Bedtime can either be one of the worst times of day or the best. By the time it’s time to tuck the kids in bed, I am on my last energy reserves. Having a consistent bedtime routine for kids can save the day, and the night, too. I know it has in our home. Today, I am going to share a bedtime routine to help your child sleep.
Break Down of the Bedtime Routine to Help Your Child Sleep
This bedtime routine has worked for our kids for years. It worked as a bedtime routine for a toddler. It worked as a bedtime routine for a 3 year old. And it still works as a bedtime routine for a 9 year old, with a few tweaks as the children grew up. A consistent bedtime routine helps provide security. It also allows for quality time for you and your child to feel connected and loved before the end of the day.
By allowing plenty of time for your bedtime routine, you don’t have to rush. Leaving you feeling less stressed when the inevitable silliness takes hold of the household. Such as this scenario from our house: “Meow! Meow! I’m a kitty.” “Hi, kitty. It’s time to go brush your teeth.” “Kitty wants to cuddle.” “One more minute, kitty, then go brush your teeth.”
We start our bedtime routine at least 1 hour 15 minutes before the kids are actually supposed to be tucked in bed. This allows time to take turns using our only bathroom, including showering/bathing when it is bath night.
It may not seem like it, but family time is the beginning of our bedtime routine. Our children look forward to family time every night. They are disappointed if we have a busy day that gets us home too late to have family time. Typically, family time is 15-30 minutes on weeknights, depending on our schedule and whether it is bath night. On the weekends, we usually make family time longer and start it earlier in the evening.
During family time we typically do some activity together as a family. We watch some television together, play a video game, go outside, play a game the kids’ created, roughhouse, play hide and seek, or start a board game.
The point is to get some quality time together as a family almost every day. This helps to get our bedtime routine off on a good start.
Bathroom and Pajama Time
Each child then gets time to use the bathroom, brush teeth, and take a shower or bath, if it is bath night. In our house, this typically means the kids each gets some alone time with us both while their sibling is in the bathroom.
If we haven’t already slipped into our pajamas, we typically all get pajamas on now. When the kids were younger, I used to lay pajamas out for them on their beds. Now, they typically pick out their own. Although now they see how many nights in a row they can get away with wearing their favorite pajamas. 😏
Of course, when our kids were younger and needed more help brushing teeth and bathing, we would typically take turns helping them. Or if I had a long day at home with the kids, I might take some self-care time. My husband handled bath time then. (A few minutes of mommy alone time can go a long way before the final bedtime tuck in.)
At this point in our bedtime routine, we head into the kid’s bedrooms to read together. In our household we take turns tucking each child in, but this could easily be adjusted by having the older children play in their rooms until it is their turn to get tucked in. (Which we have done when both of us weren’t home for bedtime.)
Not only does reading out loud to our children help them to relax and unwind, it also helps them become better readers. Reading together makes great quality time together and gives you a topic to discuss.
We usually read either one picture book or one chapter in a chapter book a night. Having extra time at bedtime does allow you the choice to read one more.
Tip: If you have kids who love to read like mine, I always keep library books on hand on a dedicated shelf in our home. I started this habit when our kids signed up for the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program at our library and our kids love having new books to read all the time. (I may or may not have checked out more than 100 books at one time, just so I didn’t have to go back to the library for awhile. 😀)
Cuddle time ended up being the best addition to our bedtime routine. When our oldest was about 3 years old and finally in his big kid bed, he struggled fought sleep big time. After spending 1-2 hours a night trying to get him asleep, we added cuddle time to the bedtime routine. That changed everything.
For about 10 minutes, we would cuddle with him in bed. Maybe talking quietly, but ideally just laying quietly with my arm around him. These few minutes of extra attention while lying down seemed to be what he needed to finally relax his little body for sleep.
When I told him it was time to sleep, he would ask for one more minute. (He struggled with transitions at this age, so getting one more minute usually helped him to move on easier.) I would give him one more minute of cuddle time. Once the one more minute was up, I would kiss him, tell him good night, and that it was time to sleep. (I had heard that actually saying it was time to sleep helped kids fall asleep. With an infant and a toddler who refused to sleep, I was desperate, so I deliberately said it every night before I left the room.) I was consistent that the end of one more minute was time for me to leave the room.
Over the years, cuddle time has changed. Cuddle time has mainly transformed into a special time to sit in bed together and have one on one conversations. My youngest will still take all the cuddles she can get. I believe this is such an important part of a bedtime routine to help your child sleep because it is one last opportunity for children to feel connected to you and loved right before they close their eyes.
Creating a safe and soothing atmosphere also helps create a bedtime routine to help your child sleep. This may change as your child gets older. Consider what lighting is best, just a nightlight, a lamp, or the overhead light if they really don’t like the dark. Play music on a mobile or a stuffed animal that plays lullabies. Falling asleep to the same songs helps train the brain and body to relax when they hear them. Now that my kids are older, they have fans in their rooms that they can turn on to cool off or to help them sleep.
Creating a bedtime routine to help your child sleep is centered around what works for you and your family. Our routine might be too long for you, so you may want to pick and choose what would be helpful in your routine.
The key to setting up a bedtime routine that works is to include time to help your child unwind and to be consistent with the routine. Intentionally planned quality time is the most essential part of a bedtime routine to help your child sleep.