Call me crazy, but when my kids were younger they were both in bed by 7:15pm each night. No falling asleep on the couch and Mommy lugging them to their own beds. No grumpy littles that screamed all night because they were over-tired. And no chatty-Kathy’s that looked for any and every excuse to extend bedtime by just a few minutes. Nope. My girls were bedtime ninjas, and I was the sansei. How did I do it? With this amazing bedtime routine for kids that gave me a ton of free time to chill with my hubby and destress at the end of the day.
First, Why is a Bedtime Routine for Kids Important?
Besides the obvious answer that Mommy needs some time ALONE to RELAX after the kids are in bed… (Sometimes my youngest even wants to sit on my lap while I go to the bathroom)… Really?!…
It’s common sense that a good bedtime routine for kids is important because it cues your child that it’s time to calm down and prepare for bed. Good bedtime routines result in better sleep habits and better performance in school. This is why teachers send home those notes urging you to get your kids in bed early during standardized testing days.
But did you know that poor sleep habits have been linked to childhood obesity? According to a recent study led by epidemiologist Sarah Anderson, consistent bedtime routines for kids “could reduce the likelihood that these children will be obese”.
I absolutely credit my bedtime routine for kids for keeping my girls happy and well-behaved. When they are well-rested, they don’t get crabby and they perform well in school (proud to say that they are both straight “A” students!).
Plus, I get plenty of down time to destress at the end of each day. Since they are in bed early, that means that I can get in bed at a decent hour also, without sacrificing my own nice relaxing bath/TV/book time.
My Bedtime Routine for Kids
This is the bedtime routine for kids that I used to get loads of “Mommy Time”:
6:15 – 6:40 Bath Time – We had a bit of an extended bath time because I let them play for a while, plus I was bathing two kids at the same time.
6:40-6:50 Out of the Bath and Into Pajamas
6:50 – 7:00 Brush Teeth and Hair
7:00 – 7:15 Get in Bed/Read a Story/Say Prayers – Reading a story helps my kids to relax, plus it gives me extra time with them so they don’t feel like I’m rushing to tuck them into bed.
7:15 Lights Out!
I used this routine for my kids when they were ages 2-5. Then, as they got older I would push everything back by 15 minutes. Now, at ages 6 and 9, my girls are in bed by 8:00pm, except on the nights that they have church or cheerleading.
Yes, we did miss out on things because we wanted to keep the girls on their schedules. If we went out to dinner with my parents, it was the early bird special so that we could be home by 6:15pm. But, because they had that consistency in their bedtime routines, my kids were well-adjusted and bedtime wasn’t a battle.
Things to Consider for Your Bedtime Routine for Kids
What works for my family may not work for yours. Maybe you can’t eat dinner until 6:30pm, maybe your children have softball/dance/karate, or maybe your kids are older and don’t need as much sleep? Here are a few things to consider when making your own bedtime routine for kids:
The Age of Your Kids
The number of hours of sleep your child needs is directly related to his or her age. In 2015, the National Sleep Foundation released new guidelines for sleep durations after conducting extensive research on how sleep affects health and performance. The following are the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended sleep durations for children:
Toddlers (1-2 years) – 11 to 14 hours of sleep
Preschoolers ( 3-5 years) – 10 to 13 hours of sleep
School-Aged (6 to 13 years) – 9 to 11 hours of sleep
And my parents said I was crazy for getting my kids in bed so early… But, since my girls woke up at 7:00am to get ready for preschool, I was right on the money with their 7:15pm bedtimes.
Your Family’s Schedule
If you can’t eat dinner until 6:30pm because of work obligations, then obviously my bedtime routine for kids will not work for you. In that case, adjust your routine as needed, keeping in mind the suggested hours of sleep your child needs.
Or, you may need to shorten the length of bath time or even complete some of the bedtime tasks out of order.
If I know that we will be eating dinner later for some reason, then I will go ahead and give my girls a bath before dinner so that it is out of the way. FYI – don’t attempt this if you have a messy toddler whose dinner is bound to end up in his hair. Then, you’ll just be having to give a second bath after dinner.
How Long Your Routine Will Take
If you know that it will take an hour to get your kids in bed, don’t keep putting off the bedtime routine because you’re doing dishes/laundry/house work/etc.
I’m guilty of this. As my kids get a bit older, I find myself trying to squeeze in every last minute of work before I start getting my kids ready for bed. But when I do, I regret it. Then I’m trying to rush them through all of their bedtime rituals… Faster, faster, faster… When they should be slowing down and relaxing to prepare for bed.
If your bedtime routine for kids takes an hour, and they need to be in bed by 8:00pm to get enough sleep, start by 7:00pm. Both you and your kids will enjoy your nighttime ritual much more if you’re not stressed out about it being too late.
Your Child’s Needs at Bedtime
Don’t be so rigid in your routine that you don’t have the flexibility to respond to what your child needs on any given night. Maybe he or she is super exhausted after a busy day… then consider skipping or shortening the bedtime story.
Or maybe your child hasn’t been feeling well and actually needs to go to bed earlier to get some much needed rest. Or, if your child is like my oldest, then she craves “Mommy and me” time. So I make an effort to spend a few more minutes just talking to her about her day as I’m tucking her into bed.
You are the Momma, and you know your child better than anyone else. Put that knowledge to use and make sure that your child’s needs are being met at bedtime.
What if My Kids Aren’t Tired?
Sometimes your kids just won’t want to go to bed at their normal bed time. And that’s okay.
As my kids get older, they are needing less and less sleep, and I’ve had to experiment with different ways to keep a consistent bedtime routine while still getting enough time to myself to recharge my batteries.
Even though my kids may not yet be tired, I still keep their nighttime ritual the same. When I tuck them in, I allow them to keep a small lamp on to read a book in their beds. Or sometimes they can sit at their desks and draw or color. I also allow them to watch 30-45 minutes of TV as they are calming down, though I know that nighttime screen time goes against what many experts recommend.
Yup, let all of the Mom-bashing, I-can’t-believe-you-let-your-kids-watch-TV-in-their-beds begin…
Before I actually had kids, I was very anti-TV in the kids’ bedrooms. But then when my kids were toddlers I threw the rule books out the window and put a small TV in their rooms to help them calm down at bedtime. I read somewhere years ago that you should do what works best for you… like allowing your kids to sleep wherever all family members will get the most amount of sleep, even if it means having your kids sleep on your bedroom floor some nights. And that philosophy has worked well for us over the years.
Watching less than an hour of TV while laying in bed helps my kids calm down and fall asleep. So, I’m willing to go against the experts on this one.
The important thing for me is that the bedtime routine is done and I can have my time alone. On the nights that my kids don’t fall to sleep immediately, at least they are in their rooms reading or doing a quiet activity so that I can get my “Mommy time”. Then, they simply fall asleep when they are ready.
A Good Bedtime Routine for Kids Means More Free Time for MOM!
So, what does all of this mean for my free time?!
Well, if your kids are in bed (or even if they are in their rooms but not yet asleep), then that means you’re free to do what you want. Obviously.
Use your time wisely… or just sit on the couch and catch up on your DVR. The choice is up to you! That’s the beauty of a great and consistent bedtime routine. Not only will your kids be well-rested, happier, and healthier, but you will have time for some super-important Mommy self-care. Win-win!
Do you have secrets to great bedtime routines? Share them below! And be sure to check out these other posts on all things parenting:
- How to Raise the Nice Kid in a World of Mean Girls
- Don’t Be the Mean Mom! 7 Strategies to Tell Kids No Without Saying No
- Tips for Overwhelmed Moms – 8 Simple Ways to Avoid Mommy Meltdowns