A Bedtime Routine That Works… For Us

My son is serious about sleep. He goes down like a sack of rocks at naptime during the school day and then runs for his bed at night. Having the thirst for details that I do, I imagine there are others out there who are curious to know exactly what we do here that makes bedtime a breeze. So, let’s walk through an average school day.

He is in Pre-K. I drop him off every morning and pick him up every afternoon. Invariably, when I arrive at the school in the afternoon, he is covered in dirt from head to toe, because they have recess right before the end of day release. I am totally ok with a high level of filth from play, because dirt is so good for kids. Plus, all that running around helps BB work out anxiety and frustration before he heads home. It’s a fantastic thing.

Once we get home, I unbuckle him from his car seat, and he hops down. I load him up with his backpack, and I start heading for the door with LL in hand. Typically, he takes a few minutes to himself on our front porch before he comes in. I keep a close eye on him. Eventually, he comes racing through the front door, throws off his backpack, and sits down to remove his shoes. We’re one of the growing number of shoe-free homes in the United States. Not only is it cleaner, but going barefoot also supports child development. He knows the routine well, so he slips his shoes into his shoe cubby by the front door.

Now, he’s ready to relax! First things first, I help him clean his hands. Then, if I didn’t already have a drink for him in the car after school, he gets one as quickly as I can manage. I also provide a snack, which could be any number of things. We’re not fussy, and I’ll explain why in future posts. (Hint) Once he’s had his snack and cleaned his hands again, I turn him loose to play. Some days, we listen to music. Other days, we might turn on a favorite show by request to enjoy. If the weather is nice, we might head outside for a bit before dark. It’s all up to the kids.

What we don’t do is anything mentally taxing. For that matter, I’m extremely skeptical about homework prior to high school for a number. of. reasons. I’ve learned from friends that some Pre-Kers already get homework, and that is just not ok with me. Instead, we play, I read, I clean while they play, we cuddle, we do sensory diet work, etc. After Peaceful Dad arrives home from work, I finish up last minute chores and make supper.

I’m always the first one to get up from the table, because I’m responsible for setting up bathtime. I prep the dressing area, get washcloths and towels, and run the water. My husband holds the kids at bay until I’m ready. We give baths every night because our kids have eczema and the National Eczema Association recommends nightly bathing. As a bonus, it helps the kids unwind.

After bathtime, the kids get lotion massages and we help them get dressed. I read a story from one of our night night books in rotation. Most nights, my son asks for “squeezies” which involves him lying down behind me so I can lean back and squish him. It’s a wonderful sensory exercise. BB then runs to his bedroom and jumps in bed. Some nights, if he’s especially tired, he’ll walk right out during storytime and go to bed. I’m telling y’all, this kid loves his sleep for real.

Peaceful Dad follows the kids in for evening prayers and then we leave them alone unless they call for us. This was difficult earlier on when we had to trust BB not to tear up his room, but now that he’s a big boy, he is ready to go when he hits that bed.

What struggles do you have when it comes to bedtime? What kinds of things help?

2 thoughts on “A Bedtime Routine That Works… For Us

    1. The Gentle Sleep Book by Sarah Ockwell-Smith may give you a helpful framework. As for the day to day, I can tell you a bit about what I did. Both of my kids bedshared (meaning, they slept in the bed with me). They transitioned by 7 months into a bedside bassinet, still bedsharing part-time, and then by 12 months into cribs. The transition into their own room was a challenge both times and took a while. I found the most important thing was to show them I’d be there when they called. At first, I’d get them to sleep in my bed and then transfer them to their own bed in their room. The next stage was staying with them in their room while they fell asleep. The final stage was putting them down drowsy and letting them fall asleep.

      All the while, I’d race in to help them any time they called, because I wanted to cement the fact that they weren’t alone and I wouldn’t leave them to cry. There were nights when it was just too much and they’d come back to bed with me. Even now, when they’re sick, they’ll often sleep with me. It’s been a fluid process with ebbs and flows. My fix isn’t quick by any means, but it makes for great sleepers!


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