Those mystical words, "time to go to bed" can change a happy, playful child into a screaming ball of tantrum. Establishing a bedtime routine minimizes the appearance of that tantrum. Here are some ideas to make bedtime a little easier on everyone.
Create a standard bedtime. Set the time based on what is best for your family. If you need to get up early in the morning, then perhaps an earlier bedtime is needed for your child.
Stick to the bedtime. Even on weekends, vary the routine as little as possible. Once your child is firmly established in going to bed on time, then you can move bedtime slightly later on weekends.
Create an evening routine and stick to it every single night. This can be hard if your schedule varies, however, keeping the order of the routine in place will help your child prepare and adjust for relaxing and eventually sleep. Prior to bedtime, engage in a calming activity. This might be cuddling with a book or watching a mellow, short (1/2 hr) movie.
Here's an example of a bedtime routine -
Get into pajamas
Cuddle on the couch with a book
Move to bedroom and get settled into bed - you might read a short book here also. "Good Night, Moon" is a popular bedtime routine book.
Kiss good night
One note of warning, as you start this routine, you will be introduced to the negotiator. Your child will try every excuse imaginable to get you back into the room or to get out of bed. Don't fall for it. Reassure everything will be fine and say good night.
If you are interested in more ideas for bedtime, here's an article with helpful hints. End The Bedtime Blues
Good luck and good night.