Our New (amazingly awesome) Kid’s Bedtime Routine

posted by Andrea | 06/13/2016
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noras bed

For the first time since becoming parents, Dave and I finally feel like we have an awesome bedtime routine for all 3 of our kids.

It took us a while to develop this “new” bedtime routine (and it certainly won’t work indefinitely), but for the past 3 months, all of our children have all been consistently asleep (or at least quietly in bed) by 7:30pm. This means Dave and I can enjoy several hours of peace and quiet every single night!

We can work on house or yard projects without being interrupted, we can sit and watch a Netflix movie in peace, or I can work on blog posts while he watches the NBA finals (ahem, this is what we’ve been doing more of lately!)

Honestly, I don’t even care what we do (or don’t do) — it’s just SO nice to know that we’ll have a couple kid-free hours to re-group at the end of every day!

This new bedtime routine started back in March when we hired an online sleep consultant to help us with James’ awful sleeping habits. Within 2 weeks, we got James into a much better sleeping routine AND we completely revamped our bedtime process for the older kids as well.

It might sound a little over-the-top, but Dave and I both agree that the new bedtime routine has been a huge “game changer” for us in our current stage of life. 

In previous months and years, we had a basic bedtime routine — but nothing super specific. We’d almost always give the kids a bath, then feed them some type of snack, and then we’d read a couple books or watch a quick Netflix show (usually something about animals).

However, there was so much “unknown”.

  • What time would we start the bedtime process?
  • Would we give them a bath?
  • How long could they “play” in the bath?
  • What pj’s would they wear?
  • What would we do for a snack? How many snacks?
  • Where would we eat the snack?
  • Would we watch a show? How many shows? What show would we watch?
  • Would we read books? How many books? Which books would we read?
  • What order would we do things in?
  • Who would put each child to bed?
  • Etc. etc.

After talking with the sleep consultant about James, I realized that our current bedtime routine for Nora and Simon was taking WAAAAAAAY too long – usually over an hour just to get Nora and Simon in bed every night, and James was going to bed much later at that time.

Dave and I were often so pooped by the time the kids were finally sleeping that it was hard to get excited about doing anything on our to-do lists or working on projects of our own.

So, after we got James into a better sleeping routine, I told Dave I wanted to try to create a new (shorter and much earlier) bedtime routine for Nora and Simon too. Dave was totally on-board, and it only took about a week to put my plan into action.

Since then, we’ve enjoyed a much simpler, more streamlined bedtime process and many hours of kid-free time in the evenings.

kids bedtime routine

Our New Bedtime Routine:

Please note that the times below are estimations — I don’t really live in 5-minute intervals, but we do usually start the clean-up / bedtime process around 6:30pm and the kids are almost always in bed by 7:30pm.

The reason I included times below is to show how quickly we move through the bedtime process with all 3 kids.

6:30pm = I feed James while Dave starts the bath and picks up the upstairs with the “help” of Nora and Simon.

6:40 pm = I quickly pick up the main floor while waiting for James to poop (he almost always poops at this time!)

6:45pm = I give James a super quick bath (literally 2-3 minutes just to rinse off) and get him all ready for bed.

6:50pm = Dave gives Nora and Simon a relatively quick bath (5-10 minutes).

6:55pm = I look at a couple books with James and put him to bed (he will sometimes play in his crib for a few minutes before falling asleep).

7:00 pm = I go upstairs to get either Nora or Simon from the bathtub (Dave gets the other one). We quickly put PJ’s on and brush their hair.

7:10pm = Nora and Simon each pick out 2 books for us to read to them while they eat a banana on the couch in the living room. After their 2 books, they brush their teeth and Nora goes to the bathroom.

7:20pm = We bring the kids upstairs and each put one to bed.

7:25pm = We enjoy the rest of the night in a picked-up, cleaned-up house with no children!!!!

 

While our new bedtime routine is still almost an hour from start to finish, it staggers James’ earlier bedtime with Nora and Simon’s later bedtime, so each routine is only about 30 minutes long. Plus, this timeframe also includes picking up and decluttering the entire house!

I cannot tell you how amazing it feels to walk downstairs after putting Nora and Simon to bed and know the entire house is already picked up and relatively clean.

It’s GLORIOUS!

Sometimes we still need to wash dishes, empty the dishwasher, or fold laundry after they are sleeping, but that’s not a huge deal in my opinion.

Oh, and one more benefit of the earlier bedtimes — James quickly switched from taking 2 naps each day to only one nap per day with more sleep at night. Now he and Simon almost always nap at the same time every afternoon, and Nora will often take a short ‘rest’ on the couch or watch a show on the iPad in our bed.

Although I love my children dearly, it is amazing how refreshed I feel after a little “free-time” during their naps and in the evening.

Obviously, I realize our routine won’t work for every family or in every situation, but I also know there are lots of parents looking to streamline and simplify their kid’s bedtime routines, so I’m sharing what works for us right now in hopes that pieces of it might work for YOU too!

In my opinion, there are a few reasons this routine works so well for us right now — please consider these before you let yourself feel frustrated that our routine isn’t working for you.

5 reasons our new routine works so well for us:

1. We eat dinner VERY early (around 5:00)

Since Dave is often home from school by 3:30, we can easily eat dinner by 5:00 every night. This gives us plenty of time to eat, have dessert, clean up the kitchen, and even let the kids play for a little bit before we start the bedtime process around 6:30pm.

Although the summer weather is so nice, we usually stick to playing inside after dinner because our kids get much more hyper (and sweaty) when they play outside. Plus, they get plenty of outside playtime during the day.

2.  We don’t mind waking up early. 

In general, Dave and I are both “morning people” and don’t mind waking up early. In fact, Dave is almost always up by 5:30 every day!

Since Nora and Simon (and sometime James) are usually awake around 6:30 or 7:00am, we really can’t sleep in even if we want to. We figure that the evening hours will be our “alone time” and our “productive time”, and the earlier the kids go to bed, the better!

Plus, we realized that no matter when our kids went to bed, they would still almost always wake up at the same time each day, so now they get more sleep overall and we get more kid-free time!

3. Dave and I are both almost always home for the bedtime process.

If you are a single parent or if your spouse works in the evening, it will most likely be much more difficult to simplify and streamline the bedtime process (especially with very small children).

In fact, on nights when Dave is gone, it takes me much longer to get through everything and I usually end up cleaning up the house after the kids are already sleeping.

Bedtime is definitely a tag-team effort in our house and it wouldn’t go nearly as fast or be quite so efficient if one of us was gone.

4. Our kids are “old enough” but not “too old”. 

I honestly think we’re in a little “sweet spot” right now where all 3 of our kids are old enough to be able to fall asleep on their own, to sleep in their own beds, and to understand bedtime “cues” but not too old to be out late playing with friends or doing other evening activities.

Plus, as I mentioned above, Simon and James are both only taking 1 nap a day (at the same time) and Nora is old enough to understand why I’m asking her to take a short rest in the afternoons.

We still have 100% control over all 3 of their schedules and since they aren’t really old enough for school or community activities, we can easily keep them home in the evenings, eat dinner together as a family, and get them to bed on time.

I don’t think it’s realistic to assume tiny babies could understand a “bedtime routine” yet; nor do I think it’s reasonable to expect 9 or 10 year olds to be in bed by 7:30 every night. We are right in the middle of the “old enough but not too old” phase of toddlerhood and it is WONDERFUL for our early-to-bed routine!

5. Our entire family is very “task oriented” and thrives on structure.

In general, Dave and I are both very structured and task-oriented — and all 3 of our children are so much happier when there is a basic rhythm to their days (and nights).

We all know what to expect in terms of the bedtime routine, and although the kids are never overjoyed to stop playing and go to bed, they know that it’s just part of life and the sooner they go to bed, the sooner they will wake up and be able to play again the next day.

 

I know there are lots of opinions about when young children “should” go to bed, how many hours of sleep they “should” get, and what an appropriate bedtime routine “should” look like — but I don’t really listen to any of that.

Over the last 4.5 years, we’ve ranged from Nora regularly staying up until midnight or later (and waking up all night long) to Simon going to bed at 5:45pm and sleeping all night long. We’ve had different bedtime routines for different children and in different stages of life, and they have all worked…. it’s just that our current routine is working the BEST of any routine we’ve had in the past!

I honestly wouldn’t be completely surprised if this bedtime routine doesn’t work for us in another year or so — but for right now, in this season of life, I couldn’t be MORE THRILLED with how well it’s working for our family. 

As with all systems and routines, they need to be constantly reevaluated and tweaked, but since I am regularly asked about our bedtime routine, I wanted to share exactly what is working for us RIGHT NOW, and why I feel it’s working so well.

What are your thoughts on bedtime routines?

I hope some of you can glean a few tips or ideas from our bedtime routines… and if you also have (or had) a great bedtime routine for your kids, I’d LOVE for you to share why it worked so well in the comments. You never know who might read it and benefit from YOUR words of wisdom!

kids bedtime routine

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36 comments

  1. Éva Pálné Zavanyi

    06/19/2016

    It’s awsome! My children is 1,5 years old, but I can’t put her in the bed before 8:30 pm. It doesn’t matter how early I start the bedtime process. In Hungary (Central-Europe) at this time, there is too much light at 7:30 or 8:00 pm, and my daughter can’t belive that “it’s time to sleep!”. In addition, in summertime the weather is really hot, so we can’t go outside before 4:00 pm in afternoon, which means our dinner starts later, at 7:00 pm (it’s the start of our bedtime routine). After our dinner, we read some books (sometimes 5-6…), praying and take a bath. This process finish at 8:00 pm, and I put her on the bed, and stay with her still she fall asleep. If I leave her alone earlier, she will crying and try to follow me. I know, that sleeping process is my fault, but I can’t do anything to make sure my baby, that 7:00 pm is “really night time”. Or, can I? What do you think?
    I really appriciate, if you answer me. And sorry if my English is weak. Thank you!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Honestly, I really wouldn’t worry about the exact time your kiddos go to sleep, as long as it’s consistent every night. You eat dinner MUCH later than we do, so it’s only natural that your kids would also go to bed later. Maybe they sleep in later too?
    If you can find room darkening shades, I would try those (they make the room really dark even in the middle of the day). Otherwise, just keep doing what you’re doing as it seems to be working well for you.
    As for staying with her until she falls asleep, it would probably be nice for YOU if you could transition away from doing that — but it will take time. Nora always needed us to stay with her until she fell asleep, but at 3 years old, we told her we were going to stop doing that. It took about a week of her CONSTANTLY getting out of her room and then she started easily falling asleep on her own. It might be worth trying (just for your sake!)

    [Reply]

    Éva Pálné Zavanyi Reply:

    Thank you! Unfortunately, my daughter doesn’t wake up later, usually at 6:30 or 7:00 am. But I’ll try to leave her alone after the bedtime routine, because it’s too much time for me.

    [Reply]

  2. Katy

    06/16/2016

    Isn’t that sweet spot of finally getting sleep AND child free time great?! We just got to that point a month or two ago and it is glorious. We eat dinner at 5:30, do dishes and clean up the kitchen, and the kids pick up toys around 6:45. By the time they finish that, get PJs on and brush teeth, and we have a family devotion, it’s about 7:20. I go upstairs and tell a bedtime story and tuck everyone in. And then my husband and I have 2+ hours to hang out together or work or do whatever. And lately the kids have been sleeping until 6-6:30am, which is later than the 5:30 wake up they used to have. Basically, I’m loving my sleep right now…

    [Reply]

  3. Kristina

    06/13/2016

    Hello! I’m loving your blog here in northern IN! 🙂 I have a question: what time and for how long do your littles nap? Do you wake rhem up from the nap oe let them wake on their owb? My 2 year old is a bear all afternoon if I wake him early drom his THREE hour nap, but then he’s up until 11pm.
    Thanks for sharing your life story with me, you’re very inspiring!

    [Reply]

    Kristina Reply:

    ^autocorrect fail! Sorry… I hope you get the gist of the question. 😛

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Kristina!
    Simon usually naps from 1:00 – 2:30 or 3:00pm… and he always seems ready to go to bed by 7:30pm. I personally won’t wake up your son from his nap if he’s really cranky when you do. Maybe just try putting him to bed slightly earlier (like 10:30) for a few nights and see how that goes. Then move it up to 10:00. Either that, or could you wake him up earlier in the morning and get him down for his nap earlier?

    I think most parents would be jealous of your 3-hour break in the middle of the day; and although I can definitely see why you’d want him in bed earlier than 11pm, I wouldn’t stress about it too much. I’m sure he will establish and earlier bedtime soon enough (if Nora can learn to go to bed early, anyone can!)

    [Reply]

    Kristina Reply:

    Good point – I need to put on my perspectacles, I suppose. 🙂 Usually we get at home preschool (with my 4 year old) & chores done during that time. It’s nice to have the alone time with her, because she needs that. I’ll try waking him up earlier in the morning. Thanks for the suggestion!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    well, I also know that it’s AWFUL when you’re right in the middle of a period of sleeplessness — so don’t feel too bad for wanting to change or “fix” things! That’s just natural!

    [Reply]

  4. Michelle

    06/13/2016

    I was wondering, since it’s still light out at 7:30 in the evening, do you have any trouble getting them to go down? The first thing we always hear is “it’s not bedtime…it’s still light out”. I guess the kids think it’s not night since it’s not dark yet.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    no, not at all. They are just used to it now (and we have room-darkening shades in all our bedrooms)

    [Reply]

  5. Meghan

    06/13/2016

    That is glorious that you are in the sweet spot! I agree that your routine is fabulous and is similar to what we used with our older boys until our oldest was 7. My husband traveled a lot for business when they were little, and 7:00 pm bedtime was my sanity saver. Now my boys are 6 and 9 and play baseball so our 1 year old often doesn’t get to bed until 8:30 or 9! It’s crazy how much different life is for her than our older children. However, she is always smiling and agreeable so that helps!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yeah, I know several people with little kids and big kids — and the little kids always seem to be very easy-going and laid back. Glad your little girl is too!

    [Reply]

  6. Crystal @ ClearCutCrystal

    06/13/2016

    I kind of miss those days! Such a cute age to watch them learn to walk, talk, read. Mine are 5 & 8 and I still require a rest time mid-day for my sanity! All good tips.

    [Reply]

  7. JJ

    06/13/2016

    Love this! We have 3 Littles, and we try to have them in bed by 7:30, too, but we are still tweaking our baby’shower bedtime. We do family devotions right before bed. They each pick a song to sing after our Bible story. Then they each pray for someone. Then we learned a song at Story Time where they wave and sing about waving good-bye. The longest part is tucking them in. 😀 They try to hold us hostage. :p I love your kid posts the most, since we are in almost the same stages!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much 🙂 And yes, our kids always fight over WHO puts them to bed. No matter who it is, they always want the other person to come in afterward to do the whole tucking in process a 2nd time 🙂

    [Reply]

  8. Erin

    06/13/2016

    Considering we’re in the midst of some sleep struggles with my 4- and 2-year-old, this was a very interesting post. We’ve gone from both of them settling well to absolute chaos at bedtime. I’m inspired to focus on consistency with them and see if that makes a difference.

    I’m curious about Simon’s nap schedule. My 2-year-old usually naps for 2 hours in the afternoon (from 2 until 3:30/4), but if I put her to bed at 7, she doesn’t seem ready. I know each child is different, but I’m wondering what that part of the sleep routine looks like for your family. If it’s possible, I’d love to get some of our evenings back!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Erin,
    Right now, Simon naps from roughly 1:00 to 2:30 or 3:00… and he is usually very tired by 7:00 / 7:30pm. However, Simon has always been our BEST BEST BEST sleeper so that’s probably not a great person to compare your children to.

    At the same age, Nora wasn’t even taking any naps during the day, waking up at 6:30am and not going to bed until 9:30 or 10:00pm. 🙂

    [Reply]

  9. Avia

    06/13/2016

    I think this is a great schedule. The dilemma of putting kids to bed early is one challenge of working outside the home. It seems like we get so little time together anyways that I hate putting them to bed too early. On the other hand, they go to a babysitters so have to get up early with me. So I try to focus on quality over quantity of time. I do think we would benefit from a more specific schedule and I’m tempted to come with one after reading yours. The issue we’re having right now is our 3.5 yr old repeatedly gets out of bed and our 1.5 yr old sometimes screams in bed until someone comes in to rock her. Probably something I could use your sleep specialist to help me out with. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I can totally understand this. We have many friends who work outside the home and their kids go to bed later because of it.

    As for the getting out of bed and screaming — it could just be a phase. Simon is by-far our best sleeper and even he has had moments of horrible sleeping for one reason or another.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself, it sounds like you’re doing a lot of things right and I’m sure your children are benefiting from your quality time together!

    [Reply]

  10. Denise

    06/13/2016

    The rule in my house has always been that when the younger one(s) are napping, it is quiet time for the older ones. They can read a book or watch TV – or even take a nap if they want to – but there is no talking and no commotion. Not because I want to keep things quiet for the nappers but because it doesn’t hurt ANY of us to have a little downtime in the middle of the afternoon!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I like this rule. I might have to continue implementing it with Nora. Even just 20 minutes of time makes such a huge difference for my mental state!

    [Reply]

  11. janet

    06/13/2016

    Love this. We did something similar when our kids were little. Makes life so much easier.

    AND… Hoping our Warriors win the Championship tonight!!! (Hope Dave is not a Cavs fan.) 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I actually didn’t know who was even playing, so I just asked Dave who he was cheering for… and he said “The Warriors!” 🙂

    [Reply]

  12. Kelly

    06/13/2016

    I love getting a peek at how other families work – thanks for sharing!

    We don’t have a very set routine in terms of what happens at bedtime, but we are pretty consistent about times. Our younger daughter (1 1/2) goes to bed around 6 pm (certainly no later than 7 pm) and our older daughter (almost 4) goes to bed by 7 pm.

    We do have a few set things we do with brushing teeth, putting on PJs, going potty for the older one, etc. One thing that is probably unusual is we never do baths at bedtime – those usually happen first thing in the morning.

    Like you, we eat dinner early – around 5:15 pm. We aim for a brief family devotion time at the dinner table so we get a bit of “quality time” then.

    The downside of early bedtimes is that I feel like my husband doesn’t get tons of time with the kids during the week, but the upside is that we get so much stuff done (whether productive or just “relaxing”) in the evening that I think it improves the quality of the time he IS with them, because he can focus on them. He usually is home till 7:30 every morning, so we do all have breakfast together and he gets ready while caring for the younger one.

    We’re having twins any day now… so I imagine this will be a whole new ball game shortly! But hoping even if the babies stay up late, we can still the girls down at a good time and then have just half the crowd to manage. 🙂 The girls do so much better with early bedtimes and good night’s sleep.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, that’s why I mentioned how helpful it is that Dave is home super early. He doesn’t see them at all in the morning, but he is very involved with playing with them (and tiring them out) from 3:30 – 7:00. If he was home much later, I’m sure we wouldn’t be able to get our kids to bed as early either.

    Also, congrats on the twins! Wow, you’ll have 4 under 4 for a big then right? How exciting (and probably a little overwhelming) all at the same time. Best wishes in this huge transition period!

    [Reply]

  13. Melissa

    06/13/2016

    Love this! We have a 25 month old son and a 2 month old daughter. We have a similar routine in place and also have both kids asleep by 7:30 most nights. Unfortunately, for the last week or so our son has been prolonging bedtime by changing his mind on which stories he wants to read or which stuffed animals he wants to have in bed with him. Do you have your kids make these decisions ahead of time?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yeah, I guess we just make most of the decisions before bath. So they pick out their PJ’s and put them in the bathroom. Then they pick out their 2 books and we read them right away. If they can’t decide, we give them one more chance or then we pick for them.

    [Reply]

  14. Chris

    06/13/2016

    I’m happy for you after the struggles you have had in the past!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Chris! We sure have come a LOOOOOONG way since being up all night every night with Nora!

    [Reply]

  15. Organize 365

    06/13/2016

    Yeah Andrea!!

    I love it! My kids went to bed early too and it was fabulous!

    I found that earlier bedtimes actually facilitated better sleep. And like you we are always home at night – even now.

    I like to doing outside and activities with other people during the day. I never was a great night time person – even in college.

    I am SO happy you and Dave have a great system and some much needed couple time!

    🙂
    Lisa

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, we do lots of stuff before lunch and then after naps — but not much after dinner. Also, I’m sure you can relate to never pulling an all-nighter in college! I wouldn’t be surprised if I was the first person in bed on my entire floor every night!

    [Reply]

  16. Mandy

    06/13/2016

    This is encouraging! We have our one baby on a similar schedule. I am pleased to know it won’t be impossible to maintain as our family grows. I agree, the only way to describe the hours following bedtime (on somedays more than others) is GLORIOUS.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — yes, Glorious! and you’ll be happy to know that several readers said they have a very similar schedule with their 6 and 7 year olds — so you might be able to pull it off for many more years!

    [Reply]

  17. Janet

    06/13/2016

    I think the reason your routine works so well is consistency. My children are all teenagers now but when they were small, they went to bed at the same time each night, even if we had to leave from someplace early to get them to bed. We often got some strange looks and comments but I always figured that I had to deal with the children the next morning and I would rather we were all nice people then!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, we often turn down evening activities because our kids go to be SO early — at least Dave and I are homebodies and don’t mind being home a lot!

    [Reply]