how to create a toddler bedtime routine

How To Create A Routine To Calm Your Kid Down at Bedtime (And Go To Sleep Nicely)

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How to create a bedtime routine that works for your family to make bedtime with kids easy and hassle-free.

End the frustrated parents and overtired kids battle once a for all with a perfect bedtime routine that works for your family.

Children thrive on routines. Having a bedtime routine is really important for consistent evenings and it decreases the tantrums and attitude that comes along with announcing bedtime.

I have 2 children and we have the same routine for each one, and it’s remained the same since my oldest was 2 years old. We have had such success with this routine, I thought I would share it with you.

We rarely have that conversation for that extra glass of water and extra snuggle.

Not that I mind giving those away, I just really need my mommy time when the kids fall asleep.

That’s why it is really important for me to have a solid bedtime routine.

This routine really does eliminate the extra:

  • Tears (parents and toddlers)
  • Yelling
  • Running Away (from parents)

It sounds like a nightmare! It’s time to tame the sanity.


Planning The Routine

Before you can successfully create a bedtime routine, you have to consider some factors that may affect the way the routine will go.

  1. How Much Sleep Does Your Child Need? 
    Does your child still nap during the day or do they stay awake until bedtime?
  2. What Time Should Your Child Go To Bed?
    You can figure out what time you need to put your child to bed based on the time they need to wake up in the morning.
  3. Decide Where The Child Will Be Going To Sleep
    Will your child be sleeping in their own bed, your bed or a family bed? Establishing a sleep location can help set the bedtime standard by keeping consistency in the routine.

Once you have those things established, it is time to write out your routine. If your routine is written down on paper, or even in chart form, you are more likely to stick to the structure that you have set out.

Be sure to include everything from dinner time to the moment they fall asleep so that the whole evening can run like clockwork as much as possible.

If you are having trouble figuring out what time you should put the child to bed, working backwards may help.

Take a look at the amount of time it could take to complete all of the tasks on your written list and work backwards from the ideal time you would like your kids to fall asleep.

Our Family Bedtime Routine (For The Kids)

My children thrive on routines so much so that we use charts for everything in our lives.

Our bedtime routine starts about 30 minutes after dinner. The kids get screen time after dinner for half an hour until it’s time to take a bath (or shower).

  1. Bathtime lasts forever in our home. I have to set a 30-45 minute timer (depending on the time the bath started) and the kids get out of the bath when the time on my phone goes off.
  2. After the bath is getting in pj’s. I let my kids choose their own pj’s every night.
  3. We have a bedtime snack – usually a peanut butter sandwich or cheese and crackers.
  4. After a snack, it’s time to brush the “Sugar Bugs” out of their teeth.
  5. Then my husband and I split up and read a book to each child in their own rooms. If I am on my own for bedtime, I gather both children in one room and we read the chosen books for each child.
  6. After books its lights out and snuggle up with a teddy. Once the kids are calm in their bed I will sing some songs. Favourites in our home are “You Are My Sunshine” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep”
  7. Once the kids are asleep, it’s time to sneak out of the room without waking them up.

This is how I get my 2 energetic boys ages 3 and 6 off to bed every single night, even on weekends.

Some Supplies To Help You Through Bedtime Battles

A routine chart that uses the sticker system.

A great bedtime book to help kids related to not wanting to go to sleep but in the end, they can understand why they need to.

A different style reward chart with magnets (I personally love this one!)

A Scout / Violet stuffy that sings bedtime songs and calls the child by name when speaking to them.

More Tips For Success

Limit Screen Time

Setting boundaries for screen time can drastically improve the bedtime routine success. It is not recommended for kids to fall asleep watching tv or playing other devices.

Set a rule for no screen time at least 30 minutes before bedtime. This could possibly mean that the whole family has to be screen-free – think phone, iPad, game boy, tv etc – for a half an hour before the child’s bedtime.

Related: Limiting Screen Time And Avoiding The Attitude

Have Calm Down Time

Just as adults, kids cannot go from wild to calm in 60 seconds. Give them time to wind down from playtime, especially if they were playing hard. Determine which activities are calming for your child.

For some kids, bath time can be more energizing than calming and placing the bath part of the evening should be done closer to the start of the routine rather than the end.

PS. Sometimes mom needs calm downtime too, read about how to keep you cool when your child is pushing your buttons.

Set Up The Sleep Space

Create a calming sleep space for your child to ensure a good night’s sleep. Allow a few comforting items in bed such as a favourite teddy or a special blanket, but be sure not to allow too many toys that could be a distraction. Keep the sleeping area clear of clutter to limit the distractions as well.

Start Routine Before They Hit Overtired

Once you have an overtired child, bedtime will not be easy, no matter what kind of routine you have in place.

Kids that stay up later can hit the overtired stage fairly quickly and can be very tough to calm back down and you may have a tantrum to deal with during the calm-down time.

Create Bedtime Routine

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