How to Have a Successful Nighttime Routine

A routine is something that kids – all kids – need. They need the structure and the guidance, especially during the school year. A nighttime routine is a key to making sure your children get the appropriate amount of sleep, which differs by age. For 1-2-year-olds, 11 to 14 hours is necessary. For 3-5-year-olds, they need about 10 to 13. 6-13-year-olds need 9 to 11 hours, and 14-17-year-olds need around 8 to 10.

There are a few key things to remember when considering bedtime. The first is to limit screen time at least 1 or 2 hours before actual bedtime. This includes the TV, computer, iPads, and phones. We should be doing as much as possible to create a calm and quiet environment in the time leading up to bedtime. You can do this with a bath, calming music, and diffusing essential oils like lavender.

The nighttime routine should be something consistent that your children can begin to predict. At my house, every evening looks the same: dinner, homework, bath, some low key activities for playtime, brushing teeth, reading, prayers, songs, and then sleep. You can add and remove whatever elements you like, and place them in whatever order fits your family, but the key is consistency and little change. For kids who have trouble with transitions, you may want to use a visual schedule, so they understand the timeline and expectations. Taking pictures of the items (books, toothbrush, etc.) and using them is incredibly helpful.

Once they’re in bed, your kids are going to want everything under the sun. As soon as my five-year-old is tucked in, he suddenly realizes he needs his toenails cut, is so thirsty for a glass of water, wants to know how my day is going, or has questions about dying Easter eggs (literally, that happened last week, in October). So if possible, work as many of these things that your child may ask for into the routine so that they don’t then spend the first 20 minutes of bedtime trying to come up with ways to put off sleeping.

Some kids may resist the routine at first, and some may slip easily into the familiarity of it – the key is sticking to your guns, so your entire family has happy, easy nighttime, every night!