A few tips in no particular order for parents whose preschoolers seem to be staying awake too long after going to bed:
* Watch for the magic window - she could be overtired by the time she gets to bed, which can make it hard to wind down to sleep. Eye rubbing, yawning, slower blinking/physical movement, and snuggling up to you are all signs that she might be getting tired. Try putting her to bed when you notice these happening, even if it is earlier than her usual bedtime, and see what happens.
* Create a very specific ritual together that happens after you tuck her in. Make it short, sweet, and predictable. Then breeze out with an air of confidence that she'll be fine and you'll see her tomorrow morning.
* See if you can make a deal with her - if she stays in her room without coming out after bedtime, she can do something special in the morning. Make it a new privilege or task that reflects how grown up she is now that she can stay in her room on her own.
* Mellow the pre-bed routine down even more (ie brush teeth before taking a bath, since it often involves power struggles which can be over-stimulating.)
* Consider adding a daily after dinner walk around the block to help her wind down. (You can double your efficiency if you take the dog ...)
* I found that a high complex carb bedtime snack helped - cereal, whole wheat toast, or a granola bar. Some parents find that protein snacks at bedtime are helpful for their kids. Experiment to see what works best for yours. (I learned the hard way that Power Bars aren't such a great option. What was I thinking feeding my daughter an 'energy bar' at bedtime!?)
* Lavender or jasmine are very relaxing aromatherapy: in the bath, misted on her pillow, or rubbed onto her feet in a lotion or cream. Some parents find that homeopathic remedies such as Calms Forte or Moon Drops work wonders.
* Is she running thoughts from the day through her head? Add some kind of clearing/closing ritual to bedtime, like putting everything that happened during the day into a big imaginary bubble and watching it drift far, far away.
* Try letting her participate in making up a bedtime story and have her put in things that happened to her today. Tie up any loose ends into emotionally satisfying solutions.
The bottom line: Experiment and be creative. You will eventually find something that works. Be sure to ask your children what they think will help them feel more sleepy. They sometimes come up with the darndest things.
If you want some additional help figuring out how to help your child sleep better, contact me at email@example.com to schedule a parenting consultation by phone or email.