Bedtime Routine: Create The Peaceful Evenings You Deserve

Author Image By Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH •  Updated: 03/07/23 •  Sleep / Sleep Schedules

For me, the bedtime routine is the most important part of your child’s daily schedule. If you can develop healthy sleep habits in your children it will mean that the whole family will benefit from a good night’s sleep and you will have the essential few hours in the evening to recharge your batteries for tomorrow.

Why Is It Important For Children To Have A Bedtime Routine?

The Best Bedtime Routine For Children

Creating a consistent and healthy bedtime routine is about creating a sequence of events that gently prepares your little one for sleep, night after night…

The good news is that the bedtime routine changes very little in the first 5 years once you have it established. 

Bedtime Routine For Children
  1. Wind down the energy levels in preparation for the bedtime routine. Play calming games with toddlers and preschoolers. And spend quiet time playing with your baby.
  2. Bath time. Have special bath toys to keep things interesting but try to avoid the energy levels increasing.
  3. Massage baby. If you have a baby, now is a lovely time to gently massage them before getting dressed to increase the bond between you both. 
  4. If you have an older child, the next step is getting dressed for bed. Offer simple choices to help your toddler feel included in the process.
  5. Offer a glass of water or a bedtime snack depending on your child’s age.
  6. Cleaning teeth and final toilet visit depending on age.
  7. Read a book. Even newborns can appreciate a cosy cuddle up with a book.
  8. Offer a bottle for young babies but try to avoid feeding them to sleep.
  9. Final cuddle, lullaby and goodnight kiss in crib or bed whilst still awake.
  10. Lights out.

NOTE: A bedtime routine is defined as the predictable activities that occur in the hour or so before lights out, and before the child falls asleep (source).

When Should You Implement A Bedtime Routine?

If you haven’t already, the best time to start a bedtime routine is tonight.

The earlier your child gets into this sleep routine, the better.

Looking to get your little one to sleep quickly and effortlessly? Check out my Bedtime and Nap Cheat Sheet and master the art of making daytime naps and bedtimes as seamless as possible.

Tips To Establish And Maintain A Bedtime Routine

A good bedtime routine will make your family’s evening flow much easier, but getting started can sometimes feel like a challenge. 

So keep this advice in mind when establishing your child’s bedtime routine:

How to establish a bedtime routine
  1. Avoid high-sugar foods at teatime. Foods high in additives will make it harder for your little one to wind down at the end of the day.
  2. Bring down the energy levels at the end of the day. If your child is hyper before bed you will struggle to get them to settle. Have a selection of pre-bedtime activities such as jigsaw puzzles and shape sorters to keep things low-key. 
  3. Give a timely warning and handle transitions carefully. Make sure your little one knows what is coming up next. Young children take time to adjust to what is coming next in the day. Stay present and engaged during this time of the day and you will reap the benefits later.
  4. Offer two simple choices to toddlers and preschoolers. To avoid standoffs offer simple choices in the form of bathtime games, which PJs to wear and books to read to help your little one feel that they are part of the routine.
  5. Stick to the same sequence of events each evening. Young children feel safe and secure with consistent routines so make sure you keep the bedtime routine reliable. Use familiar phrases and sing the same songs. Consider using a bedtime routine chart for older children.
  6. No screen time at least an hour before bedtime. Blue light emitted from screens is proven to interfere with your little one’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  7. Make the bedroom conducive to sleep. Create a cosy sleep space ensuring it is at the right temperature, has low lighting and that your little one is dressed appropriately.
  8. Encourage self-settling. Teaching your little one to fall asleep independently will be a game changer. Try to put your baby down before they are fast asleep and don’t stay with your toddler until they are fast asleep either. This will help them learn to re-settle when they wake up during the night.
  9. Stay one step ahead of toddlers’ and preschoolers’ delaying tactics. It is normal for young children to try and delay bedtime so try and stay one step ahead by offering a glass of water and suggesting they go to the toilet before they ask for it.
  10. Aim to have your little one in bed by 7pm. If that’s too early, certainly by 8pm. Whatever bedtime you decide upon make sure it is the same time every night and allows your little one to wake naturally the next morning.
  11. Bedtime routines should not take longer than 45 minutes. Keeping bedtime routines short and sweet is more successful than ones that drag on for ages. Keep things moving gently and kindly but firmly.
  12. Remember even young babies benefit from a bedtime routine. It is never too early to start a bedtime routine, the earlier you establish one the easier it will be to maintain it.
  13. Get outside every day. Exposure to natural light helps establish your little one’s circadian rhythm and will help them be ready for sleep at the end of the day.
  14. Keep an eye on daytime sleep. Keeping tabs on daytime sleep will also ensure that your little one is primed for sleep at bedtime as you will know if they’re overtired or still have some energy to burn off.

TOP TIP: Time spent lying awake quietly in their crib is an ideal way for children to navigate nap transitions without risking overtiredness. They may sleep, or they may not but having a quiet period without sleep is better than being continuously busy.

Bedtime Don’ts

When creating and maintaining a bedtime routine, you want to avoid doing the following:

How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?

It is good to have an idea of how much sleep is age-appropriate for your child, so the National Sleep Foundation have published guidelines as to how much sleep your little one needs in 24 hours:

REMEMBER: Getting enough sleep is essential to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, obesity, poor mental health, injuries and attention or behavioural problems. But sadly, a staggering number of children do not get enough sleep every night.

When Is My Bedtime?

Here is a breakdown of the most age-appropriate time for your little one to go to bed:

0-4 Months Old Bedtime

4-6 Months Old Bedtime

6-12 Months Old Bedtime

12-24 Months Old Bedtime

2-5 Years Old Bedtime

REMEMBER: To ensure your toddler gets enough sleep to support their brain’s growth and development as well as their physical development, bedtime should be no later than 8pm.

Bedtime Routine Charts And Their Benefits

A bedtime routine chart is an interactive and adaptable printable routine that will help to keep you and your children on track of the sequence of events running up to lights out.

Bedtime routine charts will help older children see what is coming up and encourage them to engage in the routine rather than fight with you about the process.

How To Use A Bedtime Routine Chart

Well, firstly you need to download this printable by clicking the button below.

Simply, click the button and you’ll have the PDF instantly.

You can save these bedtime routine charts wherever you like and print them off as many times as you would like.

Download My Bedtime Routine Chart

Once you have downloaded the bedtime routine chart, you will need to print it off (ideally on thicker stock paper as it’s a bit more robust) and cut up the individual task cards using scissors or a paper cutter (like this one) which will make things much quicker.

You can then personalise the blank tasks with specific actions that your little one needs to do every night… (this is a wonderful craft activity to do with your little one).

I then highly recommend that you seal every part of the bedtime routine chart using a laminator to ensure that they can withstand a lot of use.

For the next step, you will need to invest in some white Velcro stickers to attach to the back of the tasks and the front of the chart.

I suggest having the “hook” side of the velcro on the chart and the “furry side” on the tasks as this will make it easier for your child to move the cards around and give your chart a longer life.

If you haven’t already, here’s the button to download your bedtime routine chart PDF.

Download My Bedtime Routine Chart

PS: Feel free to print off extra chart pages if you have more than 10 tasks to complete every evening.

Why Do You Need A Bedtime Routine Chart?

Routines and charts have been proven time and time again to be highly effective tools to help children predict what’s coming up in their day.

This makes the transition from task to task much easier for their brains to handle and helps your child feel that they have some control over their lives.

And if children feel in control and listened to, it will make the bedtime routine much easier to complete.

When Can You Start Using A Bedtime Routine Chart?

You can start using a bedtime routine chart when your child is at least 2 years old.

This is because a child under 2 years of age will not be able to follow the routine or understand the relevance of moving the tasks from “To-Do” over to “Done”.

However, THIS DOES NOT MEAN that a bedtime routine should not be established.

It just means that a bedtime routine chart will not be a useful tool at this point in your child’s development.

How Can We Motivate Our Kids To Follow A Bedtime Routine Chart?

The best way to motivate your children to follow a bedtime routine chart is to get them involved in the process.

Free Printable Bedtime Routine Chart For Kids

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and a highly qualified childcare expert with over 40 years of experience as a Norland Nanny. She holds a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Paula has worked as a night nanny, run a successful daycare center in London, and helped raise countless children using her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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