Establishing a bedtime routine is a helpful way to prepare your child for a good night’s sleep. The repetition of a daily routine before bed can help your child feel safe and secure as they anticipate each step toward winding down for the night.
From reading bedtime stories together to reflecting on your child’s day, HOMER has compiled a list of expert tips and tricks to help establish and maintain an effective bedtime routine for your child.
Keep reading to learn specific, tried-and-tested ideas to incorporate into your child’s bedtime routine as well as guidance on making bedtime as smooth as possible so you and your child can both look forward to ending the day with joy!
Simple Bedtime Routine Ideas
1) Brush Those Teeth!
When we’re getting ready for bed, we can’t forget to brush our teeth.
Teaching your child that bedtime is synonymous with dental hygiene is important because it creates a lifelong habit that should be formed as early as possible.
Try including a timer or song to make dental hygiene a fun part of your child’s bedtime routine that they can look forward to. Choosing a themed toothbrush that includes a character they love is another way to encourage regular brushing.
2) Wind Down With Bathtime
Having bathtime early in your child’s bedtime routine is a great way for them to relax and begin calming down for rest after a busy day.
It’s the perfect place to get out some of their final energy of the day! Try incorporating songs to sing together by creating a bathtime playlist, and have fun splashing around while getting clean.
Using soaps, body washes, and shampoos that include calming ingredients such as lavender is a simple way to help your child learn that bathtime is when we begin to feel relaxed and ready for sleep.
You can also use this opportunity to give your child a scalp and body massage in the bath to help them feel calm.
3) Talk It Out
Bedtime is also an opportunity to connect with your child by talking one-on-one about how they’re feeling.
Discussing the highlights of your child’s day — whether that’s the fun time you had together at the park that morning or the new friend they made at school — not only helps to improve their memory but also offers pleasant feelings to drift to sleep with.
That said, it’s also important to encourage your child to talk about anything difficult or challenging that might have happened during the day and how they felt while dealing with it.
Keep in mind that reflecting on feelings can be difficult for some children. Avoid pressuring your child; they will talk when it feels right to them. HOMER’s Explore Feelings Kit can help kids identify and explain how they’re feeling to make emotions less overwhelming.
Try using this kit during the day to develop your child’s social-emotional skills, and draw on those experiences to help them reflect each night.
4) Read A Story Together
There are many benefits of reading aloud to your child, including facilitating bonding between the two of you, developing their emotional skills, and growing their imagination.
Make reading together an engaging experience by using silly voices and pausing to ask questions — just remember to keep a calm atmosphere and try not to get your child too energized by the story!
To do this, tailor your reading choices for bedtime, choosing stories that are quiet in tone. Poetry is also a great idea for bedtime. We love poems by A.A. Milne!
Choose stories on a variety of topics that your child might be interested in to help them build their knowledge and encourage them to want to read each night. We also recommend sometimes letting your child choose the story.
And don’t worry if your child wants to read the same story for what feels like the millionth time! Repetition is crucial for building vocabulary, and having the familiarity of a well-loved book can help create a sense of peace and calm in your child.
If your child isn’t a fan of hearing stories just yet or isn’t in the mood one night, try singing simple songs, like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, or incorporating ambient sounds to prepare for bed instead.
5) Practice Meditation
Meditation is a fantastic way to slowly switch off our minds and wind down for the day. And adding it into your child’s bedtime routine is easier than you might think!
Simply have your child lie down in bed and close their eyes. Have them place their hands on their tummy and begin to take deep breaths, feeling their tummy rise with their inhale and fall with their exhale.
By lying down in bed and focusing on their breathing, your child’s body will begin to prepare for the ‘rest and digest’ portion of their day.
It can take some practice to feel comfortable with meditating, but many parents find this aspect of their nightly routine is key to getting their children to fall asleep easier.
6) Have A Cuddle
Bedtime routines often don’t feel complete without goodnight kisses and cuddles!
Finish up your nightly routine with some cuddle time and a goodnight kiss. Tuck your child into bed with their favorite stuffed animal if they have one and turn out the lights, leaving a night light on if needed.
Don’t rush through this time. Your child needs your physical touch to feel safe, secure, and loved. But do keep this part of the routine calm and simple, doing your best not to let it drag on too long.
Leaving the room while your child is just beginning to drift off to sleep helps them learn to self-soothe and understand that falling asleep by themselves is safe.
Expert Tips For A Healthy Bedtime Routine
1) Start From A Young Age
No matter what age your child is, it’s never too late to start implementing a calming bedtime routine to make falling asleep a little bit easier.
Starting as young as possible will help your child learn what bedtime is all about and will help them to feel safe and secure as they get ready to be without you throughout the night.
2) Keep Your Bedtime Routine Consistent
As with many things in your young learner’s life, consistency is key when it comes to establishing and maintaining a healthy bedtime routine.
Of course, allow yourself and your child some wiggle room while you’re figuring out what does and doesn’t work for your individual needs. For example, maybe a lullaby works better for your family than a bedtime story — both options are OK!
Additionally, if you’re consistent overall, it should be fine to let a babysitter take over every once in a while so you can have a date night, time with friends, or otherwise give yourself a break.
Your child’s bedtime routine will also evolve as they grow up, so allow yourselves to alter aspects of your routine to suit each stage of your child’s development.
3) Make It Short And Sweet
Keeping your nightly routine short and sweet is key to getting your child to bed at roughly the same time each night. We recommend coming up with an amount of time you feel comfortable with and sticking to it as much as possible.
Letting their bedtime routine drag out — “Just one more story!” or “I need water!” — puts you at risk of losing control over your whole routine, so it’s important to set boundaries.
Choose your child’s bedtime and work backward to allow enough time for all of the steps you choose to incorporate into your routine.
If your child gets up after being put to bed for that “one more thing,” try not to react. Simply lead them back to bed, letting them know that once they’re settled, they’re not to get back up.
4) Let Your Child Make Some Bedtime Routine Decisions
Although your child may not be allowed to choose their own bedtime, letting them have some say in their routine can help them feel more involved.
Try picking out two pairs of pajamas and having your child decide which pair they’d like to wear. You might also like to select a couple of books to read and have your child choose which story you’ll read together that night.
5) Keep Their Room Dark And Quiet
Since bedtime is all about creating a calm atmosphere, your child’s bedroom should be a no-screen zone during your bedtime routine (stick to mindful media time during the day instead).
Keeping their room dark, quiet, and cozy will facilitate optimum sleeping conditions and allow their active mind to switch off for the night.
A small night light can be an exception here, but overall, avoid bright overhead lights and energetic music before bed.
Make Bedtime A Breeze With A Simple Routine
After learning and exploring all day, your child needs a calming bedtime routine to relax and switch off their active mind.
Sticking to a bedtime routine using some or all of the tips we’ve mentioned here, bedtime can become a favorite time of day for both you and your child!
Try incorporating some of our simple routine ideas — like reading a story, having a cuddle, and including reflection time in your routine by asking questions and talking about your child’s day.
Our Explore Feelings Kit is the perfect resource to accompany your daily reflection time. Packed with activities to strengthen your child’s social-emotional skills, it helps develop their ability to identify and discuss their emotions…with a little help from HOMER, of course!