Bedtime Routines that Help Everyone Settle Down

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Kids awake when you want them to sleep? Consider these strategies for happy bedtimes.

Time for Bed! Kids awake when you want them to sleep? Consider these strategies for happy bedtimes.

Last week I recommended that me and all moms try to get a little more sleep. My weekend sleep goals didn’t quite go as planned as several children were up during the night due to snuffly noses and too warm weather. Last night’s bout of the loudest thunder I ever heard in my life didn’t help either. But, I am going to keep trying to curb my own night waking by shooting for an earlier bedtime. For this to happen, the kids need to be in bed before me.

Here are some things that help bedtime be more peaceful around our house.

1. Have a plan for the evening.

If the kids know what to expect, they’re more likely to do it without complaints. If I know what to expect, I know how to communicate it to them and follow up on it. This also gets us on a good trajectory toward bedtime.

Usually we eat dinner between 5:30 and 6:30. Each of the FishBoys has a kitchen job: clearing the table, wiping the table, emptying the dishwasher, or sharking the floor. At dinnertime, I remind them not to leave the kitchen until their jobs are done, and then we discuss what needs to/gets to happen afterward. This might include other household chores, riding bikes, going to the pool, playing out back, watching a movie, etc.

Having a plan helps to eliminate The-Mindless-Surfing-Through-The-Evening-Until-I-Realize-It’s-10 pm-And-Why-Aren’t-My-Kids-in-Bed?! syndrome.

2. Have a bedtime routine and start it earlier than you think it will take.

For many households this is going to include bathing, jammies, a last-chance snack, and brushing teeth. If your target for “lights out” is 8:30, then you need to start the routine by 7:30, at least. Watch the clock and adjust accordingly. If you have extra time, then enjoy those moments cuddling and reading stories or just talking.

(Pete’s a Pizza is a great book. And my kids love it when Papa “makes them into pizzas” at bedtime. We omit the water and checkers.)

3. Make lights out a sweet time.

For us this means visiting each bedside with a hug and a kiss and talking quietly for a few minutes. FishPapa or I pray for our kiddos and remind them how much we love them. If they ask thought-provoking questions, we try to take the time to talk about them in the quiet of the night.

4. Allow for special exceptions when “I can’t sweep, Mama.”

It’s bound to happen that they really aren’t tired yet. (Though you know we are!) Sometimes, if it’s a group dynamic, we allow them an extra 20 minutes to read and look at books. All four boys bunk in one room, so we gotta roll with it.

Other times, we pop in a book on tape. (Our favorites include The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia.)

In the case of one child with insomnia, we might set up a “cowboy bed,” a blanket on the floor of the playroom where he lies quietly. For some reason, though he’s still in bed, this change of locale seems special.

That’s how it works at our house.


How do YOU help your kids fall asleep at a decent hour?

Please share in the comments section what helps everyone sleep tight in your home.

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  1. I hope you get a good night sleep tonight! It was fun to talk to you if even for a few minutes last night. I’ll try to remember to call earlier next time!

  2. I really like the “cowboy bed” idea…that would work well in this house.

    Great post!