Updated: Apr 26
If I asked you what time your kids go to bed, would you laugh? Get red in the face? Proudly declare? Weep? Do your kids go to bed at the same time every night? Or does it depend on what's going on? Stalling involved? Bedtime routine just take forever?
If you are having any struggles with the timing of your bedtime routine or when your kiddo actually falls asleep, read on.
Here are 3 steps to getting your kiddo to getting your kiddo to bed on time.
1 - Choose a Lights-Off Time
What time do you say goodnight, give final hugs and kisses, turn the lights off, and walk out of your kiddo's room each night? Is it about the same every night (within minutes) or does it change depending on day, week, situation, mood?
If you are asking for my recommendation (and I think you are since you are reading this), I have a few.
One, don't compare your kiddo's bed time to your neighbor's kid. There is a lot that goes into determining the perfect bedtime for your child. You can check out my article 6 Ways Timing Can Affect Your Child's Sleep for information on timing of bedtime for preschoolers.
Two, bedtime for all toddlers and preschoolers should be before 9PM, although 7PM-830PM is likely much more ideal.
Three, if your kiddo melts down during bedtime routine on a regular basis and you need help finding your kiddos perfect bedtime, I teach a fun strategy for this in 4 Steps to Determining Your Preschoolers Ideal Bedtime.
Four, once you determine your kiddo's ideal bedtime, stick with it. Lights-off time, or when you say goodnight, give final kisses, turn off lights, walk out of the room should be the same time every night. It shouldn’t flex for any reason other than rare exceptions (vacation, holidays, etc). If you decide lights-off for your kiddo is 8PM, every night at 8PM, your kiddo gets final hugs and kisses, and the lights go off.
Lights-off time = same every night, firm time, doesn't change, very little wiggle room
NOTE, stalling does not bump your lights off time. Long baths do no bump your lights off time. Meltdowns do not bump your lights off time.
If you currently have a lights-off goal, but have a hard time sticking to it for whatever reason, keep reading.
2 - Choose a Begin-Bedtime-Routine Time
Once you choose a lights-off time, you can reverse engineer the rest of your evening.
What does your kiddo's bedtime routine look like? What is included in it? How long does it typically take? Write these things down and be sure to include everything you do to prepare for bed, all the way up until lights are off and you are walking out of the room.
If your kiddo takes a bath or eats a snack most or all nights before bed, be sure to include that when determining how much time you spend on bedtime routine each night.
I would encourage you to limit bedtime routine to an hour. If it is currently taking longer than an hour, figure out if you need to cut something out or eliminate stalling to cut down on how long it is taking.
Let’s say it takes your kiddo an hour from start to finish to get everything you need done... bath, PJs, brush teeth, read books. Plus a little buffer time in between the tasks so you aren't standing in the bedroom with your stopwatch and whistle in order to meet your lights-off time each night. If your kiddo's lights-off time is 8PM, then your goal should be to begin bedtime routine by 7PM every night.
Simple enough, right?
3 - Understand How to Flex
Okay, if lights-off time = same every night, firm time, doesn't change, very little wiggle room... then begin-bedtime-routine time = a goal, slightly more flexible, offers a little wiggle room.
On nights where everything goes as planned... dinner is served at its usual time, you don't have any unusual activities, you can start bedtime routine at your goal time. In our example, that would be 7PM.
However, if you have an activity on Tuesday nights, or you get home late from work one day and are behind with getting dinner on the table, or the weather is great and you want to let the kids play outside a little longer... you can begin bedtime routine a bit later.
Keep in mind however, your lights-off time remains the same. If you begin bedtime routine later than usual, you will need to cut out something from your kiddo’s bedtime routine to make things go a little faster.
What to cut out? Perhaps no bath that night. Maybe read one book instead of your usual three. Or be m