Getting kids into bed doesn’t need to be a drama. Having the right tools can make it a battle free zone. Sure they’ll be hick-ups and regressions, but these 8 expert ideas to get kids to bed will help create a routine; that gets them there, and keeps them there!

8 expert ideas to get your kids to bed (and keep them there!)

1. Timing is EVERYTHING

Catching them before they get over tired or over wrought is essential. Figure out what their tiredness baseline is and work it out backwards from there. If you know they are at their best with a 7.30pm bedtime, asleep by 8pm, make the routine that you set start so that the timing is completely possible.

2. Reduce electronic stimulation

Turning off electronics including the TV at least an hour before bed will help with the brain to shut down easier for sleep.

If you have a chronically bad sleeper, check to see if you have anything emitting EMFs on the inside or outside walls of the bedroom. This could be smart meters, wifi boxes, cordless phones etc…

Does this child/ren sleep better on holiday or at a friend’s house, in your bed or that of a sibling?

If so, you could look at “earthing or grounding”, but also moving the bed away, or getting tools/equipment that are good to offset the frequencies.

3. Keep it consistent

I really could not emphasise this enough. Commitment AND consistency are both key and the crucial parts to having a routine work.

Do the same thing every night. It might look a little different on occasion and that is fine, but when you’re at home. Same ol’ same ol’…

Dinner, play, bath, snack, teeth and pee, chat, stories, kisses and cuddles, lights out.

If you are having difficulty getting them to do one or many of those things, you can offer options. Limited options, but it offers a sense of independence.

  • Which of these two pairs of pjs would you like to wear?
  • Tonight, are we dancing or skipping to the bath/bedroom
  • You can have 2 or 3 stories, how many would you like?
  • When your pjs are on, can you choose your books?
  • When it is time for lights out: would you like a squeezy cuddle AND 5 kisses or 10?
  • I will brush your teeth for 1 minute and then it will be your turn and I will watch how well you do it.

By taking charge of the situation as above you are setting clear boundaries. Of course if they counter with something entirely appropriate then let them. If you offer 2 pairs of pjs and they want the other ones in the cupboard, let them wear those.

Similarly, if that ONE pair they want to wear are in the wash and they have a meltdown about it, then acknowledge the upset and say something along the lines of:

“I hear that you are really upset because your favourite pjs are in the wash, tomorrow I will wash them for you and you can have them back, in the mean time, you need to stay warm and cozy, so we have these ones. I am sorry that you are upset about it, can I give you a cuddle to help you right now?”

4. What’s on your mind?

Talk it out – If something is playing on your child’s mind you could ask: “What was the worst thing that happened today?” discuss that, and leave them with feeling loved and adored and appreciated.

Or help them to put it in a box or a bubble to sort out the next day, offer a game plan on how you will help them, or they can help themselves to make it right.

  • You seem unhappy, can you tell me what is happening for you to feel that way?
  • I didn’t like that behaviour earlier, can you tell me why you did that? What made you so angry / upset / frustrated?

Then you could ask, “What was the BEST thing that happened today?” and finish on a high with hugs and kisses. If this becomes something that they LOVE (ie it starts taking FOREVER), then it is appropriate to either start the conversation earlier in the day or bedtime becomes an earlier time to accommodate this one on one time.

It is a precious time to share together.

5. Make sure the environment works

Is it dark enough? Is it too dark and needs a night light?

Is the temperature comfortable for sleeping? Hot water bottles are often a hit with small children in the cooler months. Do they have enough covers if they get chilly in the early hours, so they can pull it over themselves if they get cold?

Make sure that the noise level is appropriate for them to drift off also. Loud noises are intriguing to small people, as are outbursts of adult laughter, they might just creep out to see what the fun is all about.

6. Getting kids into bed is team work

If both parents are in the house at bedtime, make it a team effort as it’s essential for smooth running to both on the same page. It makes life so much easier.

If one parent is doing something else, then they should ideally stay out of it and defer back to the parent who IS doing the bedtime routine that night. It avoids the issue of the child playing one off against the other. 

7. Just one more thing….

If I had a dollar for every time a kid has tried that one. My advice. Preempt EVERYTHING!!! Make sure that everything has been accounted for prior to starting the whole routine.

This includes sports kits being prepared (unless you do it), homework, notes from school, anything you promised to do in the day… leave no stone unturned in the quest for a straightforward bedtime.

And by following the ideas above including a sip of water and a pee before bed, then you can be committed in your response of “No, it’s sleep time, I love you, I will see you in the morning, good night”.

8. You got this!

This above might sound straight forward, and it can be… It needs to be applied with love and firmness. Keeping everything on task and on track is the part that is worth putting the effort into.

  • Don’t give an inch if they are playing up (remain firm but fair and everything in order, no nonsense), and have a little more leniency when they are helping to make it work.
  • If they are playing up, it will often be because they are tired, therefore the quicker they are in bed the sooner everyone gets exactly what is needed. If they are happy and you are happy to flow a little more, then they will learn which they prefer and behave appropriately.

Just remember to keep all that raucous laughter under control until they are out to it to save little faces from appearing around the door wanting an explanation!

For more expert advice on creating habits and routines in children, check out our School Age Education section.

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Jayne has over 18 years experience in caring for children and has worked in both New Zealand and the UK. She has a vast range of expertise and can offer help and advice if you are struggling with your children. You can read more about Jayne on her website- Everything But The Stork. Jayne writes regular columns for Kiwi Families and will also answer your questions about babies and children

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