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How to Create A Bedtime Routine That Actually Works

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Now that our kids are older and have learned to sleep, a consistent bedtime routine has been key to making school mornings go smoothly!

Having a bedtime routine means our school aged kids know what time they need to be in bed and there are fewer opportunities for them to drag out bedtime and wake up cranky in the morning. (I won’t say we never have bedtime battles because they are still kids!)

Routines make life easier for children. According to the best routines for children are those that are consistent. That consistency creates an environment with less chaos and provides a sense of security and confidence for your children.

When kids have routines throughout the day, it’s easier for us parents to redirect them and make sure they eat/sleep/play/help enough.

When it comes to a bedtime, I’ve always been pretty strict about making sure everyone is in bed when they should be. I’ve learned over the years that 20-30 minutes of delayed bedtime can mean a rough time getting the kids out of bed and out the door in the morning.

For this reason, our routine leading up to bedtime lays the foundation for making sure the kids are in bed at an appropriate time.

Our kids know exactly how the evening goes and there is less opportunity for bedtime battles. That doesn’t mean they don’t try to stay up later from time to time, but often a simple reminder of our routine is enough to stop their arguments.

Our basic bedtime routine is:

  • Showers
  • Bedtime snack
  • Tooth Brushing/Bathroom
  • Stories/Talking
  • Lights Out

For a little context about our routine: I have two kids – a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old. My 5-year-old is asleep between 7:30-7:45 every night and my 8-year-old is in bed by 8:30.

Because of this, our routine is staggered meaning they aren’t brushing their teeth at the same time or having lights out at the same time. It looks something like this:

Time 5 Year Old 8 Year Old
6:15-6:30 Shower Free Time
6:30-7:00 Bedtime Snack/Tooth Brushing Shower
7:00-7:30 Read Books, Sing Songs Bedtime Snack/Tooth Brushing
7:30-8:00 Kisses, tucking in, lights out Time with Daddy/Reading
8:00-8:30 zzzzzzzzzzzzzz Talking/Lights Out

I prefer this  because it gives me the opportunity to have about 30 minutes of one-on-one time with each of the kids before they go to bed.

With my 5-year-old this one-on-one time means reading books and singing songs. She also always needs a drink of water, a back scratch, and 2 kisses under her pillow (in case she misses me in the middle of the night).

Even though this sounds like a lot, by having this exact routine we both know what is coming next and there is little room for a bedtime battle.

For my 8-year-old, this one-on-one time is more just talking. Sometimes it’s chatting about Minecraft or what he did at recess and other times he’ll share with me any anxieties or worries he has. I also will read a guided meditation from our favorite meditation book (read more about our meditation routine for kids).

I treasure this daily one-on-one time with my kids. Now that they are both in school and I’m working full time there are fewer opportunities for me to connect individually with them.

How did I develop this routine? Here are my exact steps for creating a consistent bedtime routine for our school aged kids.

Choosing a Bedtime

I developed our kids routine based on how much sleep I knew the kids needed.

Preschoolers (ages 3-5) should get 10 – 13 hours of sleep a night, while school aged children (ages 6-13) should get anywhere between 9 and 11 hours of sleep.

If your child doesn’t have a regular bedtime or has a later bedtime than you like, start by paying attention to when they go to sleep and wake up time to help you calculate how many hours they sleep a night.

If it’s less than the recommended sleep times for their age, consider adding the extra time, but add it slowly (in 15 minute increments).

Then look at what time your child needs to be up for school. If they need to be up at 6 am, your 4 year old should be in bed by 8 pm to get the minimum of 10 hours of sleep.

How Much Time Between Dinner and Bedtime?

Now that you have your desired bedtime, how much time do you have between dinner and bedtime? Do you eat dinner at 6:30 and want bedtime to be at 7:30?  Figure out what you can fit in that hour.

Also, try and get the most challenging part of bedtime done first. This includes bath time and tooth brushing.

Be flexible and get creative! Maybe feed the kids dinner earlier, or have them get showered and in their pajamas while you get dinner ready.

Choose A Soothing Activity Right For Your Child

What pre bedtime activity will soothe your child the most?

In our house, we don’t do any screen time right before bed, because it seems to rile up the kids rather than relax them.

Instead, we read books, talk, sing songs or do some simple meditations.

The best advice I can give you is to let your child guide you in what they want this activity to look like. Offer them some choices and let them decide!

Some days it might be reading books and other days that might be telling stories. And that’s ok. The consistency comes from the time you dedicate to that activity.

Getting Your Child Used To A New Bedtime Routine

Talk to your child about the new routine. Talk about the new bedtime and what time you expect them to begin the bedtime routine.

The most important thing to remember is not to get frustrated. Any change in routine takes time for both parents and children to get used to.

If it’s a big change between their usual bedtime and their new bedtime, you’ll need to slowly adjust their bedtime. Don’t just assume they will go to sleep at 8 when they have been used to going to sleep at 10. Instead, start lights out 15 minutes earlier for a few days. Once they are used to that, try 15 more minutes and so on.

Creating a clear routine and being consistent in this routine will go a long way in reducing bedtime battles and establishing good sleep habits for your children.

What is your biggest bedtime struggle?

4 thoughts on “How to Create A Bedtime Routine That Actually Works”

  1. Thanks for this! I’m still trying to go through this with my 3 year old. Even though she knows her routine, she likes to fight her sleep.

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