I read lots of books on parenting when I was pregnant. One of the recommendations I discovered over and over again was to create a bedtime routine so that the baby would learn that going to sleep was the thing that always happened after A, B, C, and D.
We latched on to that idea and created a routine that we have followed since the very first week of our first daughter’s life. Almost every night is the same.
The idea of a bedtime routine is that all children like to know what is coming next. They like habits. They like predictability and consistency.
A bedtime routine capitalizes on their preference for consistency by building sleep into the predictable sequence of events. Their bodies naturally get tired because it’s what their bodies expect to do.
Can you see the difference between a predictable multi-step bedtime routine and a nightly “hey, it’s bedtime!” announced at the right time? That takes them by surprise, doesn’t give them time to transition from play to bedtime, and doesn’t help them to wind down into rest.
Does our bedtime routine happen perfectly in our house seven days a week 365 days a year? No. Sometimes we have to be out late for some reason, or we’re visiting family, or someone is grumpy or sick or otherwise out of sorts.
But having a plan, a predictable order to the evening, makes bedtime so much easier for our kids – and for us.
Here’s our family bedtime routine:
- Eat something (usually a snack, but if we’ve had a late dinner, that suffices).
- Take a bath if needed and brush teeth.
- Lather up with lotion.
- Get dressed in soft jammies.
- Get cozy in bed.
- Read. There’s always a devotion and a story or two (girls’ choice). We start the day with a devotion from either Shine Your Light or Grace for the Moment and end it with a devotion from God’s Little Princess Bedtime Devotional.
- Lights out.
- Music on. I created a “mix tape” CD when Grace was born. It begins with Baby Mine, What a Wonderful World, and Love Me Tender, then You Are My Sunshine and Somewhere Over the Rainbow followed by many other lullabies and sweet love songs. They call it their sleepy time music, and they’re almost always asleep before song #6.
Bedtime is also a lot easier when we run our kids’ legs off outside all afternoon. Just sayin’…
What ways have you found to create a calming bedtime routine in your home?