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Master Your Child's Bedtime Routine With These 10 Clever Hacks

Amanda Kondolojy
Dec. 14, 2015

Whip that bedtime routine into shape!

Bedtime: Before you had kids, you may have associated this word with comfy sheets and counting sheep. Even though sleep is necessary for human growth and development, the smallest members of our species seem to hate it.

If crying, screaming and even full-blown temper tantrums have become a part of your "regular" bedtime routine, here are some hacks that may help:

  1. Devise a Battle Plan
    Set a specific sleep goal for your child (like being in bed by 9 p.m. or sleeping for a full 8-hour night), and try to stick to it. Though it can get tough at times, Valerie Plowman of Chronicles of a Babywise Mom suggests parents write down their goals and "check off" steps they are taking to accomplish them.

  2. Don't Delay -- Start Bedtime Routines Today!
    Connecticut-based certified pediatric sleep consultant Alison Bevan says, "It's never too early to establish a bedtime routine. Even newborns can benefit from simple, consistent steps that help to cue their brains and bodies that it's time for sleep."

  3. Make a Goal and Stick to It
    If something isn't working, don't be afraid to switch things up. Bevan says that kids "adapt quickly if parents implement change in a calm and consistent manner," and it's important to stop doing something that's not working.

  4. Use Music as a Sleep Cue
    Select a few "bedtime" songs and play them at consistent times to serve as a bedtime cue. You child will learn to equate certain songs with sleepy time and will fall asleep faster as a result. This is especially helpful for traveling families, as the music will be familiar to them and help little ones sleep, even when they are excited about being in a new place.

  5. End Screen Time Early
    Though the jury is still out about the effects of screen time on child development (though you can learn more in Screen Time for Kids: How Much is Too Much?), if your little one enjoys some TV time or plays with a tablet or smartphone before bed, it could be impairing the sleep routine. Make sure your child is "powered down" an hour before bedtime to help promote quality sleep.

  6. Make Temper Tantrums a Thing of the Past With Empathy
    While your child's hatred of bedtime may seem strange to you, getting angry at them for resisting will only result in frustration. Plowman reminds you to "understand that your child is a child. Be loving and patient, and better sleep will come."

  7. Calm Your Restless Child With Bedtime-Related Activities
    Though routines need to be consistent, that doesn't mean they can't be fun. Reading stories is great for young children, and older kids will love checking off items in a list as they get ready for bed every night. Arizona-based certified gentle sleep coach Tracy Spackman says that a bedtime routine that includes "three to five things that you do exactly the same every night lets their body know that what comes next is sleep and encourages the melatonin hormone."

  8. Make Your Child's Room a Sleep Haven
    Once you pick a spot for your child to sleep in, try to keep it as consistent as possible. The bed should stay in the same place, the furniture shouldn't be rearranged, and any nightlights should stay in their original positions.

  9. Keep Toys Out of the Bed
    Though the image of a young child sleeping with a teddy bear certainly is iconic, sleeping with toys in the bed is dangerous for children under one, and distracting for children under five, who may want to stay up and play rather than go to sleep.

  10. Leave 'Em High and Dry
    "I need a glass of water" is the oldest bedtime escape line in the book and has endured for generations just because it works so well. However, no matter what they say, your child actually isn't all that parched. If he had a drink an hour before bedtime, he doesn't need another (no matter what he says!).


For more advice, check out Establishing a Bedtime Routine for Your Child.

Are there any weird bedtime hacks that you find really work for you? Tell us about them in the comments (please!).

Amanda Kondolojy is a full-time freelance writer with more than a decade of caregiving experience.

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