3 Steps for an Effortless Bedtime Routine

3 Steps for an Effortless Bedtime Routine

First, you put pajamas on. Then, you brush teeth. Then, you read a book. Finally, you kiss foreheads, say good night, and turn out the lights. 

This is probably the core of your bedtime routine. Bath time and lullabies might be additional add-ons. For some families, bedtime takes 15 minutes, but for others it can take well over an hour–or at least seems to. 

Unfortunately, every parent has endured a frustrating number of bedtime protests. The tantrums. The dawdling. The sneaking out of bed multiple times before finally laying down. It’s an uphill battle, but there are some tricks you can start using today to not only win the fight, but make bedtime a happy experience for everyone. 

Our tips? They might not be what you expect, but that’s precisely why you need to try them. The goal is not to prolong bedtime, but to make the routine more effective so you don’t hear little feet pitter-pattering down the hallway after lights out. 

Add these three things to your bedtime routine to make it a time your family looks forward to vs. dreads.

Step 1: Play Hard

Most bedtime advice will tell you not to rile your kids up the hour leading up to saying good night. However, studies show fitting in 15 minutes of rough play about 40 minutes before bed can help regulate your littles’ nervous system so they have a more restful night. This is a great way for them to relieve any stress or tension and end the day as a family on a positive note.

Rough or active play could include tug of war, tickle fights, chasing, hide and seek, wrestling, and–our favorite–jumping. Pulling out your Tumble, Rainbow, or Mini for a quick bounce sesh is the easiest way to help your kids let off some of their leftover steam. It’s also a brilliant hack on the days you just can’t bring yourself to become a human jungle gym and are counting down to your own bedtime. 

To make sure playtime is intentional and you get to bed on time, set a 15-minute timer and stick to it. When a few minutes are left, start wrapping it up and cooling down.  

Every child is different, and some might need 5-10 minutes to calm down after rough play. While they’re unwinding, put pajamas on and brush teeth. By the time this part of the routine is complete, they should be more prepared to quiet down and lay down.

Step 2: Reconnect

After another day of testing each other’s limits, you and your kids desperately want to put the events of the day aside and truly connect. It’s a biological need. 

The best way to reconnect with your littles is to get on their level and play. If you’re up for a little rough housing, you can complete steps one and two all at once. The keys to connecting in those moments are physical touch, eye contact, and simply having fun. Make sure your phone is in another room and no distractions are stealing your attention. Listen to your kids and ask questions, even if they have limited vocabularies. 

Outside of physical play, ask your kids open-ended questions about their day. If the question can be answered with “good” or “bad” go back to the drawing board. A few easy ones are “What was the best thing that happened today?” and “What was the worst thing that happened today?” In return, tell your kids your favorite part of the day. 

Another fun way to connect is to come up with a funny game or ritual only you and your kids do every night. Maybe you play a few rounds of rock-paper-scissors or have a thumb war. Maybe you tell each other a funny knock-knock joke. Whatever it is, make it your own. These quick conversations can happen as your kids are lying in bed, ready to drift off to sleep. These repeated intentional moments will make a lasting impact on your relationships. 

If you can successfully give your kids your undivided attention before bed, they’ll be able to more easily let you go because their connection cup is full.

Step 3: Be Consistent

While they might not act like it, your kids love the predictability of a routine. The familiarity is comforting. Routines also go a long way in helping your kids manage behaviors. If your littles knows what to expect ahead of time, they will be more likely to go with the flow. Maintaining routines, and evolving them as needed, establishes emotional resilience and confidence as your kids navigate life all the way into early adulthood. 

With these tricks up your sleeve, and a Smol bounce house at the ready, we hope more of your bedtimes end in smiles instead of tears, and you feel more and more connected to your kids each day. Sometimes, it’s the little connections that make the biggest impact in your kids’ lives.