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How to Start a Bedtime Routine for Children

baby sleep positions jazz hands

We used to focus on keeping Zoe in her bed all night. But now we just make sure she falls asleep in her bed with a consistent bedtime routine. If she makes a middle of the night creep into our bed, we are okay with a family bed for co-sleeping. It does not disrupt our sleep or marriage connections and my husband and I adore morning snuggles with our daughter. Of course with co-sleeping, you will have some interesting sleep positions in bed, but as long as you have a good bedtime routine, you will get quiet time in the evening when it counts the most.

Importance of a Kid’s Bedtime Routine

Kaiser Permanente, an integrated health care organization, says,

Continue a relaxing bedtime routine, such as reading a book or having bath time. Try not to stimulate your child with TV, games, or other activities right before bedtime. Make sure your preschooler falls asleep in their bed each night to establish the routine.

It’s best to start your bedtime routine about one hour before bedtime. First, set a time for your actual bedtime goal. Then set a time to start the bedtime routine where you are getting ready for bed. Both you and your child should unplug from the TV and other devices and connect for the last hour before you actually put your child to bed and say goodnight. I notice that when I am still wrapping up projects and cleaning up during Zoe’s bedtime routine, she ends up going to sleep later because I get caught up in doing my own thing while she is “supposed” to be brushing her teeth. The bedtime follow-through can only happen if you give your child the true attention they deserve from you the hour before they go to sleep.

You can find out how many hours of sleep your child needs here and adjust your bedtime hour accordingly.

So, here is an example of a bedtime routine for children that works for us. I hope it will inspire you to find a bedtime routine and rhythm that fits perfectly for your family.

Bedtime Routine for Children

7:00pm Give a 30 minute warning. Set the timer and let your child know it’s last call for water, bathroom and play. This is your time to wrap up your personal projects too. You can offer glass of water or warm milk and a healthy snack (like raisins, apple, piece of toast) during this time.
7:15pm – Get dressed and ready for bed. Put on PJs, brush teeth, pick out bedtime books and locate the stuffed snuggle buddies.
7:30pm – Read stories and chat. Bedtime stories, Cuddles, Questions and answers about the day. Kids tend to have a lot to say at night– it’s the perfect time for quality 1 on 1 conversations.
8:00pm – Say goodnight. True wind down begins after kisses, hugs, prayers, good night. Leave the room and give your child alone time to fall asleep and self-soothe.
8:30pm – Check on your sleeping Angel. This is where you check on your child to make sure they are asleep and give them a few extra kisses.

If you want to give your child a bath at night, I suggest you add that at 6:30pm, 30 minutes before the above bedtime routine starts.

Don’t forget to create a gentle and peaceful rhythm for your own nightly routine. How many hours of sleep are you getting at night? And how do you spend those quiet hours?

Start your own nighttime routine 30 minutes after you leave the room (so that would be at 8:30pm if you follow the above bedtime routine). This will help you stay calm and empathetic when your child starts creeping out of their room. I have a solution for the in-and-out of bed struggle that can happen after you leave your child in bed for the night. I will share that experiment with you next week. Before I started the “silent sleep” experiment, both my husband and I were guilty of yelling, “Get in your room! Go – to – bed – now!” Not the last thing your child wants to hear before they have sweet dreams.

Join the discussion

What time is bedtime in your house? I’d love to hear your kid’s bedtime routine. And how do you unwind for the evening once your child is out for the count?

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2 Responses to How to Start a Bedtime Routine for Children

  1. jen April 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    Our bedtime isn’t set in stone at the moment. Most nights our kids (2 and 4) go down around 8:30. Our son, who is 4, wakes up at 6:30 on the dot. Every day. Our 2 yr old wakes up around 8am. And she is fighting her naps lately so it seems like schedules are out the window. But our bedtime routine is pretty condensed— bath, brush teeth, read two stories and then turn off lights (all within 45 minutes). Then we pray and it’s bedtime. We have to lay with our 2 year old until she falls asleep, which is a blessing and curse (on nights when I have 100 things to do). But it’s special and I know will end one day.

  2. julie May 16, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    Hi is 4 months to soon to get baby in routine bath bottle then leaving them to fry for upto 20 mins

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