1.The Right Bedtime
The perfect bedtime routine starts with one simple thing…the right bedtime. Setting a time when you will begin your bedtime routine, regardless of what is going on in your daily schedule, can help your family start bedtime on the right foot.
So how do you know what time is the perfect bedtime for your little one? Well that could be a whole blog post on its own. But stated simply, your little one’s bedtime should be age-appropriate, and it might be earlier than you think. If your little one stays up too late, you risk them becoming overtired and cranky, which will make bedtime much harder than it needs to be.
When you’re working to find the perfect bedtime, pay attention to your little one’s signals that let you know that they are becoming tired and that it is time for bed. Aim to start your bedtime routine about 20-30 minutes before your child should be in their bed, falling asleep.
Your child’s bedtime routine will tell your child’s body that the time to sleep is approaching, and will help them make an easy transition into sleep.
2. The Perfect Steps
The best bedtime routine is one that works for your family. That means you’ll need to think about which steps you should include in your routine and what order they should go in, depending on how your family likes to operate.
If you have multiple kids, you will want to think about how you can tag-team (if you have a partner who helps out at bedtime), which steps can be doubled up, which steps your little one can do independently while you help out a younger sibling, etc.
I know that’s a lot to think about, so don’t worry if it doesn’t all come together immediately. It may take a little trial and error and juggling to land on the perfect bedtime routine. And that’s okay!
The first step you can take to create your bedtime routine is simply writing down the steps you know you need to go through before your kiddo is ready for bed. Here are a few that I recommend:
- Lower Lights
- Brush Teeth
- Song or Story
- Get in Bed
Your bedtime routine doesn’t have to be complicated. It just has to work for you. And of course, if you have a newborn or infant, the steps will look a little different including feeding, diapering, etc. But you get the picture!
3. Creating a Visual Chart
Once you have a list of all of the steps your little one will go through, I recommend creating a visual chart. (I actually offer a template for all of my sleep training clients!) Have your little one help you cut out and glue the pictures for each step in order on the chart. Talk through the order the steps should go in and why, to help them better understand their routine and give them ownership over it.
Bonus Tip: Do a photoshoot with your little one going through each step of the routine, then use those photos to create your chart. Your little one will love being the center of attention and will enjoy seeing the pictures of themselves night after night.
4. Giving Your Child Choices
Just because you have your bedtime routine set in stone doesn’t mean you can’t get a little creative. Allowing your little one to make structured choices throughout the routine can help them assert their independence and feel like they have a part in the routine.
These choices should not be open-ended, but instead, incorporate a few options that align with a step in the routine. Here are a few examples:
- Let your little one pick between the dinosaur pajamas or the pajamas with the blue stripes.
- Offer your kiddo a few books to choose from, and allow them to choose two for their bedtime stories.
- Ask your child if they would rather read a book tonight or sing a song.
I especially loved to incorporate a little seasonal fun into our bedtimes when my boys were little. During October they would wear their Halloween pajamas and pick a spooky book to read. Maybe even do a flashlight bedtime, where we turn off all the lights and use flashlights to get ready for bed. During the summer mix it up with a beach or vacation-themed bedtime, especially if you’re traveling or gearing up to head out of town. Have fun with your bedtime while still being consistent with the core of the routine!
5. Setting Boundaries & Providing Consistency
Of course, that leads me to my most important tip you’ll find in this blog…set boundaries and be consistent. Having the perfect bedtime routine for your family written down on paper doesn’t do much good if it isn’t being used night after night. Be consistent with your bedtime. Be consistent with the steps you take each night. Be consistent when you turn down your child’s demands for one more this, one more that. Be consistent when it’s time for your little one to go to sleep, on their own.
Your child will thrive off of the predictability of the boundaries that you set. There will be far less bedtime tantrums. Your child will fall asleep independently, giving you plenty of child-free time to enjoy once they have gone to bed. They’ll stay in bed throughout the night, and wake well-rested each morning.
That is the magic of creating a bedtime routine your family can follow consistently and that your child will grow to love.
Need a little help finding the perfect bedtime routine for your family? Looking for some support and accountability to help you stay consistent? Well…it’s a good thing I know someone who can help with that!