How to Make a Bedtime Routine That Works

Children thrive on routine. We hear it all the time. They like to know what to expect and what will happen next. Having a routine can cut down, or even eliminate, tantrums and other behavior problems. 
At least in our house, bedtime can be the most stressful parts of the day. My husband works second shift so he isn't home until well after everyone is in bed. For a long time, I would just wing it and it was frustrating for both me and my kids, the toddler especially. 
I knew things needed to change, I needed a bedtime routine, but I didn't really know where to start. I found a lot of information on why a routine was beneficial, but none on how to actually make the routine. I wanted to share how I came up with my bedtime routine and I hope it will help you create yours or help make yours better. 

First, start with bedtime. While the start of the routine will be different for everyone, they will all end with kids in bed, well hopefully. Decide what time you want your child's bedtime to be. This is easy to calculate. Think about how long your child sleeps at night. Next, think about when they need or when you want them to get up. Just subtract the time they sleep from the time they should wake and you have your bedtime. So if your child sleeps 10 hours at night and they need to be up at 7, their bedtime should be 9. If they sleep 13 hours and need to be up at 8, their bedtime should be 7. If you have more than one child their bedtimes can be different. Do what works for your family.


Then you need to decide when your bedtime routine should start. This will be different for everyone. It could be dinner, bathtime, or anything else you choose. It is nice to have a routine that lasts at least an hour but it can definitely be longer if you choose. Your routine should happen uninterrupted as much as possible. If you don't get home from little Timmy's baseball practice until 6 on Tuesdays, you shouldn't start your routine until at least 6. Special occasions, emergencies, and the inevitable unexpected twists that come with having kids will all force a change every now and then but the point of having a routine is consistency so you should do your best to make sure it will be the same every day. 

Now make a list of everything that has to be done between the start time and bedtime. This can include dinner, bath or shower, putting on pajamas, cleaning their room, or cleaning common spaces. Decide how much time each activity would take on average and put it into the schedule. 

This could take up all the time you have in your routine, but you may have time spaces left. If this is the case then add in things such as an evening walk, reading books, or any other quiet or relaxing activity until you have all time accounted for. 

Now you have your evening routine! Try it for at least 3 nights and then decide what is working and what is not, if anything. Change what needs to be changed and then try they updated routine for 3 days and repeat. Within a couple of weeks, you should have perfected your routine. The longer you use the routine the better the results will be.

To give you some ideas, my routine looks like this.

Because we do a big lunch before my husband leaves for work, dinner is usually simple and easy. Sandwiches, leftovers, salad, or chips and salsa are favorites. It also makes it quick so we can get on with our night.

Our walk is easy with my double stroller. I can put both kids in comfortably and get my steps in while they relax. I attach my dog leash to the stroller with this clip and then I still have two hands to push the stroller with.

My kids are young enough that I can still bathe them together which makes things so nice. Before the baby, Gracelynn, could sit up, I would just put her infant tub right into the regular bath tub. My toddler, Michael, would sit in the regular tub. I would fill them both up and then I could bathe them at the same time which they loved (still do) and I never had to worry about what one of them was doing while I washed the other one.

I love that I have some time in the evening with just my son. My daughter gets up early and we have our alone time then where she can nurse in peace and just enjoy the quiet. Having time with each of my kids where it is just the two of us is so nice. Some of our favorite games are Chutes and LaddersCandy Land, go fish, and Let's Go Fishin'.  This lets him get any last bit of energy out before bed. We usually read in his bed so he can be comfortable and free of distractions. Then its hugs and kisses and off to sleep!

What has or hasn't worked for your family's bedtime routine? Let me know in the comments below.


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