CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 21 . . . . June 21, 2002
Any book that has "easy" and "bedtime" in its title is setting up a very high bar to live up to: what parent isn't looking for a panacea for the tedium of getting kids into bed? Cynthia MacGregor's book sets out to offer alternatives for settling kids whose minds may still be buzzing at the end of a long day, or after watching tv or playing videos. She says in her introduction that "some kids -- and parents -- enjoy an activity that involves the child more actively than just listening to the parent reading aloud from a book" and that "some kids will perceive a different settle-down ritual as a treat and will go to bed more willingly when something new and different is offered."
Whether or not parents agree, the book's inviting chapter headings should convince even the biggest skeptics to at least give it a try. Rather than divide the activities up by age, MacGregor has divided her content into the following parts: Sleepytime Stories; Soothing Games and Quiet Activities; Silly Rhymes, Fun Songs, and Loving Lullabies: and Soft and Gentle Thinking.
Sleepytime Stories is full of ideas for making up stories of your own, either based on the parent's life, the child's, or re-working an old favorite, such as "An Eighth Dwarf Joins the Group" or "Cinderella's Children."
Most of the ideas in this section are solid, if sometimes a little far-fetched. Her suggestion that telling a child a story entirely of white things in order to fill his or her head with images of a soothing white landscape that will send him or her off to dreamland seems a little simple. On the other hand, I felt that, if a parent had the wherewithal (read: imagination and patience) to make up a story at the end of the day, s/he probably don't need this section anyway.
Many of the activity suggestions seem well-intentioned but impractical. Some will be well known, such as Geography or the Alphabet Shopping Game (I went to the market and bought an "object starting with a," followed by the next person repeating the sentence and adding an object starting with b and so on). Others are not, such as "Hide'n'Seek in your mind" in which children imagine play hide and seek by imagining hiding around their house. I quibbled with many of the suggestions in this section. Having your child create comic books or learn pig latin may be perfectly fine activities in and of themselves, but they are not bedtime activities.
Soft and Gentle Thinking proposes slowing your child's mind down with questions or funny situations. "What's the best thing about being a mommy?" or "Would a mouse look like a moose if he had antlers?" "What would happen if a cow laid eggs or a chicken gave milk?" "Do you think cows ever wish that they were chickens?" are some of the examples of questions to ask your child to mull on.
MacGregor's conversational tone sometimes borders on condescension. However, there is something appealing and nostalgic about introducing our over-scheduled children of the tv and video age to such simple classics as Rock, Paper, Scissors or Geography. Her premise that quiet time spent with a child before bed is time well-spent is also not unreasonable. Most of us know this, even if we are not always able to do it in practice.
this the book for frazzled parents looking for an easy way to send their
kids off to bed? Probably not. But maybe the answer is that there is
no "easy" way to get kids to sleep.
Overall, Night-Night is full of ideas to help parents re-think their notion of quality time with children. While I'm not convinced that a bedtime story is not the best way to go (and I realize that all parents and kids are different), I found myself introducing some of the quiet activities around bedtime.
Night-Night is book for anyone who has become so goal-oriented that they've become out of touch with the practice of just brainstorming or being silly for its own sake. It has a place, even if it's not in your child's bedroom.
Recommended with reservations.
Greenaway has worked as a bookseller and for a small publishing house
and is now at home with her small children in Edmonton, AB.
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