Nighttime Routine

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Good Morning,

As a followup to this week’s post about streamlining your morning routine, I wanted to give some equally useful tools for a successful nighttime routine.  Creating a time for your family to unwind and prepare for the next day is essential.  Think of a nighttime routine as the day’s closing ceremonies.  Opposite to being on a schedule and working against the clock, this time of day is more relaxed.

If you have not started a nighttime routine, do not worry!  You can start tonight.  Starting a routine takes some time and commitment, but is well worth it.  If you already have a routine, take some time to examine it.  Make sure your routine is the most effective it can possibly be for your family and allow for change within the routine when needed.

One Possible Nighttime Routine:

Dinner Time
In most families dinner time signals the beginning of the end.  Take this time to check in with your child and talk to them about the day.

Following Day Prep
Getting things ready at night is great preparation for being out the door on time in the morning.  Setting out clothes, packing lunches, finishing homework, and putting things by the door will streamline the morning routine.  This is also a time for your child to tell you what they need.  More school supplies, new socks, or finding a coat are all things that are more easily handled in the calm of the evening.

Bath Time
If your children are young, you might still be sitting beside the bathtub helping them get washed.  Bath toys are a great way to sneak in some extra conversation or academics during this time.  Counting, colors, and shapes are only a beginning to the awesome bath toys on the market today.  I recommend bath time coming right before sleep time, in large part due to the relaxing nature of warm water.  Aromatherapy soap, bubbles, and lotions can further aid in relaxation.  If your child bathes him or herself, take this time to help them for the next day.  Setting out after school snacks, making their lunch and packing their bag is often helpful.  I always advocate for responsibility in school age children, but if there is an area that is frustrating for your child or you are trying something new, help them out.

Everybody knows that reading to your child is an essential part of good parenting.  Spending between 10 and 30 minutes reading to and with your child each day does wonders for their academic skills. Many parents fit this time in right before sleep time, but often if you are running behind schedule this gets omitted first.  One of the best things about kids books is that they are short and to the point.  If finding 30 minutes in a single stretch is difficult, break the time up and read three times over the course of the day.  Read during breakfast, bath time, or right before bed to make sure your child gets the reading time they deserve.

Sleep Time
Getting to bed is the only thing on this list that is time sensitive.  Everything else can go at a relaxed and calm pace, but getting to bed at the right time is absolutely essential.  If you are running late, skip another item on this list and go directly to bed.  If your child is older, check in with them to see if the temperature in their room is good, if the bed is comfortable, and if their pajamas fit properly.  Simple changes can make a huge difference in your child’s sleeping behavior.  For younger kids, reading to them and talking/acting out good sleeping behaviors helps to get their minds focused.  A dark, cool, and quiet place is perfect for most kids.  If you have other family members that stay up later, the sound of a noise machine or humidifier will reduce disturbance.  Closing the door signals to your child to go to sleep and should stay closed until morning.  I cannot stress this enough.  The only times you should go back into your child’s room is if they are sick or hurt.  Going back into their room teaches your child to expect to be awakened, and therefore they do not go to sleep or fall asleep fully.

Having a nighttime routine will ease the stress of the morning rush.  Transitioning from summer’s late nights to fall’s school schedule is usually very difficult and takes time.  Talk to your kids about a nighttime routine that best fits their needs.  Involving them in the process makes the transition easier.

More articles related to this topic:

A Bedtime Routine that Works
Guidelines for Your  Child’s Bedtime
Our Simple Bedtime Routine

Good Luck,



7 thoughts on “Nighttime Routine

  1. Despite having a very established night time routine, I find my daughter sometimes wants to mix it up. I am torn between letting her read first, then brush her teeth, or sticking with the routine. Is it worth it to create a struggle?

    • Great question, Jennifer. The most important thing is getting to bed at the same time. Does she read in her bed? I would say that if she reads in bed, stay in bed and brush teeth before. I think it disrupts the movement towards sleep if you get out of bed right before sleeping. If she does not read in bed I think giving her a choice is best. If the routine is established and just occasionally she wants to do something else, I see no harm in allowing her to mix it up now and then. The timing of going to bed and lights out is ultimately the most important thing.

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