How does bedtime go over in your home? From what I have heard from many parents, putting their kids to bed seems to either strike up a sense of fear and anxiety, or relief that an extended quiet time is approaching. Depending on who you ask, the kids’ bedtime routine can either be considered the best time of night, where mom and dad finally get a chance to unwind afterward, or it can be the most stressful part of the entire day. Putting kids to bed can be a long, drawn out process (yep, I’ve actually talked to parents who had a 3 hour bedtime routine for their kid!!!!) or it can be low key, simple, and dare I say it…easy!
With 4 kids ages 5 and under, we have figured out over the years a simple routine for getting everyone prepped and in bed (and actually sleeping!) in a reasonable amount of time. From start to finish, our bedtime routine ranges from 30-40 minutes. The most important part of getting ready for bed is that word, routine. The kids actually look forward to it, even if they might protest it sometimes!
I’ll admit it: things weren’t always easy! I really think a child’s temperament plays a role in how they respond to a bedtime routine. With our first, she couldn’t fall asleep unless she was being held, so for those first few months after her birth, many nights’ sleep were lost because of this. She didn’t really have a “bedtime” but rather would spend hours snuggled and sleeping in my arms until I finally decided to put myself to bed.
Once she hit 7 months, we “toughened up” and established a bedtime routine, which included her sleeping in her crib. Things went much, much smoother as a result. She was going down for bed very easily, sleeping through the night alone in her room (which was unheard of until this point) and my husband and I were getting more sleep as well! Getting this routine set up with our first paved the way for our other kids to fall in line with the routine as they came along.
I must commend my husband, as he is the one who has seamlessly intiated this nightly routine for us, which makes it much easier for me to follow on my own when he travels for work. For my oldest 3 kids, ages 5, 4, and almost 3 years old, we follow the same routine, almost every single night.
The Bedtime Routine
We (or my husband by himself if I’m at work teaching, which is 3 nights a week) begin winding down for the evening by first giving the “5 minute warning”: Start cleaning up for bed. We have the kids put away their toys and then get undressed for the bath.
While they are doing this, we run the bath. One at a time, the kids will use the potty before the bath. All 3 will then take a bath together (and now, since she is big enough, occasionally the baby who is 10 months old will join in as well.) If there is time to spare, we let the kids splash around a bit in the tub and play with water toys. Otherwise, we get right to washing up.
After the bath, we help the kids brush their teeth, give out any medications that might be needed for the evening, and give milk if requested (this is usually the almost 3 year old, but in the last month or so, he has stopped asking for milk before bed.) We then help them apply lotion, and get their pajamas on (and one more call for potty time if need be.)
Then we all snuggle into our bed for a book or three. Then we say prayers, tuck everyone into their beds, and dim the lights. (by the way, light dimmers are awesome! The entire room has a slight glow, as opposed to a night light that only illuminates one corner of a room. This is a big help for kids who are afraid of the dark!)
Our almost 3 year old likes for someone to stay in the room with him until he falls asleep, which usually takes anywhere from 5-15 minutes on average.
Questions About Our Routine
What is the baby doing during this time?
If one of us is handling the night routine solo (because of aforementioned work or travel), that person is also wearing the baby in the Boba carrier while getting the others ready for bed.
If we are both home, I’ll take the baby, let her have a little active time to get the wiggles out while the others are in the bath, then I’ll prep her for bed (fresh diaper, nightgown and sleep sack) and get her to settle down with a bottle. She is a bit of a night owl and goes down after the older 3 are already to bed, but is usually to sleep within a half hour of her siblings.
My parents have also been staying with us the last few months, which has been a HUGE help, and they will usually help get the baby to sleep while we get the others to bed as well.
What time are the kids going to bed?
We shoot to have the kids in bed between 7:30 and 8pm. Most nights we hit this goal. We are a bit more lax with it on weekends and during the summer because of the extra sunlight, but even on those “late nights”, bedtime is no later than 9pm.
Does this routine work ALL the time?
Heck no! We have had stretches of weeks (months even) where at least one kid wasn’t handling the routine too well. Most notably, our 4 year old is the reason we love the light dimmer. Total darkness freaks her out, and sometimes she can’t sleep (even knowing that her big sister is right there with her in the room!)
Despite this, having a routine the kids know and look forward to each night has been totally worth it. The nights where things run seamlessly (for the most part) far outweigh the nights where somehow everyone is still up at 3am. (That happened twice so far. I considered sleeping in the car those two nights!)
1/2019 update: We still follow this general routine, but the baby who is now a toddler does everything with the older 3, including the bath. My parents are no longer staying with us, but the routine is pretty set and easier since our youngest is no longer a baby and can follow along now with our nightly routine.
Sometimes we let our two older girls to shower by themselves, if they ask, which they have been more and more.
Another update: all 4 kids now sleep in the same room! We have this exact triple bunk bed (from Overstock.com!) with a 4th separate single bed for our son. The girls get the bunks, and they sleep top to bottom, oldest to youngest. It works well! Our youngest (she will be 2 in March) still sometimes finds her way to our bed in the middle of the night, but it’s a work in progress and she at least starts the night off in her own bed (the bottom bunk) which is great considering how attached to me she is.
Here’s our setup: the girls sleep oldest to youngest on the bunks, top to bottom: 6 year old on top, 5 year old on the middle bunk, and our almost 2 year old on the bottom bunk. Our almost 4 year old son sleeps in a twin size single bed opposite of the bunks ( you can see his bed peeking out of the bottom left corner of the picture.)
What does your kids’ bedtime routine look like? How long does it take you to put them to bed?
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