Having a bedtime routine for my kids has been important since day one! Being a parent is hard. Having bedtime go smoothly is a great way to end a long day of fun, excitement, difficulty, challenge, or whatever your day brought!!
My husband has always worked long hours and I have been left to take care of bedtime alone MANY nights. When he’s working or traveling I don’t stress too much anymore, because I know my kids know what is expected of them at bed time. For the most part it goes pretty smoothly.
1 – Pajamas on!
Our bedtime routine starts as soon as dinner ends! When the first child is done eating, they run and get their pajamas on. If the child is quick getting dressed they can have a bit of time to play while everyone else is finishing dinner and cleaning up the kitchen.
2 – Tidy up rooms and pick out clothes for the next day.
When Mom and Dad (or just Mom) are done cleaning up the kitchen I head to the kids’ rooms. I help each child tidy up their room. This consists of reminding them to put their clothes in the correct spot (laundry basket or drawers). We do a quick pick up of the toys/items on the floor. This isn’t a deep clean. Making space to walk and putting large items away is the focus (major cleaning up is done before dinner).
3 – Brush teeth and use the toilet.
Once everyone is dressed and ready we all head to the bathroom to brush teeth and use the bathroom for the night. While one person is using the toilet (older child sometimes runs to mom/dad’s room to use the toilet in there), I am brushing the other ones’ teeth. Then they switch. Leaving the bathroom is not an option until they’ve used the toilet and had their teeth brushed. Waiting on the side of the tub is sometimes required while waiting for a sibling or Mom.
4 – Head to individual rooms to read/look at books.
Once we are finished in the bathroom each child goes to their individual rooms. My oldest boys share a room and so the oldest goes to the couch. When in their rooms and on the couch they are supposed to look at/read books. They know it’s quiet time to calm down and have a few minutes to themselves. During this time, Mom usually goes to put the baby to bed. If not, the baby gets to join me on my rounds reading to each child. Each child knows to stay in their rooms with he door closed with books. They’re very good at obeying this because it’s been part of our routine for as long as they can remember.
5 – Read stories with Mom/Dad and say prayers.
I start with the youngest and work my way to the oldest. I sit down one on one with each child and read to them in their rooms. Sometimes one story and sometimes a few – depending on the timing of the night. When I’m finished reading we say prayers and I turn out the light, close the door, and head to the next room.
(6 – The oldest gets a 15 minute activity time of his choice).
My oldest son is old enough to read to himself and keep himself busy the whole time I’m putting the other kids down. This generally takes anywhere from 10-30 minutes, depending on the night. When it’s the oldest’s turn, we will read with him for a few minutes (since he’s been reading the 10-30 minutes on his own already). This is also the time we read scriptures with him. When his reading time is done, he occasionally gets “activity time.” This is usually playing a card/board game with Dad or playing Minecraft alone or with Dad. He gets about 15 minutes to do the activity of his choice. This is still a quieter activity since he knows his siblings should be sleeping. When his timer goes off (which is generally set) he knows to say good night, use the bathroom one last time if needed, and head to bed.
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These simple steps are clear and my kids know the routine. It makes bedtime smooth and much easier than if it were a free for all. When Dad is home he helps read to a child while Mom is putting the baby down and/or reading to another child at the same time.
- Pajamas on
- Tidy up rooms and pick out clothes for the next day
- Brush teeth and use the toilet
- Head to individual rooms to read/look at books
- Read stories with Mom/Dad and say prayers
- (15 minute activity time for the oldest)
There will always be nights when something comes up and bedtime is extended or some other situations where a once in a while disruption happens. Those are pretty few and far between, though, and the nighttime routine sticks. We stick to the basic bedtime routine when getting home late from somewhere but we just make it quicker.
When summer arrives timing may get pushed back. Although, I like to keep bedtime at a consistent time for my younger kids year round. I know most families can’t do this with older children activities at night, but while my kids are young we stick to this schedule.