Below is a list of things families commonly choose to include in their bedtime routines. Sometimes these steps seem to come naturally and other times a parent chooses to implement them. Your bedtime routine doesn’t have to be long or have a certain “number” of steps. The most important thing is that your bedtime routine stays as consistent as possible. However, one really great thing about having a dependable bedtime routine is that when temporary changes do happen (a vacation or absence of a parent) your child is more likely to handle them well because of their good relationship with bedtime. Those brief changes may even be exciting rather than stressful! When their routine bounces back to normal and stability returns their little minds and hearts are at peace that bedtime is something they can count on.
#1: Consistent Bedtime:
Choose a time that works well for your family most nights of the week. The time will be different for everyone depending on their family’s style, routine, and age of the child. Remember that the younger the child, the more sleep they need. Also remember that research has proven that any sleep your child gets before midnight is deeper better sleep, so an earlier bedtime is preferred for their sake. Once you pick a time (Example: 7pm) stick to that time as much as possible. You might tell your child 7pm is their bedtime, but as a parent realize that its probably more like a “window”. Sometime in between 6:45 and 7:15pm you’ll put your kids to sleep.
Bedtime is a great time for reading. Your child may enjoy some independant reading time in their beds before dozing off. You could read aloud some picture books or a favorite chapter book.
#3: Family Devotionals:
Many families choose to read scriptures together for a few minutes or have a family prayer or religious moment before bedtime. If your family is religious, encouraging your child to say a personal prayer is another great bedtime addition.
Singing a song as a family or while sitting on your child’s bedside in the dark is a wonderfully calm way to end your child’s day. You may even consider singing as you give those last few bedtime hugs and kisses, close the door, and walk away. Hearing your voice fade away singing the same song each night can be very meaningful to your child.
#5: Heart-to-Heart Talks:
You could try spending a few minutes with your child reviewing their day. What happened that made them feel happy? Scared? Sad? Excited? Proud? Silly? Take a few minutes to talk about tomorrow’s plans. Let your child guide the discussion. You may be surprised at just how much your child opens up. That may be because they’ve realized they can postpone bedtime. But I’ve never met a parent who isn’t willing to postpone bedtime for 3 minutes to hear some deep thoughts from their child.
#6: Bath or Shower:
Some families bathe in the evenings and it can be very relaxing to drop off to sleep all clean and warm.
#7: Nightly Hygiene:
Brushing teeth and hair and washing hands and face should probably be a part of your child’s bedtime routine.
#8: Hugs and Kisses:
Having a moment of affectionate physical touch is a wonderful way to let your child know they are safe and loved before they drift off to sleep. Knowing they’ll be hugged at the end of the day provides wonderful reassurance that all is well in the world.
#9: Goodbye Moment:
This is the easy part. You can close the night by saying a simple “Good Night!” or “Love you! See you tomorrow!”. Some families have a repetitive phrase they say each night. A classic example would be “Good Night! Don’t let the bedbugs bite!” or “See you later alligator!” Leave your child with an affectionate phrase that lets them know the bedtime routine is done and its time for them to quietly fall asleep.
As mentioned before, your schedule will be unique to your family. Think through some of these options and decide which ones suit your family’s needs and style. Write them down and just START! No need to have a fancy meeting outlining your plan. Simply begin the routine tonight. Then tomorrow. Within 4 or 5 days your child will start to realize the pattern and find comfort in knowing what will come at the end of the day.
Here are some sample bedtime routines:
(to give you an idea of how some families wind down in the evening):
6:30pm Take bath and brush teeth.
7:00pm Read bedtime picture book.
7:15pm Climb into bed and sing 2 or 3 favorite songs.
7:20pm Give kisses and hugs.
7:30pm Take bath and brush teeth.
8:00pm Family scripture study and prayers.
8:15pm Read chapter book aloud as a family.
8:30pm Climb into beds and turn out lights.
7:35pm Parents sing bedtime song softly as they kiss and hug each child.
8:00pm Change into pajamas and brush teeth.
8:15pm Climb into bed and talk with parent(s) for about 5 minutes about the day.
8:25pm Kisses and Hugs. “Love you! See you tomorrow!”