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Create a Simple Bedtime Chart

For many families, bedtime is a stressful time of day when it really should be about togetherness and relaxation! Instead of letting your frustration continue, it is always helpful to take a step back and figure out a plan to improve the bedtime process. The following steps will allow you to brainstorm a bedtime routine that will work great for your family and allow everyone to enjoy the end of the day (instead of dreading it). Keep in mind, this is your chance to start from scratch and create the perfect bedtime routine. If what you’re doing isn’t working well, scrap it and start fresh! Keep it simple and lay out a few steps that will help your children wind down from a busy day and calmly drift off to sleep…

When you create your children’s bedtime routine, consider the following:

Keep it simple. If their bedtime routine is too long or too involved, then it will be very hard to stay consistent. Start by figuring out the bare minimum for the evening. What are the non-negotiables: Going to the bathroom and brushing their teeth? Sometimes, we need that reminder of what needs to happen on the most basic level, and then build from there. As you add to your nightly routine, try to keep it to a checklist of a few items. You can always add in extra things if you have time for it on any given night, but the goal here is to have a basic routine that you (and your kids) have turned into a habit so you don’t even have to think about it.

Consider your kids. Your children’s ages and capabilities are a big factor in planning out your bedtime routine. What steps can they manage on their own, and what will they need a parent’s help with? Would a visual chart help them go through the steps on their own? Can they brush their teeth all at the same time, or does that distract one of your children or cause bickering? Do they always need a snack and/or water before bed?

Figure out the timing. The secret to smooth bedtimes is getting the timing right, which is definitely easier said than done!

Take a minute to crunch the numbers and figure  out an optimal bedtime for your kiddos by considering the following:

  • When do they have to wake up in the morning?

  • How much sleep do they need based on their age and personality?

  • What time do they need to go to bed to get that amount sleep?

  • How long does it take each child to fall asleep?

  • How long does it take to do the bedtime routine?

  • What time do you need to start the bedtime process?

Once you have answered all of these questions, you’ll be able to be realistic about the bedtime routine, so your family’s evenings don’t feel rushed - and frustrating. The goal is to have your kids wake up refreshed and happy after getting a good night’s sleep, which will lead to better mornings, too!

Be realistic and consistent. When it comes down to it, what will you actually end up doing? You can create a perfect-sounding plan, but if no one in the family is able to follow through with it, your plan won’t work. You want a bedtime routine to become a habit for the whole family, so be realistic about your expectations and then encourage consistency!

Make it visual. Once you come up with a good, simple bedtime routine, turn it into something visual!

You can get as creative as you want, or you can keep it simple; the options are endless:

  • Write the checklist down on a piece of paper.

  • Design something pretty on your computer.

  • Get crafty with the kids and make a poster.

  • Laminate your checklist and use a dry erase marker each night.

Kids tend to do much better with following directions when they have something visual to go off of, and it might surprise you just how much responsibility they take when given the opportunity. Consider your kids’ ages and abilities when creating a visual checklist: Use visual icons for little ones to be able to follow along, use small words for beginner readers, or write it all out for advanced readers in your household.

Sample bedtime routine. Hopefully all of these ideas help to spark inspiration for you and your family, but if you still feel a little stuck here is a sample bedtime routine checklist that you are welcome to use!

  • Go to the washroom.

  • Wash hands and face.

  • Brush teeth.

  • Put on pajamas.

  • Put dirty clothes in the hamper.

  • Read a story.

  • Turn off the bedroom light.

  • Give hugs and kisses.

  • Think of your favorite thing.

  • Fall asleep.

  • Wishing your family peaceful nights ahead!

Shari is the co-owner of the parenting website, adorethem.com. Adore Them strives to share positive, practical advice and resources to help you find joy in your own parenting journey. 

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