Bedtime Routine for Kids

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How to get your kids to go to sleep at night. 

Bedtime. For some parents bedtime seems to go smoothly. However, for many parents, it can be a daily struggle. Many parents wonder, how can I get my child to go to sleep at night and stay in their bed? 

Why should children follow a bedtime routine?

Children generally do well when they have a routine to follow. Therefore, one of the keys to getting your children to go to bed at night includes following a solid bedtime routine. 

Through years of helping other parents, and myself, establish a routine that works I have come up with ideas that really work. 

It is important, though, that you establish a routine that works best for your family. Each family dynamic, and child, is different. What works for one family will not necessarily work as well for the next.

Why is sleep important for a child’s development? 

There are multiple reasons why a good night’s sleep, and enough sleep, is important for your child.  Research states that adequate sleep may be considered a fundamental requirement of children

Sleep is important for your child’s development in that it promotes growth. As the majority of growth hormone is secreted during deep sleep. 

Sleep helps to boost the immune system and decrease stress. The human body produces an important protein, that helps to fight infection, during sleep. 

Additionally, adequate sleep has been shown to increase learning, decrease inattention and hyperactivity, and help to maintain an appropriate weight. 

How much sleep does my child need?

The amount of sleep a person needs is dependent on both their age and their own biological needs. For example, some adults seem to function and do well with 7 hours of sleep a night while others do better with 9 hours of sleep. 

How much sleep do Newborns and Infants need?

Newborns and infants require the most sleep. Aside from sleeping at night, infants will take multiple naps during the day as well. 

Babies 0-3 months of age should have a total of 14-17 hours of sleep within a 24 hour period of time. This sleep will typically be in 2 to 3 hour-long increments throughout the day and night.

The number of hours of sleep drops to 12-15 hours of sleep in a 24 hour time period for infants 4 to 11 months of age.  Infants aged 4-11 months continue to nap during the day. However, their naps may become longer and less frequent as those of a newborn. 

Are you looking for tips on how to get your newborn to sleep through the night? In this article, I share exactly what I have done with all three of my kids to get them to sleep through the night, without using sleep training methods.

How much sleep do toddlers need?

A toddler needs approximately 11-14 hours of sleep total in a 24 hour period of time. One and two-year-olds will continue to take naps during the day. 

Their total daytime sleep, broken down into one or two naps, should be a total of 1-3 hours. Most toddlers sleep for 9-12 hours at night. 

How much sleep do preschoolers need? 

Preschoolers should be getting 10-13 hours of sleep a day. Most preschoolers drop their daytime nap between ages 4 and 5. 

How much sleep do school-aged children need?

Children aged 6-13 years need 9-11 hours of sleep daily. School-aged children do not typically nap during the day. 

How much sleep do teenagers need? 

Teenagers require 8-10 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period of time. 

Are you struggling to get your kids to sleep at night? Learn the tips and tricks that will get your kids to go to sleep without a struggle and sleep in their own bed all night long! #toddlersleep #bedtimestruggles #bedtimeroutine #parentingatnight

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Natural Ways to help a child sleep at night

The below list of ideas are things you can incorporate into your bedtime routine.

All of the ideas are meant to help to promote a positive connection with sleep for your child.

None of the below ideas include medication or traditional sleep training concepts. If your child is waking due to teething pain, this article has the best remedies to soothe your little one so they sleep better at night.

Give your child an Epsom salt bath to relax them before bed

Epsom salt is not actually salt, as we know it. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, whereas table and sea salt are made up of sodium chloride. 

This post describes how to prepare an Epsom salt bath. It also discusses many of the benefits of Epsom salt. 

Epsom salt baths can help to encourage restfulness and a good night’s sleep. 

Avoid bright lights and “blue light” to help your child fall asleep easier

Studies have shown that exposure to light at night suppresses melatonin. Having a cut-off time, for lights, can help their bodies adjust and produce melatonin for sleep. 

You can dim the lights and close window shades after dinner. You can also use a dim light in the bathroom while the older kids brush their teeth and get ready for bed. 

Connect with your child about their day before they go to sleep

Bedtime is a time to unwind. It’s common to think about the day you had and what tomorrow holds. 

Children do the same. 

Once your children are in bed it is a wonderful time to connect with them. You can take this time to practice mindfulness.

Connecting with your child at bedtime can help to promote your child to feel safe, secure, and loved. 

Some children crave that connection each night and go to sleep much easier once they have it. 

Read a story with your child at bedtime

Storytime can be part of your nighttime routine that gets your children excited about climbing into bed each night. Storytime is a nice activity that allows you to connect with your child.

Children of all ages tend to enjoy listening to stories each night. My older son prefers books while my younger son has a lot of fun listening to stories that I make up as I go along.  

You can read about the multiple benefits of storytime in this post

use a sound machine to help your child sleep

A gentle low-volume noise can be calming. It can also drown out external sounds and noises, that can be disturbing.

In this post about newborn sleep, I listed my favorite sound machine. I like that this sound machine offers a variety of sounds that can be used depending on which sound you prefer. 

If you travel, the sound machine is also available in a small travel size that can be taken in the car and easily carried in a bag. 

diffuse essential oils to help your child relax at bedtime

Essential oils can be calming. There are individual oils, such as lavender, which are said to help to increase sleep quality. 

There are also kid-friendly synergies, such as this one from Plant Therapy, that are developed to help promote a restful night’s sleep. 

You can diffuse essential oils, using a diffuser, prior to bedtime. You can also place a diffuser in your child’s room, out of their reach, where you can diffuse child-friendly oils during your bedtime routine. 

keep a night light, like a Himalayan salt lamp to comfort and help your child relax for sleep

A Himalayan salt lamp provides a warm glow in the room. The orange-pink hue that the light gives off can help to promote relaxation. 

If your child is scared of the dark, the light that the Himalayan salt lamp gives off is soft and muted. This soft and muted light should not be disruptive like a traditional bright night light can be. 

make sure you have your child avoid caffeine and sugar before bedtime 

Both caffeine and sugar can have a negative impact on sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant that works to keep you awake. 

Here you can read how avoiding both caffeine and sugar is best for your child’s gut health, as well. 

bedtime routine at night

At what age should you start a bedtime routine for your children?

Most sleep experts suggest starting a bedtime routine around 6-8 weeks of age. You can start a modified routine with your newborn prior to 6-8 weeks if you like.

This post outlines four of my top tips to help promote sleep in your newborn. 

What is our bedtime routine? 

In our home, we use many of the natural methods listed above. We keep our routine between 30-45 minutes in length. 

Our bedtime routine directly impacts how well our mornings go. 

Our typical nighttime routine is as follows:

During dinner, we will try to connect with the children. We ask questions about their day and give them the opportunity to ask us about ours. 

Upon finishing dinner the children get ready for a bath or shower. We aim to have two Epsom salt baths a week. 

The nights that they are not taking an Epsom salt bath they choose whether to take a shower or relax in a bath. 

On nights that we are short on time they shower. 

We will diffuse essential oils during bath time if they are soaking in a bathtub.

After they are cleaned we climb into bed for story-time. We aim to devote 15-30 minutes to story-time each night. I use the glow from their Himalayan salt lamp along with the flashlight on my phone to light up the pages of the book. 

Some nights they need to connect again after story-time. Whereas some nights they are eager to go to sleep. If they need to talk after story-time we will spend a few minutes talking and connecting. 

Now that the boys are older I will often diffuse a relaxing essential oil synergy in their room. 

We will turn on the sound machine and they will settle into bed for the night. 

What is the best bedtime routine for your child? 

As your child’s parent, you will need to work to figure out the best bedtime routine for your child. This may take some trial and error. 

While you are working on creating the ultimate routine for your family you can take notes. I would advise that you note what methods seem to work well for your family. You should also take note of any methods that don’t seem to work well. 

As you go through, you will create the ultimate bedtime routine for your family. 

Leave a comment and tell me your favorite tip to help get your children to sleep at night.

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Brooke has been helping families as a board-certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, since 2007. Prior to that, she spent 4+ years working as a Registered Nurse in both pediatric and postpartum nursing. Brooke holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing. Additionally, she is dual-licensed in her state as both an APRN and RN.


  • Smridhi Malhotra

    Hi Brooke!

    Great article! I am a mom to a one-year-old baby girl and her bedtime routines really leave me worried. She is super active at night and sleeps late. I am working hard to change her routine so that she sleeps on time.
    I ll try to implement the tips that you have shared in this article and see what works well in my case.

  • Erin

    Cool article, thanks! Wondering – what are your thoughts on “natural” treatments like melatonin? I see a lot of mixed statements around safety and general use.

    • Brooke, MSN, APRN, CPNP

      Hi Erin! There is not good evidence regarding the safety of melatonin use in children. Therefore, I personally don’t recommend using melatonin in children. However, if you’re interested in trying it, I would consult your child’s healthcare provider.

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