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Lots of people are asking me how the transition has been from two kids to three. Baby girl is almost 4 months old now, and I’m happy to say that I’m still sane and we’re all well fed and alive. It helps that I had organised my house for the new baby as well as planned ahead for inevitable stress by creating easy strategies I knew I could pull off. But all that aside, and besides the awesome support of my husband, if I were to attribute my sanity as a new mother of three to one thing I would probably say it’s been routine.
The kids have a morning routine (which I have written about here and here) and I also have my own routine for homemaking which I touched on in this post. Today I’m going to talk about our bedtime routine. Keep in mind my older children are 4 and 6 years old – I know it was a bit crazier two years ago when my boys were 2 and 4! Regardless of age, however, the same ideas can be put into practice… it may just look a bit different.
Here are my keys to a better bedtime routine.
#1 Keep some perspective.
Even though we all know there’s a beautiful peace that comes when the house is quiet (because the kids are asleep!), the point of bedtime is for children to go to sleep so they can be well-rested for the next day. Keeping this in mind helps me maintain my composure even when unexpected meltdowns ensue or there’s an extra trip (or two) to the toilet. I’m not putting them in bed to get some “me time.” I’m helping them relax before they go to sleep so that they can rest and grow. It doesn’t need to be rushed but the kids do need their sleep. I try to remember to be as calm and composed as I can possibly muster (after an exhausting day, you know how hard this can be!), to make sure bedtime is as smooth as possible.
#2 Make sleep a good thing.
I’d like to say we maintain a healthy attitude about sleep in our home. We enjoy it. We ask how everyone slept in the morning and we chat about dreams. We talk about needing more rest if we woke up too early or if we had a very busy day. I also try to encourage this perspective by making the boys’ beds as inviting as possible. When we moved my four-year-old to his own room, he got a new blanket set which he absolutely loves. To him it’s like “sleeping on clouds.” My older son really likes having clean fresh sheets, so on the day the sheets are changed I’m sure to mention “You have new sheets today!” which he gets really excited about. Just noticing what makes the kids feel cozy and comfortable helps everyone relax and remember bed is a good place to be. Favourite stuffed toys (but not too many!) can be important to some children, too.
Animal heat packs can be found at Finlee and Me
#3 Have a schedule and stick to it!
Together my husband and I have planned out our routine step by step and we stick to it. For us this is: 5:15pm start! Bath, put on pajamas, visit the toilet, brush teeth, prayers, story time, hugs and kisses. The kids are in bed by 6pm – my four year old is generally asleep by 6:30 and my six year old is asleep by 7:30pm. Both wake up around 6am. We definitely find that if they go to bed too late, they generally wake up too early! We only delay bedtime very occasionally like when relatives are visiting from out of the country… otherwise we just don’t stay out too late at this stage in our lives!
(Sometimes I even have the kids take a bath before dinner, if the food is not ready in time because we got home late for some reason, so we don’t get off schedule.)
#4 Be a step ahead.
By being a step ahead I mean planning for the common situations that cause the kids to get out of bed:
We have water bottles beside the bed (the boys fill their own when they get empty) so in case anyone is thirsty, they don’t have to get out of bed.
Each boy also has their own box of tissues in case they need them.
When it’s cold, I make sure there are plenty of blankets and we also have these lovely animal heat packs that the kids can request to have heated when we are getting ready for bed (or on really cold nights, I just do them automatically!). These are perfect for helping the kids feel relaxed and cozy… and also ease the transition into a cold bed in winter time!
We visit the toilet before we brush our teeth – right at the beginning of our bedtime routine – so there usually isn’t another toilet break until morning. If there is, however, I don’t make it a big deal. They tell me, they go, and then they go back to bed.
Each child also has a light that clips on to their bed for night time reading (mentioned in key #5), and a flashlight in case they need it in the night.
For a while, one of our boys was scared of the dark, so we also had a night light in the room. He was also worried about nightmares and the anxiety sometimes kept him from going to sleep like he usually did. My husband taught him how to do visualisation while he was in bed to help him relax. They did it together for a couple weeks (whenever my husband was not working the evening shift!) and eventually he learned to do it on his own. Basically they just closed their eyes and imagined a place they felt safe – they looked around, listened to the sounds, said a prayer, took deep breaths, and remembered that they were safe. This has helped my son tremendously with feeling comfortable in his room at night.
Dinosnores CDs can be found at Finlee and Me
#5 Put extra effort into helping them relax.
We always include prayers as part of our bed time routine, and then it’s story time. This is the one that’s a bit tricky with a baby… because sometimes she wants to nurse or be carried around right when the boys choose their story! I try to avoid this by doing stories early if I can predict the situation ahead of time, but one thing that really helps is that I let the boys read with their bed lights for a while if I’m busy with the baby. This way they can enjoy reading a bit on their own and I can come back to read them a story when the baby is settled. (And, most importantly, I don’t have to blame the baby for missing story time… I don’t want them to feel “cheated” because they have a little sister now.)
After stories, we have hugs and kisses (occasionally a back rub or back scratch as well) and then the boys can read stories on their own. My oldest (6 years old) often reads for up to an hour by himself… he needs less sleep than my other son so this works out well. Because my younger son cannot read yet, he listens to a Dinosnores CD which is an awesome collection of audio stories with relaxation and visualisation techniques to help calm kids down. We have three of the Dinosnores CDs and he likes to rotate between them. I can count on my hands the number of times he has not been asleep by the end of the story…
So that’s our routine and how it works for us! Is your bedtime routine similar or different?
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Thanks for these great tips!
I like the one about having a healthy attitude towards sleep. My 4 year old just loves his stories and will beg for another then another. After reading your post, I think I will ask him to choose 3-4 stories each night so we have a routine! I’m very impressed that you have their dinners prepared so early too.
Thanks again for another great post.
Chelsea Lee Smith
We only read one or two stories per child (depending on length) right at bed time… with two kids, we just simply had to limit it! But they get stories read earlier in the day, and can read themselves 🙂
I often do the bulk of the dinner prep in the afternoon… so we only have to heat things up or cut up veggies right at dinner time.
Thank you! Makes me feel better about our bedtime routine. I put my son to bed around 7, which is earlier than my friends put their kids to bed, but I felt like it was a good time for my 6 months old. But then, during our last visit to the pediatrician, even she suggested I put him down later so that he sleeps longer… However, even though it seems counter intuitive, my short experience showed me that putting him down later didn’t necessarily resulted in sleeping longer in the morning, so I wasn’t quite sure whether to follow her advice. Also, thank you for mentioning the perspective because I had moments of doubt and asked myself whether putting him down so early was just selfish, even though I could see he started getting crabby around 6 pm!
Again, thank you for this post!
Chelsea Lee Smith
Hi Zuzanna… I think you would know your child best as far as bedtime is concerned! Some wake up with the sun while others sleep later depending on when they went to bed. Is your son 6 months though? Oh goodness, the first two years bedtime was changing CONSTANTLY due to the naps changing. I felt we could only have a routine for a few months before it changed, as far as times go.