For most families, bedtime is the most stressful time of the day – but it doesn’t have to be that way, I promise! Here are our magic secrets to creating an easy bedtime routine for kids, so that you can find peace in your household once again.
The best place to start in setting up an easy bedtime routine for your kids is to simply establish one. Help your kids to know what to expect when bedtime rolls around by having set expectations each and every night.
In our house, our routine varies a little bit with the seasons (for example, the summer schedule is a little bit later and more flexible than the school year), but for the most part the routine is locked in place.
Dinner is almost always around 5:00 or 5:30pm. We like to have our dinners early to make sure that our bellies are filled with good and healthy options before the snack attacks take over. Sometimes the kids may even eat dinner closer to 4:30. It just depends on how hungry they are each day.
After dinner, the kids get to play with Daddy and catch up on any homework or piano practice that might have been forgotten from earlier. This is also where our kids would have to squeeze in any leftover chores or responsibilities from their chore chart.
If it’s a bath night (we tend to be an every other night household), the kids will head into the bathtub (3-year-old) and shower (6-year-old) by 6:15ish.
Then, it’s time for jammies and personal grooming: comb your hair and brush your teeth.
Once they’re ready for bed, the kids get to have some “tech time” in their rooms with their Kindle Fires. This is a summertime treat for my two, as we don’t usually let them have their tablets right before bed on school nights. But! #summer – Also, I have the parental controls set to turn the Kindles off at 7:30pm.
(We love our Kindle Fires, because the kids have free reign to download appropriate content without needing to purchase each and every app. We feel confident that there are no in-app purchase surprises and that they’re safe on their devices.
And! Amazon offers a 2-year warranty on the kid editions with an entire year FREE of their FreeTime Unlimited Programming. There’s also a 25% discount if you purchase 2 of them at one time. Of course, this makes the most sense for families with more than one child. But, in our book, you honestly can’t go wrong. These are the versions we have and recommend.)
When the Kindles turn off, the kids know it’s time for sleep!
Mommy and Daddy will pop into their rooms for some quick prayers and a few hugs and kisses – and that’s it.
We do have nights where the kids might decide they’re suddenly hungry (enter: string cheese) or in need of one more story, but for the most part, they’re pretty good about going to bed, because they know what is expected of them at bedtime.
In simple form, this is our routine:
Just be flexible and figure out what works in your house – and then adjust as needed.
A great way to get the kids involved in their new routine is to let them make choices whenever possible. If they can feel some control in the decision-making, they will be much more likely to comply with the structure of the routine.
An easy way to get your child involved right off the bat is to let them choose which pajamas they’d like to wear!
Does your child get to choose between taking a bath or having a shower? What about the type of soap they use? Bubbles or no bubbles? Simple choices like these can hold great power for the little ones in your home! They will feel so included when they get to decide how their bath time routine goes!
(My daughter was not the biggest fan of taking showers until we added in conditioner. Now, she’s feeling pretty awesome about having an extra big-girl step in her beauty regimen and showers are no longer a household fight!)
Wherever you can fit in a couple of choices for your kids, the better.
And be sure to point out when they’re making the choice! Really show them what a part they are playing in their new routine!
There are some fantastic tools on the market to help littles relax and get into a mindset for sleep. These can definitely help with making your bedtime routine nice and easy for your kids. We use some in our house – and they have shifted as my littles have gotten bigger. All of the products listed below are available on Amazon.
Soothe & Serene Lotion | Love Beauty and Planet
A super delicious lavender lotion that lasts for 24 hours. It’s also vegan, as well as cruelty-free (and paraben-free and silicone-free and free from all the other gross stuff, too!) Super light feeling and would be awesome for a little one who needs help nodding off.
Made with children in mind, this balm was created for pre-sleep and built with essential oils.
The Magic Sleepsuit | Baby Merlin
Oh, this magical sleep suit is perfect for the baby who just cannot get the hang of staying asleep. When my oldest was tiny, she couldn’t seem to make the transition out of the swaddle – but the magic sleep suit worked wonders for her.
Jewel Lullaby | Jewel
I will never not recommend the Jewel Lullaby CD to all parents. This very special CD saved me time and time again with both of my children (and, actually, my niece fell in love with it, too!) Something about these songs just calmed my kids down immediately every single time they needed it. These are originals by Jewel, and, I swear, you’ll love them, too!
Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine | Hatch
This sound machine is also a time-to-rise clock! This is a best-selling item on Amazon with over 2000 happy customer reviews. The device can be controlled from your phone and you can customize the color, volume, brightness, and sound!
Mella Ready to Rise Children’s Trainer | LittleHippo
This little guy is similar to the Hatch system mentioned above because it has cool colors and a sound machine incorporated with the wake-up feature! But Mella also includes facial expressions to help your child learn when it’s time for bed and time to wake up!
2.0 Cool Heavy Blanket | YnM Weighted Blanket
Weighted Blankets are so in right now. They’re known for helping with anxiety and allowing people to feel calm before drifting off to sleep. But there are also special versions made just for kids! These blankets have lighter weights and include a cooling feature, so the child doesn’t get too hot during the night. #bonus
LED Nursery Night Lights for Kids | LumiPets
Maybe your little one just needs a special night light to feel safe in their space. This little guy is both portable and rechargeable. It can safely stay in a child’s bed or crib and can change colors with a simple tap.
This little guy is a lavender scented SLOTH that you heat up in the microwave so he’s warm for extra snuggles. HOW CAN YOU GO WRONG!? There are actually bunches of animals to choose from if sloths aren’t your thing, but….how can sloths not be your thing?
Essential Oil Diffuser with 6 Bottles | URPOWER
If you want to diffuse essential oils right in your child’s room, this little diffuser comes with 6 of the most popular options: lavender, peppermint, sweet orange, eucalyptus, tea tree, and lemongrass. Be sure to do your research with oils, as there are many on the market and some are not safe with pets.
***If you happen to have a child who pops into your room each night, this little inflatable toddler bed is a great option for the floor next to yours. It slides under our bed without any trouble (with a pillow and blanket ready and waiting on top)! That way, if we have a little visitor, we can quickly slide out a sleeping arrangement for them, without missing out on any zzz’s.
When it works, it works. So, no matter what, do not stray from the plan. Guard your bedtime routine with all that you have.
The steps of the bedtime routine are easy for your kids – but that means they’re also easy to skip if something better pops up!
My kids go to bed right on time almost every night – and I have had more than one friend scoff at our choice to put bedtime BEFORE playdates. We have left get-togethers and dinners out. We have ended nights early and skipped events altogether simply because we knew it would mess with bedtime.
But to us, sleep is important – for our kids, but also for me and my husband, as well.
The time between when the kids go to bed and when we finally turn in is precious. We have almost 3 hours where we can recharge and focus on each other – or spend time totally vegged out watching TV. Regardless, it’s our time.
(Moms, I’m looking at you: Self Care in 15 Minutes or Less)
….and we know our kids will wake up well-rested and ready for another day filled with fun and great attitudes (and normal kid arguments and some snotty moments), because they got some really wonderful sleep.
The secret to making your kids’ bedtime an easy part of your day is simply establishing your routine and sticking with it.
….and then, I promise, you’ll be well on your way to an awesome bedtime routine!
Katie Johansen is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University with her M.A.Ed in Children’s Literature. She spent 6 years as an elementary school teacher in South Florida before transitioning to stay-at-home #momlife. Now, it’s all things PB&J – with an extra large cup of coffee on the side.