Routines to Make Bedtime a Dream

Consistency: Sticking to a set schedule is critical as it provides the safety and structure that kids need, even if they seem to show or say otherwise. Children feel empowered when they know what to expect and are prepared for what will happen next. As much as possible, follow the schedule down to the minute. Do your best not to deviate from the schedule, even on weekends and under special circumstances such as traveling or hosting visitors.2.

Use visual charts and timers: Manipulatives such as visual charts and timers are great tools to design bedtime routines! Enlist your kids’ creativity in creating a chart with fun pictures depicting each step of bedtime. Set gentle timers which provide an auditory reminder that it is time to move to the next activity. These tools reinforce your structure, appeal to children’s different interests and senses, and empower children to take part in their own bedtime process.

Stay Calm: Bedtime is notorious for making parents feel anxious, angry, and negative about their parenting. Children constantly test boundaries, and it is important to stay firm in your approach and collected while doing so. If a child is tantruming or refusing to cooperate, calmly give them cool-off strategies (take a break or do some breathing), remind them of the routines, and provide limited choices for next steps (would you like to brush teeth with a special song or brush teeth quietly?).

Make it fun!: Bedtime can feel tedious and boring to children (and adults!). Making each aspect of the routine interesting and exciting helps children look forward to this time, instead of dreading it. Here are some ideas to get you started: (1) A race to clean up toys where the task has to be complete by the time a given song comes to an end;  (2) Musical teeth brushing in which someone sings a song; when they stop, it’s time to brush the next quadrant of teeth; and (3) Giving children mindfulness challenges before bed; e.g. when breathing, exhale all the way and imagine your belly is going up to the ceiling. Make sure to change things up periodically and keep some ideas in reserve