A great game to get my son to sleep without any fuss or tears

Having children is like living in a frat house—nobody sleeps, everything’s broken, and there’s a lot of throwing up – Ray Romano

This is a four-part series on how I used my smart devices to change or start certain behaviors in my two year old son. You will find the links to each of the other articles at the end of this post.

I believe you can see that I’m a fan of the smartphone! To me the phone is an essential part of life, like it or not, and I should think creatively if I wanted to engage my phone as a tool to improve certain behaviors in my son.

Here, I will share a phone hack that I personally used with great success, in getting my son to fall asleep without the slightest fuss or tears.

This is a great way I got my son to sleep. After you're past him figuring out how it works, he will play along and fall asleep! Find out how I did it.
This is a great way I got my son to sleep. After you’re past him figuring out how it works, he will play along and fall asleep!

I bring my son outdoors almost every weekend to upend his five-day tenure at home. Usually he goes swimming at my mom and dad’s and spends time with his grandparents that way. When he was younger he could fall asleep after 30 minutes or so of rocking in my arms. As he got older he took a longer time to fall asleep (and usually only after storytelling, singing or playing elevator music on Spotify and prolonged rocking on my part). One Saturday afternoon he was especially trying. The gentle rocking was making me fall asleep instead of him! The idea suddenly hit on me to create a variation from the game popular with many parents – who falls asleep first. It worked like a charm after a total of only 23 minutes!

Bonus benefit

It only takes one full round to let your child familiarized with the format of this game. You can play the same game over and over, each time with slightly different variations – involve a sibling for example, and that kills two birds with one stone as you’ll get both children asleep with the effort for one!

My logic

I believe children like adults, are motivated by challenges. This game is built on tiers of challenge, each tier is longer in duration and thus more challenging than the previous tier. I was happy that my son took to the challenge so readily, and eagerly agreed to play the next tier each time.

Starting off with one minute helps the child cosy up to the game. One minute is easier to start this game with rather than five minutes due to the short attention span you get with young children. Also, if you’re playing this game for the very first time, starting in short spurts help them better understand the format of the game.

With the more creatively inclined children, mom or dad will need to introduce variations to the game. The variation need not be too innovative. It can be simple as instead of not talking, the child should not be moving. The tougher the activity, or the more the child has to focus in order to win the tiers, the more quickly you will have an exhausted child who will only be happy to drift off into dreamland…

How I do it

I shared my method with my groups of mother-friends. Here is a screenshot of our chat:


Reality in practice

My son reacted amazingly well the first time we played. He fell asleep in like I said, 23 minutes. That was from 4 rounds of one minute, 2 rounds of two minutes (it took him a while to pick up the pattern to be able to understand the format of the game), 1 round of three minutes (he understood the game fairly well by then) and 4 rounds of four minutes (four minutes of silence is a long time for a talkative child to stick with, and by the third round here, he was fighting to stay awake…)

I encourage you to play this game with your children. You’ll be amazed how many variations you can have and how well it works. The best part about it is, the children fall asleep without any fuss. In fact, they’re pretty happy throughout the game. They get so much satisfaction from each round they conquer that they agree exceedingly quickly to level up to the next tier.

Other child-friendly hacks that I have successfully used the timer for are:

  1. Building up time management skills in my son (I was surprised how quickly his body clock adapted and what a sense of time he had)
  2. Getting him to leave my side so that I can gobble down my dinner (or take a shower)
  3. Strengthening his intuition for “time”(unfortunately he knows to wake up before my alarm rings so that he can intercept me before I leave the house for work)
  4. Delaying gratification (this corrects a really bad behavior that he developed from swiping through photographs of himself on my iPhone)
    If you want to find out my methods, read on! Please try them out and let me know what works for you and what doesn’t. I love tweaking processes and making them work better.

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