Bedtime can be the most stressful part of the day for parents. You’re tired, the kids are tired (even if they won’t admit it), and you just want them to go to bed. A solid bedtime routine for kids helps to alleviate most of that evening stress. Like adults, children thrive on routine. Following the same series of events, each evening provides kids with a sense of control, stability, and calm before bed. It also makes bedtime less stressful for parents!
The Importance of Routine for Children
Routines are just as important for children as they are for adults. They allow children the opportunity to create healthy habits and feel a sense of control over their days. Creating routines helps parents teach their children to prioritize and be responsible. Establishing habits that center around family time also creates stronger family bonds.
Creating Healthy Bedtime Habits
Often times bedtime is a battle of the wills. Parents spend time wrestling kids into pajamas or arguing about brushing their teeth. By creating a routine, kids will establish a rhythm of which chores need to happen before bed each night. They learn that brushing their teeth, putting on pajamas and tidying are all signs that bedtime is approaching. Their bodies and minds begin preparing them for sleep as they get ready for bed. The kids also don’t have to think, or stress, about what task comes next.
Bedtime is also a great time to encourage other healthy habits, aside from personal hygiene. Reading a story before bed each night establishes an early interest in books. Spending time together cuddling, reading, or reflecting on the builds a habit of spending time together as a family each night.
Sometimes as parents it can be so tempting to take over and do tasks for our children. This can be because the kids go too slowly, argue too much, or aren’t thorough enough. I’m guilty of getting frustrated and taking over chores all the time! However, taking over and doing things for them doesn’t help teach them responsibility. A great bedtime routine can start an hour (or more) before it’s actually time to go to sleep. For our kids, the first step for bedtime each night is putting away their toys. I don’t (usually) make them clean up during the day, but every night at 6:30 our routine starts with cleaning up. This teaches them responsibility for their belongings and avoids any habits of Mom always cleaning up after them.
Other ways to encourage personal autonomy in the evening include picking out their own pajamas, brushing their own teeth, and picking their bedtime story. Even young children can do most of these tasks, with a little help. Have them brush their own teeth but then go back through for a final, more thorough brush after they finish. Or, if you’re tired of reading the same story, give them a few different options to choose from. Being autonomous gives children a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Our Kids’ Bedtime Routine
Clean Up Toys
As I mentioned, our bedtime routine starts with the kids putting away their toys for the day. Cleaning up toys has been part of our bedtime routine since the girls were babies. We, of course, helped. But we always encouraged them to take care of their belongings. Depending on the day, cleaning up takes 15 to 45 minutes. We typically adjust the start time for our bedtime routine depending on how destroyed the house is with toys.
Jammies, Teeth, Hair
The kids love to choose things for themselves. Once their toys are all picked up, they each pick out pajamas and get dressed for bed. They also do all of the normal bedtime things, like brushing their hair and teeth, wiping their faces, etc. at this time.
Depending on how long putting away toys takes, the kids usually get to watch an episode of something before bed. It’s a time for them to relax and get settled. We usually watch an episode of Bluey or Zenimation on Disney+ because each episode is less than 10 minutes. Bluey is one of our favorite kids’ television shows. Zenimation is an amazing collaboration of soothing sounds and Disney animation. Each episode focuses on environmental sounds, like water, air, or nature. Only the sounds play while scenes from Disney movies play on the screen. We all find it incredibly relaxing.
The most important activity of our bedtime routine, to me, is storytime. The girls pick out a book and we snuggle up and read together. We practice letter and sight word recognition, do funny voices, and just enjoy the story. Reading is so important for children’s imaginations. And it encourages them to be curious about the world around them.
Once everything else is done, it’s time to tuck each of the girls in. They both have always been great sleepers and usually go right to sleep. We’ve noticed that the more we stray from our typical bedtime routine, the harder it is for them to go to bed. Our kids thrive on their routines. Plus, it makes bedtime less stressful for me too!