Those of you that read my articles will know that I have 3 children very close in age and although they aren’t technically all toddlers anymore (5, 4 & 3), it wasn’t long ago that they were all toddlers and in all honesty, their bedtime routine hasn’t changed at all. Not only this, but all 3 of my youngest children share a bedroom so whether you have just the one child or your in the same boat as me, hopefully you’ll find this article helpful.
I’m a strong believer that when it comes to children, there’s no such thing as 1 rule fits all as they are all so different. All you can do when it comes to a bedtime routine for your toddler or young child is find what works best for you through trial and error. This is what I’ll be doing in this article, explaining what works for me when putting my young children to bed. Some bits you may agree with whilst other bits you may role your eyes at. But I feel happy with the bedtime routine I have for my 3 toddlers and hopefully I can give some ideas that may help you. This is by no means a rule book to have the perfect bedtime routine for your children!
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What time do I start my children’s bedtime routine?
I’ve no idea on what the best or recommended time is to put your little ones to bed, but for us we have always started their bedtime routine at approximately 6.30PM with hopes of them being tucked in bed for 7.30PM. I’ll be going into the routine of our toddler’s bedtime in more detail below, but here is a very basic indication on what bedtime looks like in our home.
- 6.30PM – Bath the children
- 7PM – Get them out of the bath and dress them in pyjamas
- 7.10PM – Brush their teeth
- 7.15PM – Tuck them in bed and read them a story
- 7.30PM – Say goodnight
As you can see from the above, a bedtime routine will often take a good hour or so in our home which I know sounds like a long time but with a large family this works very well. Whilst I’m busy with the children, my wife will take advantage and get on top of any house duties such as tidying, laundry and so forth which depending on how much is left to get on top of, will often mean having a free evening to relax and unwind.
My children’s bedtime routine starts with a bath
I know that every family has different views on how often to bath their children but I try to bath my toddlers every evening at 6.30PM as part of their bedtime routine, although I have more reasons than just good hygiene to bath my little ones.
I’m not sure about your children but mine are only happy if they are making a mess. To have them look clean by the time their bedtime arrives is a rare site. Either they’ve found a way into the paint cupboard and decided to use eachother as blank canvases, decided to dig holes in the garden with the help of some water they so innocently asked for and are now covered in mud or decided to build sand castles with the salt they always find no matter which cupboard we hide it in and now have hair full of salt. Like I said, a clean child at bedtime is a rare site in my home, especially with 3 young children so close in age.
When they aren’t causing chaos, they have an addiction to watching YouTube videos. Our phones, the TV, laptops, iPads – my children will always find a way. Although this isn’t a bad thing as it somewhat gives us a break to clear up the destruction they’ve been making. The other reason I try to bath them every day, is well, have you ever tried to take an iPad off a 4 or 5 year old to tell them it’s bedtime? Let’s just say, it doesn’t go so well. The only thing my 3 toddlers love more than making a mess and screen time is bath time, which makes it the perfect start to a bedtime routine!
Apart from accidentally getting water in their eyes and me being savagely attacked by the 3 musketeers, giving my toddlers a bath is a great way to calm them down ready for bed. It’s amazing how inviting a warm bed can be when the cold air hits them after a bath. Although I do have a couple of more steps before they get snuggled in bed.
Once bathed, it’s time to dress them in their pyjamas before cleaning their teeth
Once bathed, it’s time to dress my children in their pyjamas before cleaning their teeth
Getting my children out of the bath and dressed in their pyjamas is relatively easy although my 3 year old toddler can have his moments when unable to decide on which pyjamas to wear. There are times that he will get changed over and over again until he is finally satisfied with the pyjamas he will be wearing to bed!
Once dressed, it’s time to clean their teeth. My 5 year old son tends to do his own now although I do give them the quick once over before he trots off to bed. I still brush my 4 and 3 year old’s teeth. I feel that getting them into a routine of cleaning their teeth at a young age is the most important part of their bedtime routine.
Finally I can tuck them in bed and read them a bedtime story
Tucking my young children into bed isn’t the hard part. Actually, the hardest part of bedtime and providing that they’ve not got out of bath time is actually brushing my 4 year old daughter’s hair which is the next step after getting into bed.
Unlike my other 4 children who all have straight, easy to brush hair. My daughter was the only baby to be delivered with a head full of dark curly hair which has only got crazier over the years. As you can imagine, brushing her hair isn’t pleasant for either of us no matter how much detangling spray we use or how careful we brush it.
Once we have brushed my daughter’s hair, it’s time for a bedtime story. Life was easier when I use to read my children a story from a book but somehow this has lead to me making a story up from the top of my head which involves all of them in whichever scenario they have made up that night. Usually it’s something on the lines of my 5 year old son running a toy food supermarket which has been taken over by my 4 year old daughter and her Barbie friends with my 3 year old being one of their guard dogs. They choose who they want to be and I create the story. For them, it’s fun to get involved in the story and is something to look forward to.
Now it’s time to sit on the floor in my children’s bedroom until they fall asleep
This is definitely the part which many of you may roll your eyes at but for my 3 toddlers that share a room, this is what works. If I’m out of the bedroom, they talk, play or fight. No one sleeps.
The only way round this is to sit on their bedroom floor until they are all asleep. Unless they are asking for something, the rule is that we don’t speak. They also believe that without my being there that they are scared so will behave to keep me in their bedroom. They obviously haven’t caught on yet that they play games with eachother without me being there which is surprising but works well.
They are usually asleep within an hour of being tucked in bed which means that at approximately 8.30PM I sneak out of their room. To be honest, I value that quiet hour I sit in their room. I can catch up on quotations that I need to send out, work on my accounts, work on this website and so on.
Are there any exceptions to my children’s bedtime routine?
Here is another one that might roll some eyes but my strict children’s bedtime is only for school nights. On weekends and school holidays, for the most part, everything stays the same. This goes for the time they start their bedtime routine, bath, teeth, all except the bedtime story. Instead I replace it with a film to award them on their good behaviour during the week.
Make no mistake, if they’ve had a day of continuous misbehaving then it will be another bedtime story but most of the time they will get their film, although I still have to sit in their room until they fall asleep once it has finished.
My thoughts on having a good bedtime routine for your young children
As said at the beginning of this article, I don’t think there is a 1 rule works for all when it comes to a bedtime routine no matter the age of your children. The only thing I can recommend from experience is to get your little ones into a good bedtime routine at a young age as it’s easier to create good habits than it is to break bad ones. No one knows your children better than you do and what works for someone else’s children might not work for yours. Just create a bedtime routine that works for you.