I don’t know about yours, but our children thrive on good routines.
They trust and depend on us to make sure all their needs are met. When we didn’t have good routines in place, it was often a real challenge to make sure everything got done and that those needs were met, without compleltely exhausting ourselves.
Realizing you just used the last clean diaper in the middle of the night, when you’re already sleep deprived… not fun! Been there, done that, and learned my lesson with baby number one. Thank goodness!
These routines provide our family with structure, balance, and predictability. After introducing consistent routines into nearly every aspect of our lives with our first child, we noticed that meltdowns occurred much less frequently. Our son gradually learned what was coming next! He knew what to expect and was capable of handling those big emotions that can otherwise overwhelm.
As many parents can attest, having a good day means starting the night before. When we first began making family routines, we started with the night routine. Routine was especially helpful for everyone in the evenings because our patience, will power, and decision-making abilities were low, having been depleted from use throughout the day.
Our family has grown and changed over the years. We’ve had ups and downs, from reveling in the lovely newborn season to struggling with little night wakers. So while our bedtime routine has changed briefly at times, the basic structure has remained consistent.
(Of course, all families are different, consisting of unique individuals with a variety of temperaments. And what works for one family, often does not work for another family. Each family needs to experiment and find out what works best for them. This is just what works best for our family!)
A Simple Bedtime Routine & Snack:
–Playtime: Our night routine officially begins after dinner and cleanup (around 6:30pm), when we do something fun and active together to burn off any remaining ‘fidgety energy’. Those wiggles can keep the kids up at night if they aren’t worked out. We usually go for a walk or a bike ride around the neighborhood or play in the backyard.
–Bath: After playtime, into the bathtub go our two oldest boys. (Baby gets his bath after lunchtime.) I pull out the basket with the boy’s current favorite bathtub toys. Then, I light a lavender-scented natural soy candle and the boys play and wash up. I get the bubbles (these are the BEST) out and start blowing away to signal that it’s time to drain the water and put the toys away. My two year old thinks it’s hilarious when I sing Rub-a-dub-dub as I’m drying him off, so I always try to remember to do that as well. Dad handles the putting on of pajamas part and making sure any dirty items make it into the hamper. Finally, clothing is laid out for the next day.
–Snack: While dad’s getting the boys dressed and ready for the next day, I head to the kitchen to start on the bedtime snack. This is where we gather to finish our snacks and discuss plans for the next day. With the exception of holidays and weekends, the boys have the same bedtime snack every evening: either homemade or Ezekiel bread with almond butter and warm almond milk with honey and cinnamon. We adapted our snack from Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children. The author explains the sleep inducing qualities of this clever combination. (This book also inspired the creation of many of our daily routines. It’s definitely worth a read if you need any help in this area!) When you find a snack the kids really like, and that also fills them up, you have a winner! They’ll always look forward to it. Plus, it helps eliminate endless requests for snack after snack of less filling food.
–Brush Teeth: After we’ve finished our snacks, I load the last of the dishes and start the dish washer while the boys go brush their teeth. Dad usually handles the teeth brushing and corralling the little ones into the bedroom.
–Read Aloud: My favorite part of the night routine is read aloud time! I look forward to this time together all day long. We dim the lights, grab our lantern and Twilight Turtle for the little ones, and we snuggle up together for a half hour of reading time. Sometimes the younger ones are a bit fussy and quickly fall asleep but at least we get to snuggle and our oldest listens eagerly the entire time. We just finished reading through The Chronicles of Narnia (the first time for our 8 year old) and it completely captured his imagination. We are currently reading Ember Falls by S. D. Smith and can’t wait for more from this author!
–Prayers: For whoever is still awake, we say ‘good night, sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bight’. We give each other a hug and a kiss, along with an ‘I love you’. Then, we say a bedtime prayer and take a few minutes to discuss anything that’s on their hearts. Our goal is to have the lights out by 9 pm.
Finally, my husband and I take some time to visit and catch up before beginning our personal night routines and turning in for a restful (hopefully) night’s sleep.
We usually get several hours in before baby wakes up. He’s a pretty good sleeper compared to our first two boys. Thank you sweet baby!
That’s our regular bedtime routine and night snack. What does your evening routine look like? Do your children have a favorite bedtime snack? Can’t wait to hear!
Lots of love!