How to Develop Bedtime Routines

happy family reading together before bedtime

It’s not uncommon to struggle to get your children to bed each night. In some cases, it might really feel like pulling teeth to get your little one to bed at a time that suits you and your family. Before bedtime woes become worse, it is important to develop a bedtime routine. Here are our suggestions for developing a bedtime routine for your children.

Quiet play

An hour before bedtime, you should switch to quiet play. This will help your child enter a state of relaxation. Make the switch from running around and tickling to coloring or reading. While some parents may think that the more active play will make for a more tired child, making sure they have time to wind-down from those activities is going to help to get them to bed much easier. It is also important to discontinue use of all screens and electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime because the light from the screen signals the brain to stay awake.

Be Consistent

Bedtime should be at the same time every night.  Establish a bedtime routine that works for your family and that can be easily replicated even if you are not at home.  Reading a book, listening to music, brushing teeth, taking a bath can all be a part of this routine.

Giving cues

Something as simple as asking your children to start putting their toys away can be used as a cue to let them know the day is coming to an end. Some parents will also set timers to let their kids know that it is time to get ready for bed. Over time, these cues will work on their own to get children ready for bed.

Make “good nights” brief

Try not to return to your child’s room every time he complains or calls out. The AAP recommends the following:  

  • Wait several seconds before answering and make your response time longer each time he calls. This will give him a chance to fall asleep on his own.
  • Reassure your child that you are there. If you need to go into the room, do not turn on the light, play with him, or stay too long.
  • Move farther from your child’s bed every time you go in until you can reassure him verbally without entering his room.
  • Remind him each time he calls that it’s time to go to sleep.*

Following these simple actions can help you develop a bedtime routine, making nights a bit easier for everyone. Not all children and families are the same, so use the tools that work best for you. It could be a combination of these things or none of them.