Creating a simple bedtime routine for kids is one of the best things you can do. Both for a happy, well rested child, and peace in the house. When kids have a routine, they’re less likely to fight bedtime and more likely to have sound sleep.
The routine in our house is really simple. After before bed we get pajamas on, brush our teeth, read a couple of books (or a few chapters of a book), go potty and get a little drink of water, and then go to sleep. We also lay down with him for about 10 minutes or so. We either talk a little or sing a few songs.
He in no way needs us to lay with him. He can fall asleep on his own and often does after we get up. However, we choose to do this because it’s the one time in the day when we can’t be distracted by anything else. It gives us a nice little one-on-one time together and we both cherish that.
I know that someday, probably not too long from now, he won’t want me to lay with him anymore. So I will continue to do it until that day. He’s only little once, after all.
If you don’t have a bedtime routine for kids in your house, now is the time to start!
Why Bedtime Routines for Kids are Important
Having a bedtime routine is helpful in so many ways! If you’re having trouble with behavior issues, irritability, over emotional reactions, or just bedtime fights, a bedtime routine might be exactly what you need.
Kids thrive on predictability and routines. That why all of those little routine charts and cards for kids are so popular! Lots of kids perform much better in their daily lives from the simple consistency that routines provide.
Routines provide predictability and stability. They also convey to kids that Mom and Dad have it together (even if we don’t) and that the world is not chaos (even if it is). It provides them the safety and comfort in their home and lives that they need.
Bedtime routines also help eliminate arguments and frustration when it’s time for sleep. When there is a consistent routine, kids know what to expect. There isn’t the fluctuation day to day that gives them the idea that the rules for bedtime can change at any time. They know, for example, that brushing teeth is a consistent part of the bedtime routine and arguing isn’t going to change it.
Having a bedtime routine allows you to build some one-on-one time into your day. The reading books, conversation and singing songs is as much for Zach as it is for me. It may only be 10 minutes, but ti’s 10 minutes where no one else needs anything else from me (and if they do they can wait). He also isn’t distracted by toys, TV, or any other number of things. It’s just me and him.
A consistent bedtime routine also allow kids time to calm down and relax before bed. This helps them fall asleep easier and sleep better! I know on rare nights where the bedtime routine can’t be followed completely as usually, Zach has a harder time falling asleep. Sometimes he even seems to be a little more restless. A good bedtime routine helps him get the sleep he needs.
Finally, it promotes good lifelong habits. You can help your child build habits in that are much harder to get used to as we get older. Brushing teeth before bed, for example. I was an adult before I consistently brushed my teeth every night because it was never a habit for me. Hopefully, my son won’t have to worry about that because it’ll be habit at a very young age.
Creating a Simple Bedtime Routine
You know you need a bedtime routine, but how do you create one? What should it include?
These are all specific to individual families. Maybe your family prays. Perhaps meditation is important in your family. Everyone is different. There are some general guidelines, however, to help you get started.
First, choose what is important to your family to include at bedtime. For us, that’s brushing teeth, reading, and one-on-one time.
As you are choosing, remember to keep it simple. Don’t stuff too much in or make it so lengthy that bedtime at 7:30 means starting to get ready at 4:00. Pick just a couple of things that you will be consistent with every night.
Then, create a visual chart or checklist if that helps your child remember or get on board with a new routine. I considered doing this when we transitioned to no naps and longer sleep, resulting in a different bedtime. He was struggling and there were some arguments, but he got on board with the new program before I needed to implement anything!
Visual cues like charts can be super helpful if you’re having difficulty with the routine. It makes it easy to ask your child what’s next when they’re wandering around looking lost. They can reference the chart and get themselves back on track. If they’re arguing with you about watching a cartoon first, you can also just point to the chart and remind them that it is not what we do when we’re getting ready for bed.
Next, decide on the time you want your child to fall asleep and work backward to include all of the tasks to get your start time. Our son wakes up very early so to get enough sleep, he’s asleep by 6:00. To get everything done and have enough time to not have to rush, we start getting ready at about 4:45. Lights are out by 5:30. He is rarely ever awake more than 15 minutes after the lights are off.
When starting a new routine, introduce it and let your child know that this is how bedtime will go every night going forward. If you want, you can even get his or her input on something they want to do to get ready for bed. Maybe it’s choosing their own pajamas or something as simple as deciding if they will brush teeth before or after get their pajamas on.
If and when they try to defy the routine, refuse to argue with them about it. Don’t allow them to delay tasks or add new things in randomly. Keep consistent with the schedule (unless life dictates changes and you decide to alter it). If Zach is goofing around and taking too long, we remind him that if he doesn’t have his pajamas on, we won’t be able to read, because there won’t be time.
Put them in control of being responsible for the outcome. If necessary, set a timer. Sometimes just reminding them they have 5 or 10 minutes to do something is enough to get everything back on track. They’re kids, they’ll get off track sometimes.
Get a routine in place right away!
A bedtime routine for kids is the best way I know to solve the bedtime arguments. They get kids in bed quicker and help them calm down and prepare for sleep. They’re also a great way to just wind down the evening, signaling the end of another day.
If you’re kids are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you might just need a bedtime routine. The same can be true if your kids are struggling in school or exhibiting behavior problems. They might just need better sleep and a consistent schedule. Kids crave consistency!
Take some time and figure out your perfect bedtime routine. Then put it in place and stick with it for a few weeks. It might be a little rough at first, but it will improve. Before you know it, it will be like it was always in place!