If you're a parent, you know that bedtime can be a battlefield - complete with protests, surrenders and even the occasional strategic negotiation. Daunting or not, sleep is vital to your child's growth and development. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, 40 percent of childhood is spent asleep. Whether your kid is in diapers or the newest kindergartener on the block, you can make bedtime a little easier (and more peaceful) by employing a few fresh tricks.

Let the kid decide (kind of)

There's a reason that kids don't get to make a lot of decisions (gummy worms for breakfast, anyone?). But when it comes to your bedtime routine, letting your child in on the fun can help ensure he looks forward to it. Allow him to choose his bedtime story and pick out his pajamas. If you're feeling creative, ask him to help you make up the bedtime story.

Create a consistent atmosphere

Imagine falling asleep while being rocked by a sweet, comforting woman who is humming your favorite tune in the ever-growing twilight. Now imagine waking up at 2 a.m. to dark silence and a not-so-soft crib mattress. Yeah, you'd probably cry too. Help your child make it through those late-night wakings by making sure the room is the same then as it was when she fell asleep. That means putting her in her crib when she's sleepy, and leaving the room before she's out.

Warm the bed

OK, so it may sound a bit indulgent, but when you're itty bitty, immobile and incontinent, you deserve a bit of pampering. Use a heating pad to warm up the bed or crib mattress before laying your baby down. After all, going from a pair of cuddly 98-point-something-degree arms to a cold, firm crib sheet sans blankets (for safety) would disrupt anyone's sweet dreams. Warming up the mattress can help ease the transition. Just remember to take the heating pad out before putting the baby in!

Make it a game

If you gave your child the option between playing a game and going to bed, which do you think he'd choose? Combine the two by making part of your bedtime routine a game. Play a guessing game about your day or work together to "scare off the monsters" under the bed and in the closet. Your kiddo will have fun while understanding that this is part of the bedtime routine (keyword: bedtime).

Customize the backdrop

Have you ever spent a sleepless night staring at a plain, uninteresting wall? Imagine how your child feels when she's stuck looking at that floral wallpaper border that was hung somewhere around 1996. Ask your kiddo what she'd like on the wall next to her bed. Whether it's horses, dolphins or her favorite Disney princess, she may be happier getting into bed with her BFF (after you, of course) on the wall beside her.

Keep the lighting cool

Dark rooms are great for sleeping, but not so great when your little one is afraid of the dark. According to the National Sleep Foundation, nightlights can be great sleeping aids as long as they don't keep a child awake. Do your kiddo a favor by installing simple, energy-efficient nightlights in his room (and down the hallway if he's potty trained).

Make daytime more active

There's something to be said for tiring a kid out. According to a study conducted at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, it takes children three minutes longer to fall asleep for every hour they are sedentary during the day. Sedentary activities included reading and watching TV. According to the study, active kids also slept longer; so maybe it's time to start that family triathlon training.

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