Bedtime can be one of the most stressful times of the day for parents. This guide on how to create a bedtime routine will help both you and your kids have a more laid back bedtime. Also, be sure to snag the free printable bedtime routine chart.
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Many of the moms I talk with regularly have similar complaints. One of the top stressors in their day-to-day life is their children’s bedtime.
Not gloating, but the one thing I have been strict on since day one was bedtime. And it has paid off immensely.
For me, having a structured bedtime routine for the kids is essential to both their health and mine. I typically spend an additional 3-4 hours staying awake after the kids go to bed to work, read, do yoga, etc.
These activities are MINE. They are for me. It’s the one time of day that I get to be my top priority.
I know all the big motivational blogs, including some of my posts, say it shouldn’t be this way. But, let’s face it. When you have kids, they are always the top priority. Always.
Keeping that in mind, the benefits extend beyond your own mental health and stress control.
Benefits of Having a Bedtime Routine
- Kids expect and can prepare for bedtime. This can help eliminate or at least cut down on the tantrums and arguing around the time.
- It helps children wind down in the hour leading to going to sleep. When kids are left to play on screens or play high-activity games, it can be hard to lay down and go to sleep.
- Kids typically get better quality sleep and can even sleep longer when a bedtime routine is established with a consistent time.
- Having a consistent and early bedtime routine in place can decrease the number of nightmares and night terrors in your children.
What To Include in Your Kids’ Bedtime Routine
Each family will have a different set of activities and tasks for bedtime. So, take these suggestions as a suggestion and adapt them to fit your family’s needs.
- 1 hour Prior to Bedtime: Bath and Pajamas. Some parents choose to include bathtime every night. If you do, be sure to account for this time in your routine. Bathtime can take between 15-45 minutes. If you don’t do bathtime each night, you will need to extend your bedtime routine on the nights that do include a bath. After bathtime, have your children put on pajamas. This lets them know that time for sleep is getting close and it can also help them relax and get comfortable.
- 20 Minutes Before Bedtime: Brush Teeth: Brushing teeth is an important part of every child’s hygiene routine. Having your kids brush their teeth also lets them know that it’s time to be done eating. If your child fights you on brushing their teeth, brush yours with them or offer to let them try it by themselves.
- 15 Minutes Before Bedtime: Go Potty: This applies to children who are potty trained through mid-elementary. This one can help decrease the number of times a child wakes up at night to go to the bathroom, which in turn will promote better sleep.
- 10 Minutes Before Bedtime: Read a Story: Reading keeps bedtime fun and interesting for kids, while also keeping it calm and relaxed. Plus, reading may help put positive imagery in a child’s head right before bed and reduce nightmares. Let your child pick the book to give them something to look forward to.
- 5 Minutes Before Bedtime: Bedtime Snuggles and Prayer. The last thing your child feels before they go to sleep should be love and safety. Give snuggles and kisses. And if your family incorporates prayer, now is a good time to say your prayers before climbing in bed.
As mentioned above, this list is completely subjective. You can take what you like and leave the rest out. Here are a few other ideas that you might want to include in your kids’ bedtime routine. Or check out this post for even more ‘treat’ style activities.
- Planning for tomorrow (outfits, school activities, etc.)
- Talk about the best and worst part of your child’s day with them. This can help them express emotion, let you know if anything is going on that is concerning, and it lets them know they are important and that their feelings are valued.
- You could try incorporating a relaxing meditation or yoga session for even just 10 minutes. Both are incredibly beneficial for relaxation, self-esteem, and mental health.
- For somewhat older children, schedule some independent reading time.
If This Is All Brand New, Take It Slow
One of the quickest ways to initiate a full-blown panic attack on behalf of a child is to change their routine too quickly.
If your child is used to an inconsistent later bedtime, slowly start decreasing their time by 30 minutes. Start with 5-7 days and then lower the time by 30 minutes again. You can try to shorten the time between changes, like 3-day increments, but be prepared to go back to a week if it’s too frustrating. Repeat this until you hit your desired bedtime.
Also, if you are incorporating new activities into their bedtime routine, or taking away screen-time, which I highly recommend in the evenings, you are likely to encounter some resistance.
Start by reducing the amount of time they have on their tablet or watching TV. Just like bedtime, decrease the amount of time slowly.
If you are adding reading, prayer, or putting on pajamas, be patient. It takes everyone a while to adapt to change. Even adults struggle. So, be patient and encouraging instead of frustrated.
Tips for Maintaining a Bedtime Routine
A shiny new bedtime routine is all the rage at the beginning. But, it can often become redundant for parents. And sometimes it can even become a bit of a burden or seem less of a priority than other activities.
For example, once your child is in sports or other extracurricular activities, it may be very difficult to stick to a bedtime routine if extracurricular activities are interfering with that time.
In these instances, rather than bagging the whole thing, there are steps you can take to minimize damage and keep your bedtime routine consistent.
- Ask for help from other family members. Ask your spouse to bathe the kids while you get pajamas. Have an older child read with a younger child while you brush a toddler’s teeth.
- When having company over, either ask them to leave prior to bedtime or let them know that you will need 30 minutes to get your children ready for bed. This prepares all parties and lets everyone know what the top priority is.
- Try to avoid activities that interfere with bedtime. I know this can be extremely challenging when it comes to sporting games, etc. But, if you can choose a different time, opt for something earlier in the day.
- If an activity can’t be avoided or rescheduled, don’t get frustrated. Go about your bedtime routine as usual and then continue at the normal time the following day.
- If your child is in school, I suggest sticking to your bedtime routine even on the weekends. You can bump the time up a little if you allow your children to stay up later on the weekends. But, the order of activities when bedtime does roll around should remain the same.
Free Printable Bedtime Routine Checklist
For kids and adults alike, having an accountability system in place will improve the chances of success. This printable checklist will help keep your child engaged and active in their bedtime routine.
I created this as a coloring sheet for children. It can be printed off weekly, or until the child is secure in their routine. Each day, have the child color in the circle of the corresponding day next to the appropriate bedtime activity.
I hope you and your child can get some enjoyment out of this printable and that it helps both of you stay consistent with your new routine.