7 Steps to a Stress-Free Bedtime Routine For Kids. (Spoiler Alert: Have Your Water Glass Ready)

Kids’ bedtime, it’s a delicate dance between parents and offspring, is it not?

Do your kids drift into a sweet slumber at the drop of a nightcap or is the bedtime struggle most definitely real with every excuse under the sun presenting itself at the mention of “time for bed”?

If your lovelies like to put up a fight come bed o’clock, here are 7 super useful steps to fine-tune your kids’ bedtime routine, making it a cinch to launch them into bed and a lot less stressy for YOU. Sweet dreams await!

7 steps to a stress-free bedtime routine

1. Make a solid bedtime routine plan

It sounds obvious, right? But when EVERYONE is on the same page and knows the sequence of how the lead up to bedtime will roll out, the transition goes a whole lot smoother. Write it down so there are no surprises, no curve balls to deal with, just a routine with military precision.

For littles, a visual chart can help – bath, pyjamas, teeth brushing, storybook reading, a snuggle and tucked up in bed before, down for the count. WISE WORDS: Decide on the number of books and write that down too before being suckered into just one more…

2. Bath before bed

A bath for a baby or toddler is a great way to relax before bedtime (even if it’s crowded with siblings). The same goes for older children. Let them quietly play in the warm bath water to unwind for a while. They’ll be squeaky clean AND relaxed when hopping out.

kid friendly names for private parts

3. Keep a tidy sleeping space

Climbing into bed when surrounded by discarded toy chaos and a floor strewn with deathly sharp Lego pieces isn’t going to make for a sound sleeping environment. Not to mention, kids just can’t help but play a little longer if it’s at their fingertips. While tidying up a bedroom is often just one more chore to get done, it truly benefits a good night’s sleep!

4. Screen-free and set a digital curfew

This is a big one for EVERY age. A digital curfew is an absolute must for letting little bodies and brains wind-down and relax before hitting the pillow. Ideally, kids should be screen free for two hours before heading to bed – a window of time perfect for sending them outside to run off any pent up energy!

5. Go play!

Speaking of pent up energy, it’s mighty important to try and exhaust your kids physically at some point during the day. Try to resist letting them laze about straight after school by encouraging physical activity – a bike ride, a play on the playground even just walking the dog or playing in the yard. An hour of running around can make a big difference when getting them ready for bed.

toddler sports

6. Bribes for creepers

My youngest was a nighttime creeper. Plagued with eczema, waking up, itching and creeping into our bed instilled habits that very near broke ALL of us. In the end, we bribed him with a reward system – one shiny dollar coin for every night he stayed in his own bed. I won’t lie, it DID cost us a fair bit before the creeping habit was broken, but y’all know you can’t put a price on a solid sleep. This I know for sure.

7. Be consistent

You absolutely must be consistent with the bedtime routine! Sure you can, on occasion, stretch bedtime out to an hour later but don’t be making a habit of it. Yes, that also includes weekends and school holidays!

Finally, know your children’s vices too. If your child is feeling anxious about something, talk to them about it well before bedtime. Or if they consistently ask for water (bedtime being the leading cause of hydration in kids and all that malarkey), be on top of that with a small glass of water on the bedside table. Kids:0 Mum:1.


What if my kid refuses to sleep without me?

You’re not alone. I’m pretty sure MOST parents go through a phase where kids refuse to drift off to sleep by themselves. And you know, I get it. There’s nothing sweeter than being your kid’s be all and end all and them wanting to snuggle into you and drift off to sleep. It’s all fine and good until you want to go out one night and it all turns to custard.

So, in short, ways to break this habit are:

Cold turkey – tuck your child into their bed, read a story, kiss goodnight and LEAVE. Fair warning: some children cope better with this than others. If you are the one who always puts the kids to bed, it’s time to let another caregiver have a turn!

The gradual approach – follow the bedtime routine and say goodnight. Swear black and blue to your child you’ll be back in five minutes to check that they’re ok and MAKE GOOD ON THAT PROMISE. Each night, lengthen it out by a minute until no longer required.

The creep – Sit outside your child’s door so that they can see you but do not speak to them and most definitely do not let them lure you in for just one more cuddle. Each night, progress a little further away from the door frame until you can just settle in to the couch!

toddler sleeping, teddy bear

What time should your kids go to bed?

We all know you can’t put a price on the value of a good night’s sleep – and that’s even MORE important for kids. Getting enough shut-eye is vital for children’s health and development, assists with concentration and (generally (speaking from the perspective of a parent) makes these little versions of ourselves a whole lot nicer to live with day in, day out.

However, we could be getting this kids’ bedtime jag all wrong. According to US school Wilson Elementary, its suggested sleep guide for children is as follows:

sleep bedtime routine graph

And while the super handy, previously-went-viral, Wilson Elementary’s chart doesn’t show the recommended bedtime for kids aged 5 and under, MedicAlert provides is a list of approved sleep times for all children from babies to teens.

  • Infants from 4 to 12 months should get 12 to 16 hours of sleep (including naps)
  • Children 1 to 2 years old should get 11 to 14 hours (including naps)
  • Kids 3 to 5 should get 10 to 13 hours (including naps)
  • Children 6 to 12 year olds should sleep 9 to 12 hours a night
  • Teenagers should get from 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night

Which begs the question for many parents, how are we going to fit in our fast-paced, extra curricular activity filled lives around these sleep hours?!

bedtime, sleeping preschooler

Not convinced kids need all this sleep? Science doesn’t lie – this study shows lack of bedtime routine really does result in poorly behaved kids!

Avatar of Lexi Klaebe

South Australian mum and self proclaimed foodie, Lexi can most days be found in the kitchen, apron tied firm and armed with a whisk or wooden spoon!

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