How to create a bedtime routine that works


Tired of fighting with your kids at bed time? Does bed time take too long? Try these tips to make a bedtime routine that works.

It’s bedtime. Or, at least it should be. Instead, Lillian is running circles around her bedroom, asking to play dress-up and negotiating for another story. You’re exhausted. You’ve been trying to get her in bed for over an hour now, and nothing is working.

Creating a bedtime routine can help your child mentally and physically prepare for sleep. Instead of trying something different every night, use these tips to eliminate the guesswork and make a bedtime routine that works.

Things to Think About Before Planning A Bedtime Routine

  • How Much Sleep Do They Need: Some kids are nappers, some are not. Some kids need more sleep than others. Take a look at this chart to see an average number of hours (including naps) that your child should be getting during the day.
  • Time for Sleep: Taking the information from the chart and what time your child wakes up in the morning, figure out what time your child should be getting to sleep. This might seem impossible right now, but this will be your goal bedtime for the future.
  • Pick your Child’s Sleep Location: Are you OK with a family bed? Can they share a bed with a sibling? Do you prefer that your kids sleep in their own bed? Plan to have your child fall asleep in their bed for the night, rather than being transferred to a different bed after they fall asleep.

Write It Down

  • Plan it out: Kids thrive when they know what to expect. If your kids are old enough, sit down and create a routine together. Include everything from dinner to sleep. Be as general or as specific as your lifestyle allows. Make a visual chart for pre-readers.
  • Work backward: Look at the routine estimate how long it will take to complete all of the tasks. Then, work backward from the ideal bedtime for your kids. This may mean that you start the bedtime routine at 6:30! If this doesn’t work for your family’s schedule, adjust the number of things included in the bedtime routine.

Tips for Success

  • Start Before They’re Tired: It may seem easier to let your kids stay up later, so they will be more tired, but actually, kids can become over-tired, which makes it harder to calm down. On the other hand, if you wait too long, your kids may already be too tired and unable to function without a meltdown.
  • Limit Screen Time: No screen time at least 30 minutes before bedtime. That means no falling asleep watching TV or Ipads in the room with your child. It may mean that the whole family needs to turn off the TV for a while until your child is in bed.
  • Progressively Calm Down: Most kids can’t go from running around the yard to relaxing for a bed. Tweak your bedtime routine so that the most relaxing things are at the end. Bath time, snacks and even reading can be energizing or calming depending on the child.
  • Create Space for Sleep: Make sleep the main focus of the bedroom. Limit clutter, extra toys or other distractions. Choose nightlights or low watt bulbs in lamps. Have the child pick a few things that make them feel safe, calm and snuggly in their bed.
  • Teach Kids To Relax: Both anxious and energetic kids can benefit from learning how to relax their bodies for sleep. Focusing having calm, quiet, relaxed bodies, rather than forcing sleep. Some kids enjoy relaxing music, visualizations  (affiliate link),  audio books or white noise.

Let’s Talk!

Do you have a bedtime routine that is working well? What tips and tricks would you suggest to others?

What gets in the way of finding or keeping a bedtime routine for your family?

What other bedtime challenges do you have? I’d love to write more posts addressing your bedtime concerns.

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Nicole Schwarz (couch 3)

Welcome! I'm Nicole Schwarz.

I'm a Parent Coach, Licensed Therapist and Author of It Starts with You. I help stressed, overwhelmed, confused parents find calm, confidence and connection with their kids. No one is expecting perfection here. But, if you’re willing to examine your parenting, find encouragement, or try something new, this is the place for you.

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