I was exhausted and trying to wrangle 4 little bodies through a bedtime routine.
After 2 books, snuggles, and singing their favorite songs, I’d finally managed to put the baby and toddler down in their room. As I gently closed their door, I now turned my sights to my 4 and 5 year old, who were in the grips of a sudden burst of delirious energy.
With no energy left, I dreaded having to put two more kids down for bed as my husband worked late.
While there is very little that is “easy” about having 4 kids in 4 years, getting everyone to bed at night was certainly among one of the greatest parenting challenges.
The struggle is real.
And I’m guessing it’s real for you, too. Bedtime can feel like an elaborate and exhausting production that leaves us crumpled messes with only enough energy to sit in front of the TV.
However, bedtime doesn’t have to be exercise in frustration!
These simple tips will make it easier to create a quick and easy bedtime routine for your kids. Here’s what has made all the difference in our home:
(By the way, if you’re looking for tips on how to create a more calm morning routine with your kids, check out the 6 Secrets of a Calm Morning Routine with Kids)
5 SIMPLE TIPS FOR A QUICK & TEAR-FREE BEDTIME ROUTINE FOR KIDS
1) Pick the Right Bedtime
Making sure your kids are getting enough sleep will ensure that they are not TOO tired at bedtime (which makes the bedtime routine miserable and drawn out) and that they are well-rested and happy in the mornings.
Things to consider when picking a bedtime:
- When do the kids normally wake up?
- How much sleep do they need? (here’s an awesome guide to know how much sleep they need)
In our house, the kids are usually down around 7:00 pm and are up by 7:00am.
2) Start to Wind Down an Hour Before Bedtime
In addition to the right bedtime, you also need the right routine to make sure that your little one is ready to drift off to sleep when that time rolls around.
And that routine should include:
- wind down practices
- enough time that you don’t feel rushed
When you feel rushed, you’re more likely to lose your patience and also lose out on the special bonding time that can come with the bedtime routine. Therefore, I recommend starting to wind down about an hour before the time you want your child in bed.
Also, starting a calming wind down routine before bedtime signals a shift to your children. It signals that it’s now time to stop normal daily activities and get the house and themselves ready for bed.
Some things you can do to wind down:
- Clean up: This signals that it’s time to stop playing and start winding up for the day. Time for everything to be put away. I recommend a 10 minute family power clean in common areas before starting the bedtime routine to both tidy the house and start the wind down. (For help motivating kids, check out How to Get Kids to Do Chores Without Being Asked.)
- Turn off/lower lights: This creates a calmer more relaxed atmosphere to get ready for bed. We turn off lights in the kitchen and family areas as we move to the bathroom/bedroom area in preparation for bed. It literally shuts down parts of our home.
- Bathtime: Baths are great ways for kids to start relaxing and preparing for bed. We’ve also found that if a child is grumpy, bath time usually turns that around and makes for a smoother bedtime routine. We love using Dr. Teals bath products to create a calming bath for our kids which can be found at stores like Wal-Mart and Target.
3) Use Timers
If you find that bedtime gets dragged out and that it’s difficult to keep your kids (and yourself) on task, timers just may be the answer. (And I’m obessed with this visual timer for kids).
Timers provide distinct bookends on an activity and are effective in helping kids stay on task and focus. It can also be helpful when it comes to activities that can get drawn out with pleas such as “just 5 more minutes” or “just one more book”.
When you may use timers:
- Teeth brushing
- Reading books
For us, using timers for nightly clean-up has been incredibly effective. It literally cut clean-up time in half and saves us from having to harp on our kids to clean. Honestly, it’s been miraculous.
Here’s what we do: We set our smartphone timer (usually for 5 minutes) and keep it visible so our girls have a visual countdown. This keeps them on task and helps them work exponentially faster as they pick up their bedroom floor.
4) Include Bonding/Connection activities in Bedtime Routine
With all the many responsibilities facing us during the day, it’s easy to feel like we’re not spending quality time with our kids.
Which is bedtime is wonderful time to build bonding time directly into your routine. So no matter how the day went, you’ve got time set aside to connect with your little one.
Here are a few ideas:
- Read books: This builds connection and literacy/language skills. I highly recommend to committing to reading at least one book a night. But experts recommend at least 15 minutes a day.
- Sing Lullabies: Creates routines, builds connection, and researchers have even found that singing lullabies actually helps your child fall asleep.
- Snuggle: Kids are calm and content when they feel a connection with you. Lots of snuggles will help them wind down and happily drift off to sleep. Snuggles and reading make the perfect bedtime combination.
- Good night rituals: Good night rituals are anything that helps kids feel calm and content as they drift off to sleep. This could be doing calming yoga poses, a special thing you say to your child (ex “I love you to the moon and back”), or a practice (ex. if a child’s name is James, saying “goodnight James’s forehead” and kissing it and repeating with other things until you say “Goodnight James” and give a final kiss or snuggle)
5) Keep Things Calm
When everyone is nearing exhaustion, bedtime can be a particularly dangerous time for tempers to spiral out of control.
As parents, we set the tone for our kids. It’s our job to keep things calm and happy. While it doesn’t feel like it all of the time, our kids do not control the mood of our home. We do.
How we respond to our children holds the key to a calm atmosphere. If we can create a calm bedtime atmosphere for our kids, this alone can create a much smoother bedtime routine.
Some strategies to keep things calm:
- Take deep breaths when you feel yourself losing your patience
- Do some easy yoga poses
- Apologize if you lose your cool
I’m of the belief that it’s pretty much impossible to snuggle your kids too much at bedtime (or anytime, really).
6) Stay Consistent
Children crave consistency in their schedule. It gives them a sense of control and order knowing what will always come next.
It can be difficult for children when creating a new routine, and tantrums are often inevitable. But being consistent and calm signals to your child that you will not bend to tantrums. This will create more calm and order as everyone adjusts to the new routine.
BEDTIME ROUTINE CHART FOR KIDS
Another extremely helpful way to create a calm bedtime routine for kids is to use a routine chart or routine cards. They make it easier for kids to remember tasks and will help end bedtime battles.
Routine charts and routine cards give your child a visual reminder of the tasks they need to complete before bed and help the bedtime routine go much smoother.
If you have a younger child, these routine cards with images can be incredibly helpful in building a great daily schedule.
For children that can read, you can check out these 5 different styles of fillable routine charts that help you customize the perfect morning and bedtime routine for your child.
END THE BATTLES WITH A BEDTIME ROUTINE
While we have the occasional rough night, it’s usually due to neglecting one of the above tips. We’ve created a simple and consistent bedtime routine that gets our kids ready for bed without taking hours.
When it’s time to wind down, our kids know exactly what’s expected of them. We set timers to keep them on task and work to set and keep a calm atmosphere.
By staying consistent, we’ve created a quick and tear-free bedtime routine for kids. And if we can as frazzled parents of 4 little ones, you can too.
You’ve got this, mama!