A bedtime routine for the family

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By Megan Heuer – Good Night Consultant

My kids are 2, 4 and 6 years old and I wanted to help moms out with an idea of what your evenings could look like with a consistent routine that your children can know and become used to. By knowing what to expect, as each night is more or less the same, my kids don’t argue or negotiate what to do or not do, as we have done the routine since they were babies.

We have dinner when dad gets home from work around 5:00/5:30 p.m. After dinner, we do some sort of activity, which usually lasts for 15−20 minutes. We either go outside and play, throw the ball for our dog, swing or jump on the trampoline (the kids, not us adults!). Or, on long summer days, we go for a walk around the block.

After this, we go inside and all three kids jump into the bath at around 18:00/18:15 p.m. While they bath, I get their clothing ready – nappy for little one and PJs. I set up their essential-oil owl diffusers (I find this is super helpful with snotty noses and change of season as well as dry air) and take the towels back to the bathroom, while dad stands in the doorway watching them. They play and the splashing often gets a little out of hand; we wash them and then wrangle them out the bath by 18:30 p.m. We apply cream, do meds and get dressed.

We then all read a story or two (sometimes three, if they get their way) on one bed. After the story, it is lights out. We all say good night and my husband often sits with the older two for a few minutes (my 4- and 6-year olds share a room, each with their own bed) and I take our 2-year old to bed. I tuck her in with her bunny and also sit with her or stand by the door for a few minutes. Most nights, all the kids are asleep by 7:00 p.m. In summer, we put the fans are on, which helps with a bit of white noise, and in winter, we have wall heaters to take the chill off the air.

I dress my kids in warm fleece onesies in winter because they generally do not sleep under their blankets, and before I go to bed myself each night, I check on them and put a blanket over them, as being cold can cause early wakings with babies and children. When they were smaller they still had sleeping bags. 

We try keep our bedtime routine, from bath to lights out, within 30 minutes. Research shows that our body’s melatonin is at its highest point within 30 minutes of having had warm water on our bodies, and I have seen that this really does help my kids calm down and get sleepy.

With only one child, you can really create a SPA type of environment with dimmed lights and calming music. But as they grow and are more mobile or when you start to have more kids in the bath-time routine, it is quite unrealistic to expect your kids to not splash and be loud at bath time.

Having a consistent routine allows my children to know what is coming next and that bedtime with lights off is at the end of the routine.

To summarise:

WHY a bedtime routine is needed: A consistent bedtime routine is vital for good sleep health, for both children and adults. The consistency of a bedtime routine helps your baby or child prepare for sleep and to know that sleep is coming. It also helps with melatonin production.

WHEN a bedtime routine should be done: If you aim for bedtime to be between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., you need to aim for 30 minutes before that.

HOW a bedtime routine should be done: I love reading that “a bedtime routine should be relaxing and a SPA-like environment should be created” (at Good Night, we even used to advocate this). And yes, that is a lovely idea and would help with prepping the brain for sleep and allow your baby to feel super relaxed and calm. It could also be achievable when you have only one child, but throw three children in the bath together and the noise and atmosphere will be more like varsity-locker-room vibes than a SPA.

Load shedding added to the mix can spice up your night, especially as it is getting darker earlier as winter approaches. I use a lamp to have light in the bathroom. I also need to be a little more prepared with turning our geyser on earlier so our water is warm and making sure the clothing is out so I don’t need to use my cell phone flashlight to find the PJs in the dark. But my kids are so used to load shedding that it doesn’t cause too many issues; they just know that we need to then tell and not read a story in the dark.

Below are just the basic points of what a bedtime routine can look like.

Bedtime routine:


Dress in PJs

Read a story

Hugs and kisses

Lights off

Being able to have all three of our children bath and do their bedtime routine together was what we wanted as a family, firstly to create a time of bonding and secondly for practical reasons. When my husband works late, I need to be able to independently bath and put to bed all three of my kids together and bathing and dressing them one by one is way too exhausting and drawn out. Having all three of our kids bath together works for us, even though that creates lots of noise, wet floors and chaos.

We embrace the chaos and noise and allow the warm water temperature to do its work on the brain (temperature change signals the brain to release melatonin) regardless of the splashing and loud fun being had by all three children.