngsters simple questions when tucking them into bed. Doing so would provide a positive end-of-the-day routine, she said. It would also build imagination and language skills and encourage an intentional connection between parents and kids.

It sounded like fun, but truth be told, at first we wondered whether it was worth it.

Like most parents of young children, we felt exhausted at day’s end. Striking up a conversation with Kim at bedtime seemed counterproductive if we hoped to relax and enjoy a few quiet moments alone. Then again, we longed to connect with our daughter in a meaningful way, so we gave it a try.

We discovered that, like any other method of spending intentional time with one’s children, it was a small investment with huge returns.

Questions like “Pretend you’re a fish swimming in the ocean. What do you see underwater?” stimulated Kim’s imagination. Storytelling skills developed with questions such as “Tell me about your day. What was the best part?” We explored emotions with questions like “Show me a sad face. What makes you feel sad?” And letter and sound recognition developed with questions such as “List five words that begin with the letter B.”

Kim’s cognitive growth proved to be a positive return on our investment, but there were other benefits too. These became more obvious throughout our daughter’s growing-up years.

When families eat, play, and build traditions together, says youth and family expert Jim Burns, the result is a strong family identity, which in turn results in the children possessing a strong sense of self-identity. This enables them to develop “a clear starting point for discovering their own place in the world.” Burns also suggests that these children are more likely to embrace their family’s values, and therefore are less likely to engage in promiscuity or drug and alcohol abuse later in life. He adds that children regard a parent’s presence as a sign of care and connectedness.

Youngsters whose parents spend quality time with them usually perform better in school and exhibit less negative behavior than those whose moms and dads do otherwise.

I’m grateful that my personal experience as a parent reflects Burns’ insights. I believe that connecting with Kim on a regular basis helped establish her self-identity that enabled her to make wise decisions later in life.

If I could replay this aspect of her early childhood, I’d make only one change: I’d start this tradition sooner. From three to five, especially, children are all ears and greatly concerned about what their parents think about topics big and small.

Today, as a mother of three young adults, I recall those preschool years with joy. Moms with older kids or empty nests told me to enjoy my offspring because they’d be grown and gone before I could blink. Some days I doubted that wisdom, but now I pass along the same advice. The window of wide-eyed openness and opportunity to lay healthy, lasting foundations closes far too soon. The more engaged we are with our youngsters now, the stronger our influence will be. And the stronger our influence is, the less likely culture, media, and peers will sway them later.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to encourage our kids’ spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical well-being. The tuck-me-in bedtime tradition proved to be a valuable resource to help accomplish that goal in our family. Give it try. You might find it helpful too!

Watch the trailer to Grace’s new book.

Grace’s books are available at bookstores nationwide, online, and on her website, www.gracefox.com/books. Read her devotional blog at www.gracefox.com/blog.

– Diane

A Guest Post by Allia Zobel Nolan

 

Allia Zobel Nolan

My friend and fellow author Allia Zobel Nolan guest posts today!

When I met Allia, we both worked for publishing houses that sometimes collaborated to create children’s books. One day Allia sent me an e-mail asking what Bible versions I read or would recommend. The next time we saw each other, I knew something had changed. I’ll let her tell you more:


I admit it.  I never read the Bible much before I became a children’s book author. I’d just jump in and out when I needed a quote for a toddler’s Noah or Moses book I was editing. I never lingered.

Oh, I’d pour over books like The Purpose Driven Life or The Jesus I Never Knew or The Case for Christ. More my style. The Bible? Too dry for me.

That all changed when I made a deal with God one day: Heal me from a horrible nerve disease, and I’d write a book just for Him. I’d call it The Worrywart’s Prayer Book because not trusting God and being anxious was one of my greatest problems. So I figured I’d help myself as well as others researching a book like this.

Well, needless to say, God came through, and so did I. And that’s when I got really “into” the Bible.

And eureka! I could write pages about what I found there … because what I found is that it’s ALL there. An answer for every challenge, every problem, every doubt we face, all in that one Book.

Of course, I concentrated on worry, and the Bible didn’t disappoint.  I wrote 40 chapters on trust, patience, accepting joy, loss, change, finding a mate, job jitters, failure, success, possessive possessions, death, money, terrorism, and more. I found advice on it all, right in God’s own words.

My love affair with the Good News (and it’s all good) didn’t stop there. I became intrigued by Philippians 4:8, a Scripture verse from the apostle Paul. I call it the whatever Scripture:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about those things.” 

Whatever, a word we hear so often, a word we use sarcastically to mean “Do what you want,” “Yeah, right,” or  “I don’t care.”  But Paul used the word in a totally different context. So I did too. I used it to write WHATEVER: Livin’ the True, Noble, Totally Excellent Life to help girls 9-12 “take captive every thought and hold it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  Once again, in the Bible I found all the answers I needed that would resonate with young readers:

Bad hair day? The Bible says, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles…. You should be known for the beauty that comes from within” (1 Peter 3:4).

No money for new duds? The Bible says, “And why worry about your clothes? Look at the field lilies. They don’t worry about theirs” (Matthew 6:29).

Feel uglier than a troll? The Bible says you are “amazingly and miraculously made” (Psalm 139:13). So feel blessed, not depressed.

And that’s just a sampling; I could go on and on.  (And I did, for 300 pages!)

Bottom line is, though, that through a GINORMOUS amount of grace, I found the Word to hold more knowledge than ten thousand Google searches on how to live a totally excellent, God-focused life now–as well as whatever I need to get me to my ultimate destination: the room the Bible says Jesus has gone to prepare for me.

But don’t take my word for it, take HIS. You’ll find answers to whatever you’ve been searching for … and more!

Do you have a favorite Scripture that sheds light on an everyday challenge?
Please share it with us in the comments!

The Scripture in today’s post is from the New International Version, the New Living Translation, the Living Bible, and God’s Word Translation.

*****
Allia Zobel Nolan is an internationally-published, award-winning author of over 170 children’s and adult trade titles with close to two million books in print. Her books reflect her two main passions, God and cats, and include such varied titles as Cat Confessions: A Kitty-Come-Clean Tell-All Book, The Ten Commandments for Little Ones, The Worrywart’s Prayer Book, and her latest, WHATEVER: Livin’ the True, Noble, Totally Excellent Life, a Zondervan FaithGirlz title.

Allia lives in Connecticut with her husband, Desmond Finbarr Nolan, and their three feline children, Sinead, McDuff, and Angela. Visit Allia at www.AlliaWrites.com or on Facebook.

– Diane

Wonders and Worship on a Fall Walk

Yesterday I took a walk at a park near home. I started out on the paved path . . .

But then I headed out on the wetlands loop, all gravel and hilly.
Harder to travel, but worthwhile. I found gold!

And I found beauty among ashes . . .


If we will look, it’s easy to see the creation worshiping the Creator . . .

As we are meant to do.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.–Isaiah 61:3


Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.–Matthew 5:15-16

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.–Romans 12:1-2

Today’s Scriptures are from the New International Version.

– Diane

How to Make Memory Verses Magnetic


Sometimes we need a little help to get verses to stick with us.

How about using magnets?


Last week I wrote “Let the Children Come,” about how much I enjoyed helping my five-year-old grandson memorize Genesis 1:1 and Psalm 106:1 while I was visiting.


We Skyped over the weekend. He still has the first verse down. He needed a little prompting to remember parts of the second. But he was proud to be able to repeat them both.


He’s learning to read. So I found some colorful card stock and printed out the verses in big type with extra spaces between the words. I cut out the strips and stuck them to a long magnetic strip with adhesive backing. Then I cut the words apart.


I am not crafty, but this was easy!


When Sol was a toddler, he loved the colorful ABCs we stuck to the fridge. I think he’ll have fun arranging his verses and love these magnetic words even more.


And I pray that the truths in the verses will stick in his heart as the words stick on the fridge.


So now I must go put his very own magnetic verses in the mail to him!


(And honestly, to help me learn a verse that tends to trip me up, I just might try this myself.)


– Diane

Let the Children Come

Afternoon at Forsyth Park

Me: Want to learn some Bible words?

Five year old: OK.

Me: In the beginning …

Five year old: In the beginning …

Me: In the beginning God created …

Five year old: In the beginning God created …

Me: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Five year old: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Woman rolling by in a wheelchair: Amen!

Me: Very good! When we get home, I’ll show you these words in the Bible.

Five year old: OK.

That evening

Me: Do you remember the Bible words you learned today?

Five year old: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Me: Very good! Want to see the words in my Bible?

Five year old: OK.

Me: Here they are, right at the beginning.

Five year old: Let me see.

Five year old, suddenly recognizing the words: In … the … begin-ning … God … creat-ed … the … heavens … andtheearth!

Me: Very good!

My grandson owns several children’s Bible storybooks. He has listened to Bible stories since he was very young, and now he can read them himself. And I’ve written and edited Bible curriculum, Bible stories, and Bible storybooks.

But helping him memorize Genesis 1:1 and pointing out the words to him in an actual Bible was a thrill.

Let the children come!

– Diane

Roma Downey, God’s Sweet Story, and Me

Cross-posted from the Christian Children’s Authors site.

We all need an entry point into God’s Word. Children too.

That’s why I’m so thrilled and blessed that The Sweetest Story Bible now comes in a deluxe edition, with all the stories narrated on two audio CDs by Roma Downey.

The forty stories in The Sweetest Story Bible focus on helping little girls get to know God–who he is and what he does. And each one relates in some way to the everyday sweet moments in a little girl’s life.

Here’s one little girl, Scottlyn, enjoying her book!

Scottlyn’s grandma asked me to autograph a copy of the deluxe edition for her.

Nearly a year ago, on my birthday, I got an e-mail from a Zonderkidz editor letting me know about the deluxe edition and that Roma would likely be the narrator.

Quite the birthday gift!

But nothing like actually hearing Roma read the stories I wrote! I waited a day after my sample arrived–there’s something quite scary about hearing your own words read back to you, especially by someone with such a wonderful voice. Finally I got brave and sat down to listen. Chills and tears!

We just have no idea, sometimes, what might happen with our small efforts, do we? May Scottlyn and so many other girls like her grow up to have a sweet relationship with God through his Son, the Word, Jesus Christ.

– Diane