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Bed Time Routines: 15 Tips for Getting Your Child to Bed

Updated on April 3, 2013

1. Good Bed Time Routines are Consistent

Having a good bed time routine means being as consistent as possible so that the child knows what to expect. Children are a lot less jumpy and anxious when they feel safe in the world. Knowing that bed time will be the same every night lets them feel that sense of predictability and security they need to feel so they can relax and have a good nights sleep.Once your child's bed time routine is in place take the time to pass on the details to any other caregivers. We don't need our little angel telling the babysitter that jumping on the bed is always part of bed time!

2. Good Bed Time Routines are Calm

Before your child begins the bed time routine try to remove as much stimulation as possible. This means stimulating toys are put away, the television is turned off, and lights are dimmed. If you have other older children, it will help if they find something quiet and peaceful to do (i.e. read, homework, listen to a personal music player). It’s hard to get ready for bed time if it seems like other exciting things are going on in the house.

3. Good Bed Time Routines Start Early

Have a pre bed time routine. Try this usually an hour before bed time. This usually means having your child put their toys away, make sure their pajamas are out and ready to be worn, and make sure any stuffed animals they need are ready for bed too. The bed time is a lot easier if your child isn’t fiddling around looking for their bed clothes and stuffies and saying they need this and that.

4. Good Bed Time Routines Start with Regular Kids

Try to get your children in the habit of going to the toilet maybe a half hour or so after dinner. Children often drive their parents crazy because they suddenly need to pee and poo right at bed time or even in the middle of bed time. Many parents think they are doing it to stay up and waste time, but a lot of times it is because they are finally relaxing and noticing what their bodies need. If they habitually take care of these needs after a meal, this is less likely to happen. A regular child is a happy child!

5. Good Bed Time Routines Include Bath Time

The bed time routine itself, usually involves bath time, brushing teeth, and any other hygiene needs the child may have. Depending on the child bath time can begin an hour before bed or twenty minutes.  Bath time helps soothe and relax your child and our goal is to prepare our child for rest. Try to avoid having too many stimulating toys in the bath during bath time because we want our child’s mind to be relaxed too.

6. Good Bed Time Routines Stay on Schedule

If you have a child who tries to waste time and delay getting to bed so they can stay up late, do your best to stay calm and let them know that the bed time routine will start early the next night or their bath time will be shorter. Use whatever will matter enough to your child for them to get the point. You can suggest maybe they watched too much TV and are overstimulated so maybe TV time needs to be cut back. You might be tempted to just speed up the bed time, maybe skip the bed time story or some other ritual you have, but this isn’t a great idea because you are trying to make bed time as predictable as possible. Try to stay calm, keep up your end of the bargain and let the little darling know bed time start a little earlier tomorrow. The more attention your child gets during the day the less likely they will be to demanding extra attention at night.

7. Good Bed Time Routines Begin by Avoiding Foods that make Getting to Sleep Difficult

Make sure your child has a healthy dinner and snacks before bed time. Some foods can make getting to sleep more difficult. Processed foods like hot dogs, ham, pepperoni, sausages, bacon, bologna, and processed chicken nuggets contain Tyramine which causes the brain to release a chemical that keeps us awake. Spinach, avocados, raisins, tomatoes, soy sauces, and tofu are also high in Tyramine. Foods with chocolate and caffeinated drinks like colas also make getting to sleep very difficult. Rich foods that are difficult to digest, like those with aged cheeses and cream sauces can be eaten earlier in the day but make getting to sleep difficult when eaten in the evening.

8. Good Bed Time Routines Include Bed Time Stories

Make telling your kids bed time stories part of their bed time routine. Children love the time they get to spend with just them and a parent at bed time. Because your children matter to you, you will need to make reading a bed time story a priority. Try to choose bed time stories that are not too stimulating. Bed time stories with monsters and dragons or lots of action for instance can make getting to sleep difficult for young imaginative minds. Also remember to sit up when telling bed time stories. If we lie down beside our children we will be likely to be the ones who end up falling asleep.

9. Good Bed Time Routines Include Family Rituals

You can add your own bed time rituals. You may not be a particularly religious person but it can still be OK to spend time with your child at bed time talking about all of the things you are grateful for in your life. Children tend to act more appreciative and thankful if we teach them these values. Being grateful for things in our lives is always a good way to prepare for bed time anyway as we feel more full emotionally when we do this at the end of our day. We can use bed time to tell our children we love them and that no matter what has happened that day the world is a better place with them in it.

10. Good Bed Time Routines Include Items for Self Soothing

If your child is a toddler older, allow them to have a stuffed animal or maybe their favorite blankie in their bed. Soft plush toys, blankies, small pillows, and other self-soothing items can help children relax at bed time. Self soothing is a healthy part of development and parents should encouraged it in children. However, infants should not have soft thick blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals in their crib though as these tend to increase the risk of SIDS.

11. Good Bed Time Routines Involve Encouraging Kids to Stay in Bed

Encourage your child to stay in bed. Try not to tell them to sleep. Any insomniac knows that the more the try to force themselves to sleep the harder it is. Instead of telling your child to go to sleep, encourage them to lie in their bed and rest their eyes. If they tell you they can’t sleep, let them know its still OK to rest their eyes, body, and mind. If they have an active imagination, encourage them to imagine the images and voices in their head in slow motion (this works for adults too, by the way).

12. Good Bed Time Routines can Include Soft Music and a Night Light

It can help to have soft soothing relaxing music playing at bed time. It is also OK to have a night light in the child’s room. Children are easily distracted by other noises in the home. Soft music at bed time will provide them with a more relaxing alternative to hearing these noises. Children spend all day in the light, expecting them to be comfortable in a completely dark room is also not always realistic.

13. Good Bed Time Routines are Free from Interruptions

Try to avoid having interruptions during the bed time routine. In other words, turn your cell phone off, don’t answer the home phone (if someone else answers the phone make it a policy that they take a message). Also let your other children (if you have them) know that you need them to do something peaceful on their own while you are doing their sibling's bed time. They will also have their own bed time too, so there is no reason for there to be interruptions. Sometimes we even need to remind a spouse about this bed time policy.

14. Good Bet Time Routines Include Checking In

Checking on your children periodically after you leave them in their room helps reinforce the bed time routine. Let them know you will check in on them. When first starting their bed time routine, do this more frequently. Also avoid, long conversations or stimulating interactions when checking in on them. Don’t keep hugging, or cuddling them, or chit chatting, just let them know you are there and they are OK or they will never get to bed. That’s it. OK. Nothing else or it will go on and on and on this just won’t will never end...if you get my point....I think you do...

15. Good Bed Time Routines Include Setting Firm Boundaries

If your child keeps yelling out for you, try to stay calm. Getting frustrated just leads to more stimulation. If they get out of bed or call us just take them back to bed, let them know they are OK, and that they can tell you whatever they need to tell you tomorrow. Be firm and assertive but not angry. Set clear boundaries. Again, getting into quiet talks and chats will just stimulate your child. Also, if your child needs to say I love you over and over at bed time it probably means they need to hear they are loved more often throughout the day.


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    • TPSicotte profile image

      TPSicotte 6 years ago from The Great White North

      Thanks for the positive feedback. I hope these tips are helpful to others.

    • Nordy profile image

      Nordy 6 years ago from Canada

      Well-written and informative hub on that most important issue of putting the wee ones to bed! Once upon a time this issue used to be obsession, thanks to my youngest child who first slept a whole night at 14 months and finally went to bed without excessive rocking/singing/cuddling at 18 months. Only wish I knew then what I know now. Keep up the good work!