Developing a Bedtime Routine

child-sleepingDo you struggle getting your toddler or preschooler to lay down peacefully to sleep at time? If so, I encourage you to consider developing a bedtime routine. I have been blessed to find the resource, The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Gentle Ways to Stop Bedtime Battles and Improve Your Childs Sleep by Elizabeth Pantley recently. Karis has always been a good sleeper, but has never been peaceful at actually going to bed. I had been really praying that God would direct me as to how to make this process more peaceful, especially before the new baby arrived. He directed me to this resource. Since adopting a few simple ideas from this resource, we have been experiencing a real transformation.

We have gone from bedtime being a stressful time of the day, to being really peaceful and actually enjoyable. I feel like this time is ever more precious in investing in my daughter’s life. I have found it is never wise to rely too heavily on any one particular method, but there is a lot of wisdom available to be learned with some discernment and prayer as to how to apply it to your particular situation.

How are we making progress in this area?  Here are a few practical steps we have learned…

1. Aim to keep bedtime at the same time every night – children thrive on consistency!
2. Give more time for the nighty night routine & start earlier than you think-
don’t try to rush the process, but give yourself a good hour to go through your routine before putting the child down. Karis just loves the comfort and security of being with us, so it is valuable to spend the time necessary to calm and relax her.
3. Develop a bedtime routine.
For older toddlers, you can develop a bedtime chart with pictures that help visualize the routine and get them excited to complete it each night. Include pictures from the internet or magazine of brushing teeth, pajamas, etc.

Karis’ bedtime routine:

Starting at 7:30pm:

1. Prepare bottleshe drinks some milk before bedtime.
2. Get pajamas and night time diaper on.
3. Brush teeth
4. Read stories while enjoying her milkwe take a good 15 minutes to read together in a dim room, to prepare her for nighttime. She absolutely loves reading books and her love has only grown as we have included this in our schedule!
5. Close the door and snuggle together. We hold and pat her back while singing and praying over her. Singing to your children is such a sweet and valuable habit to cultivate as one more opportunity to plant seeds of the gospel in their hearts!
6. Lastly, by 8:15 or so, we lay her down with her dolly and blanket (it seems to work well to have a few favorite items to snuggle with in order for her to feel safe and secure).

For once in a long time, she is laying down and either going right to sleep or talking quietly, whereas before she would cry for a good 30 minutes before going to sleep.

If you are dealing with any other issues related to sleeping: bed-wetting, waking up in the night, etc., than I would encourage you to look into this book. It is chock full of helpful tips and ideas. I found it at my local library.

Elizabeth Pantley also write a books titled The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night. This is on my reading list for the new baby.

My friend Mandy shares her great idea about getting your children to stay in bed in the morning and be able to sleep longer by using a timed night light!

What tips have you found helpful in assisting your babies and children to sleeping well at night?

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

30 Responses to Developing a Bedtime Routine

  1. Jamasina September 11, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    Since this is an older post… Have you read the book on getting babies to sleep? I was wondering if you have any suggestions. My nine month old son has never been a good sleeper. On a good day I can get one, one hour nap out of him. Most days it’s about 20 minutes, and he can cry for hours before I get him to fall asleep.

  2. Andrea November 2, 2009 at 7:47 pm #

    I’ve been implementing a routine with my three year old girl, but I’d like to ask how do you do it with a toddler and a baby. My boy is almost five months and they sleep in the same room. How have you started the routine with the little one and do it along with the toddler?? I’ve learned the importance of routine now that we have been moving from house to house visiting family and supporters.

    • Lindsay November 3, 2009 at 5:33 am #

      Yes, we do the same bedtime routine with both our little ones. We try to put them down together at the same time.

      • Andrea November 3, 2009 at 10:01 am #

        Thank you Lindsay, I think it’s a great opportunity to cuddle together and having a good family time :) Now, I’ll ask, what about daytime naps for the baby?? I’ve read here in your blog that when Titus was cranky you put him down to bed. Do you do something special before it? Do you let him cry a little to soothe himself??

        • Lindsay November 4, 2009 at 7:37 am #

          Titus takes about 3 naps a day currently (at 8 months). He stays up for about two hours after a nursing and then usually gets tired at that point. I usually nurse him a bit before laying him down just to calm and soothe him. I do lay him down awake for the most part, and sometimes he will cry for a few minutes before settling down. I like to nurse him some before he goes down because it helps my milk supply, plus he sleeps better when his stomach is full. When he awakes, I wait until he is hungry before nursing again. On average, he nurses every 2 – 2 1/2 hours. I maintain a nurse, wake time, and then sleep time routine just watching his signs of tiredness. The moment he starts crying, I put him to bed. I have found that has been the key to settling down more peacefully.

          • Andrea November 4, 2009 at 8:48 am #

            Well, that’s exactly how I do it in my mind :) I’m hard to keep a milk supply too, and I’m learning to follow the motherhood sense that God provided. We he was a newborn he was a baby out of a book, but as he grew up he changed, maybe because he needed more milk and mine sometimes is not enough. He eats every 2 1/2-3 hrs, sometimes closer, but I think that as long as we keep the n-w-s routine life flows more predictable. Thank you LIndsay!!! Thank you very much. It’s encouraging to find that you’re not alone, and finding advice with someone around your age, too. ;)

  3. Lenae September 12, 2009 at 7:48 pm #

    I have not read these books yet, but I am wondering if anyone has had experience with their children waking up to nurse at night. My 13 month old still wakes up once or twice at night to nurse, and I am not sure if I should allow her to nurse when she wants to or insist she start sleeping through the night. Any ideas?

    • Mandy September 13, 2009 at 11:30 am #

      My 14 month old is VERY quick to catch on to be allowed to nurse at night-when she was sharing a room with her sick brother I would rush in to get her the second she started crying so he wouldn’t wake up-by the time he was better she was getting up 3-4 x/night to eat. She does not need to. She usually sleeps through the night-but I’ve had to work with her. Honestly-I think this is a decision that is up to each family. I personally like to sleep through the night and I know my kiddos do better and are able to sleep through the night. For what its worth, they are very smart and figure out what the new plan is in 2-4 nights. I’m a big fan of praying when trying to make decisions like this. :) Good luck with whatever you decide.

  4. Kim June 18, 2009 at 4:17 am #

    One other helpful thing to consider if your child resists bedtime on a regular basis is actually to move bedtime earlier! The resistance may indicate that they are overtired because a child who is sleepy but not overtired will WELCOME sleep.

  5. Elizabeth February 13, 2009 at 7:31 pm #

    I have read both of Mrs. Pantley’s books extensively as we struggled with sleep-issues and I appreciate her variety of ideas over a single “method”. Kids are so unique! The best thing I ever did for their sleep issues was fervent prayer and responding to their needs with God’s leading! We also have posted a list of bedtime routine words in the bathroom (my children are 4, 2, and one due in May) and that has been from the Lord. Even for pre-literate children this is wonderful! We also have been practicing listening to Scripture right before sleep. We have a new Bible-story-actual-Scripture-only routine where they have to keep their heads on the pillow while I read (we are practicing for when new baby arrives on the scene to change our routine again!). I love that their little minds are thinking about God’s word as they go to sleep and God has used it to speak to me as well! Prayerful flexibility is so key to establishing healthy sleep patterns that affirm life and health rather than abandonment and fear. Blessings!

  6. Amber February 13, 2009 at 2:04 pm #

    Our bedtime routine is the same for both boys (2 1/2 and 1 1/2, with #3 coming in May :) ), starting somewhere around 7-7:30pm. We brush teeth, diaper/potty, pajama, and then read two books, ending with the same one every night. Then we pray for them and their sleep, which I think has been vital, asking Jesus to protect them from the enemy, their flesh, and any scary dreams, and to show Himself to them and make them His sons as soon as they can understand the Gospel. The Lord always answers when we petition Him to help them stay sleeping all through the night! Our eldest sometimes wakes up wet or if he’s lost his covers, but goes back to sleep easily. Then we sing the same song every night, which they love to sing along to, and give kisses and tuck them in. We started to include our youngest in the routine around 3-mo.-old when his feeding routine started to become more predictable. May the Lord bless your little ones with peaceful rest!

  7. Kristin February 13, 2009 at 7:33 am #

    I think I need to take a look at this book. My son isn’t a preschooler anymore (he’s 7), but he still struggles with sleeping. He wants to cosleep which I absolutely love but will be a bit difficult when the new baby arrives this summer. Hopefully I can transition him into his own bed *peacefully* with a routine.

    • Irene Harvey February 14, 2009 at 6:10 am #

      Hi Kristin,
      I am delighted to you will ‘look up’ my new book of children’s stories.
      If your son sleeps better as a result of the happy stories, which every one ends with a ‘goodnight’, and everyone goes to sleep, I would love to hear from you again.

      Kind Regards,
      Irene J Harvey

  8. Organizing MOmmy (Jena) February 12, 2009 at 8:21 pm #

    That routine sounds so sweet!

  9. Mandy February 12, 2009 at 7:28 pm #

    I love our bedtime routine for ME :) It is so wonderful to end the day on a sweet and positive note, especially if it has been a rough day. Snuggling with the kids and reading Winnie-the-Pooh is just want I need. I am pretty sure they love it too.

  10. Martha February 12, 2009 at 4:41 pm #

    I was going to ask the same question as Rosie. No matter what time I put my nine-year-old to bed (or what time she ends up getting up), she always ends up falling asleep somewhere around 12:30 a.m. I homeschool and I think this is one factor that is interfering with her work–she only gets 2-3 topics done unless I am right on top of her the whole time. That works out fine for her schooling, but it the meantime the rest of my house is getting trashed.

  11. Irene Harvey February 12, 2009 at 6:36 am #

    Such a lovely picture of your sleeping Karis.
    It is great to hear of a mom who has developed the ‘Bedtime Story’ habit. I am grandmother to ten from three sons, and I know the importance of this.
    I am the author of a new book of ten bedtime stories, written with little ones in mind, to allow sleep to come, happily.
    Perhaps you would consider this for Karis (10 stories so will last 10 nights!)
    Irene J Harvey

  12. [email protected] February 11, 2009 at 9:42 pm #

    One thing we like to do sometimes is tell stories before bed. Sometimes we’ll snuggle with 4 or 5 little ones. I can never think of a story right off hand, but I’ll force myself to think of one, and they always like it. (The younger they are, the less they know if it’s not that good of a story!)

    I do have an 11 year old that has trouble getting to sleep at night, and sometimes she wakes up at night too. I think she might need less sleep than the rest of the kids, but I wonder if it’s something else too (food allergies?, etc.) Anyone know anything about older children who have trouble sleeping?

  13. Willow February 11, 2009 at 6:09 pm #

    I think probably people have as many opinions on this subject as pottytraining. Sleep issues with my first were helped greatly by a book called Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child. The biggest thing I took away from that book – and to this day I think something that has helped me retain my sanity with three children in less than four years – is an EARLY bedtime.

    My mom, while trying to help with my first child’s stressful times going to sleep told me to keep her up longer and she’d go to sleep better. That is the opposite of of the Dr.’s theory that wrote this book and and I firmly believe that kiddos need 12-15 hrs of sleep a night. I would never have even considered an early bedtime like 7pm and when our kids are sick they often go to be a bit earlier than that. My 4 yr old always sleeps until a bit after seven, my five yr old until almost eight and my 20 month old….sometimes even until 9:30-10am. (My oldest did this as well at this age).

    The suggestion in the book is to get them to bed 15 min. earlier for a few days and then and another 15 and so on until you can tell that they have gotten to a good time. If they are overtired they often have a harder time going to sleep and that may be an issue with your little one :) But again, the advice will probably be endless with this subject. :)

    My friend did just try this with her 15mo. old who was waking up before 6am. She was afraid to put her to bed before her normal 8pm bedtime for fear she’d wake up even earlier but when she did she found she slept an hour later….so an hour earlier to bed actually gained her daughter 2 hrs. extra sleep. She was shocked. :) And happy! :)

    The main premise of the book is that a child’s healthy sleep habits are something that affects the whole family and as a mommy who has struggled there I can attest to that! :)

    • Lindsay February 11, 2009 at 6:15 pm #

      The No Cry Sleep Solution book also addresses getting them to bed earlier than you think. We have not had much luck with that concept…but it is a good idea! Karis still sleeps a good 12-13 hours or so. I think I will try the 15 minute earlier idea as you suggested. Thanks!

    • Lauren February 11, 2009 at 8:13 pm #

      I just wanted to comment that I too read part of the Healthy Sleep Habits Healthy Children book but do not at all agree with the philosophy behind this book as it seems to advocate CIO (Cry It Out). My husband and I are strongly against this method of getting our little one to sleep. There is much literature documenting the detrimental effects to little ones with CIO.

      • Shelley February 12, 2009 at 9:11 pm #

        The book Health Sleep Habits Happy Child does address more than the cry it out method. While it is discussed quite a bit, he (the author/doctor) does address some other methods. Part of the book addresses how to teach your child to sooth him/herself to self and suggestions of how to deal with sleep problems. He also addresses how much sleep children typically need at different ages. I found the book very beneficial and have a nap and bedtime routine established as a result of reading the book.

    • Liz February 13, 2009 at 11:49 am #

      Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child was a real lifesaver in our house! When our little one was not even 2 years old she began climbing out of her crib. We had weeks of sleepless nights. I kept re-reading the section of the book where he talked about the silent return to bed and the need to do it many times. In short, we tried everything and all the advice anyone would give us. One day I was praying and begging the Lord for direction on this issue. Not only my child’s safety, but my sanity, was at stake. Once again I felt Him lead me back to this book that had already helped us with other issues. I re-read the piece and prepared for battle. My husband and I sat in the upstairs hallway eating pizza and took turns returning our daughter to bed. We did this without looking at her or speaking to her. We stayed calm and kept count of how many times it took. After 87 times of returning her to bed and many tears, it was finally quiet. We enjoyed the quiet for a few minutes and then dared to peek into her room. My sweet girl fell asleep standing up in her crib! By the grace of God, she never climbed out again, nor did we have any issues when she moved to a big girl bed.

      As a result of reading this book, we are also firm believers in the early bedtime concept. Our daughter is now almost 7 years old and frequently is sound asleep by 7 pm, even though her normal bedtime is 7:30 pm. This discipline has the benefit of giving mommy and daddy alone time in the evening.

      Lastly, one of the sweet bedtime routines that my husband developed with our daughter was to walk around her room and say good-night to things in the room. The great thing was that the routine was totally portable. When we stayed in a hotel or in family member’s home, there were always things to say good-night to before laying her in bed.

      Best wishes ladies and you find the best ways to get your little ones to bed.

  14. Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home February 11, 2009 at 3:24 pm #

    I’ve never read that book, though I’ve heard of it, but that’s basically what we’ve always done. I read the book “Secrets of the Baby Whisperer” when Abbie was a newborn, and even at that young age, it really encouraged having some sort of routine that you use each time you put them down, whether it’s for naps or at night.

    For both of ours, the general routine for naps has been to read a book or two (now that Abbie’s getting older, I use this opportunity to do our novel read-aloud each day and the toddler listens in or plays nearby), then do potty trip/diaper changes, then to the bedroom. Once in there, we always sing a song together, and then pray together. Then we lie the kids down with their favorite stuffed friends and blankets, and give them a kiss and hug. Nighttime is basically the same, but we don’t always read (it just depends on what our evening looks like), the toddler gets a bottle, and they brush their teeth after they get their pajamas on.

    Though I am not a real “scheduler”, per se, I have always been a firm believer in not only the routines for actually going to bed, but routines for eating times, as well as for general nap and bedtimes. It seems to give the kids more stability, helps them to go through the day more peacefully, and keeps me on track, too. :)

    Another great thing about using routines is that they help little ones to go down much easier when they’re with a sitter, or at a family members or another family’s house. Just do everything the same as usual, and bring along a few familiar items, and we’ve found the kids can get used to going down pretty much anywhere. What a blessing for us!

  15. Kate February 11, 2009 at 2:32 pm #

    Hmmm our routine is somewhat similar. Our children are older but we have pretty much the same routine.

    Around 630
    1. They children gets baths. Yep, every night. Nice and calming.
    2. I’ll get the pj’s, nightgowns, whatever they want in the meantime.
    3. While they are in the tub I’ll turn down their beds, get some water etc.
    4. they’ll brush their teeth
    5. prayers, a short story, kisses, hugs, lights out.

    Then it’s good night. Nothing really drawn outby 7:15 they are in bed and going to sleep.

    A schedule is key and we’ve always had one. Pretty much since they were babies, I”m a huge believer in schedules, the only thing I never did was nurse on a schedule, I nursed when the baby was hungry. But they had the same naps, bedtimes etc as babies.

  16. Holly February 11, 2009 at 2:25 pm #

    I’ve found _Babywise_ and _Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child_ to be completely indispensable in raising a well-rested child. Lindsay, I’ve got one just a bit younger than Karis and I’m due to have my second March 15th.

  17. Bethany H. February 11, 2009 at 1:51 pm #

    I read Elizabeth Pantley’s book for baby sleep time, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also don’t like to rely on one hard and fast method because with my personality I tend to have an all or nothing type of attitude and that just doesn’t work with children! I liked Mrs. Pantley’s book because it was full of solid practical ideas without any pressure to conform to a set method. Thank you by the way for your email about godly hobbies! You have encouraged me to include biographies of missionaries into my daily reading. What strong men and women of faith! God bless! Bethany

  18. Carmen February 11, 2009 at 12:35 pm #

    I read the baby one and found it full of good ideas when my boys were babies! I hope you find it helpful as well. It really pays off down the line to invest in that routine early!

  19. MommyAmy February 11, 2009 at 12:34 pm #

    We established a bedtime routine very early on (like 4 months old) and it has helped tremendously! At this point, if we dilly dally towards the end of the routine they will start saying “night night” and head for the stairs. They know it’s time! We actually try to keep them awake longer some nights, and it just doesn’t work. Those girls love their sleep!

  20. Lee February 11, 2009 at 8:53 am #

    I wrote about this as well awhile back. Thanks for bringing it back to mind. It’s so important.