What’s Your Child’s Bedtime Routine?


Seinfeld was recently on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon talking about bedtime routines. It made me laugh out loud:

“When we were kids, our parents didn’t give a damn about us. They didn’t even know our names! But when I think of the bedtime routine of my kids, it’s like this Royal Coronation Jubilee Centennial of rinsing and plaque and dental appliances and the stuffed-animal semi-circle of emotional support, and I have to read eight different moron books. You know what my bedtime story was when I was a kid? Darkness. That was my bedtime story.”

What’s your bedtime routine with your kiddos? I want to hear the steps! Toby’s is insane, complete with back rubs, a glass of milk, stories read by Mommy, stories read by Daddy, stories read by himself alone in his room, challenges and questions from Mommy, requests for water… It can last an hour!

P.S. How to put a toddler to bed in 100 easy steps, and a book for sleepy parents.

(Photo by Megan Curry)

  1. I was recently wondering if bedtime routines took as long for others too as they do for us! At this moment in time, our 3 yr old starts bath time at 7:30pm. Then, as I put his PJs on, I ask him “What made you happy today?” That usually strikes up a conversation about gratitude and how laughing is important. Then he chooses from either one bedtime story or story book. He used to ask for two, but we had to shorten our routine because now he has a little brother and I’m usually alone at night juggling both kids. Then we sing only one song (usually Twinkle Twinkle or the ABCs). It used to be three songs. Then I say Good night and give him a kiss, and that’s when he’ll ask for water, milk, fruit pouches and whatever he can think of. He’ll also ask for me to stay until 10… which means that I cuddle with him as I count to ten. Then I’ll really leave the room and depending on the day, he’ll either stay in his room, or come out a gazillion times.

  2. I sometimes wondered about this. When my son was born, I started to see articles online about “bedtime routines” and would think to myself – wth is that!? I wondered if it was a cultural thing, since I grew up in a different country, or if it was more of a social economic/class thing since my mother always worked full time and never really did anything like that for my sister and I. Part of me found it kind of sad that I didn’t have any memories of bedtime routines to reminisce about, but my more practical side, loves that all it takes for my 15 month old son to go down, are his teeth brushed and good night kisses.

  3. Amy McWilliams says...

    This is true… he gets out of the bath and we go to his room to read a book (while he’s still in the buff!), then we tell him it’s time for pajamas and he races back and forth across the house a couple of times, giggling hysterically. Then PJs go on and another book while he brushes his teeth (he’s 2, so it’s more like “brushing” than really brushing), then my husband tells him we love him and if he gets scared we are just in the next room. Then puts him in bed and shuts off the light.

  4. Robyn Cutler says...

    It’s epic! Feels oh-so-good to commiserate though, thanks! xo

  5. Alicia says...

    Our 3.5 yr old had a simple routine of teeth, potty, read 2-3 books, tell a story. Then it switched to adding mouse olympics, a back rub, singing a song while rocking him and then us being required to sit on the floor while he sang his own songs and told himself a story. We have dialed it back to 2 books, a story and one other thing. It’s usually the mouse olympics (gentle rubbing of the back, like mice doing figure skating or marathon race or high jump). We have to stay in the bed until he falls asleep though. So, all in all, bedtime with him is about 1.5 hours.

    Our 1 yr old is so easy. Just 3 books and a song while nursing, then off to bed. I seem to remember our son having a easy bedtime at one time though too…

    I used to get upset about how long it took to get him to bed (not to mention, he goes to bed at 9) but now that we’re done having babies, I can appreciate that this is just a short time in my life and I’ll miss it when it’s over.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      mouse olympics is the sweetest!!!!

  6. Grace says...

    After teeth and stories, placing them in an Ergobaby and bouncing on a yoga ball for 10 minutes. Puts ’em to sleep every time. With the oldest, 3, we made this contraption that is like an Ergobaby for older kids. We just use it for bouncing on the yoga ball. We are thinking of slowly weaning him off the yoga ball by 4. We will see.

  7. Becky says...

    I’m a nanny and I sum up the after-dinner routine for my three year old charge in a little chant/song to keep us focused:

    Shower, teeth and lotion, bed!

    Sometimes things get off course, but we can always get back on track with our little mantra. “What’s next? We did shower, then we just finished teeth.” “Lotion!”

    Nearly every night I hear her singing to herself for an hour once I leave the room. Sweet, sweet dear.

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  9. This is hilarious! I take my son to bed after bath, but first he kisses daddy goodnight. This is when he starts making requests like, park, animals (crackers), glass of milk, potty (he wears diapers!), and it goes on. We have fun with it and snicker but don’t indulge in most or possibly any of his requests outside of the routine motions of getting to sweet sweet sleep.

  10. :)) He;s so funny, this dude! We really keep it simple, maybe because my little one is 15 months old – but we just take a bath – every other night, lotion, jamies, milk , milk – I kiss him good night, tell him I love him and that’s it! We read during the day, we play, we go out a lot, have play dates but night time is night time! :)))
    Oh, I forgot the teeth brushing :-)

  11. I do think little kids need a mental construct like, “You have a guardian angel who watches over you”, as mentioned in the first comment, to help them feel it’s safe enough to go to sleep away from their parents. I learned from reading about Attachment Parenting that little kids have an innate primal fear of being snatched by wild animals, left over from eons of living in pre-civilization wilds. This gave me so much compassion and understanding. They need to feel protected, and the guardian angel reminder is one way at least.

  12. I have a 1 year old and a 4 year old. At 6:30 they take a bath together and get their PJ’s on. My 4 year old will sit with me while I ready my one year old a book and put him down at 7:00- easy.
    My 4 year old is the challenge. He has developed a fear of his bedroom and we have tried everything to revert back to the happy routine that was once “bedtime”. For the extra hour that his is up we play games, do a puzzle, watch a show or just visit until 8:00. We then head to his bedroom and read a few books, share a couple thoughts, say prayers, but now one of us has to lay with him until he falls asleep. I have also put a 15 watt light bulb in his bedside lamp as the nightlight was not doing the trick. I feel like we had a pretty rock solid routine for 4 years, and in the past 2 months it has gotten a little out of control.
    I know it is just a phase, but the hour long bedtime is certainly exhausting!

  13. Actually laughed out loud watching this. The “stuffed-animal semi-circle of emotional support” is the best (and truest) thing ever.

  14. Super low key about bedtime over here – I have two veeeeeeeeery active boys so at the end of the day it’s pretty easy to get them to crash. I put the toddler down in about 5 minutes (quick bath, if needed, , rock with a book, crib). My 7 year old takes about 10 minutes – same routine, minus the rocking and crib :)

  15. She’s only 14 months, but she has always been pretty good at going to sleep. We didn’t sleep-train her so I think it is just her personality. :) We put on her jammies, brush her teeth, say night-night to Daddy, and into her crib she goes!

    Growing up, we didn’t have a complicated routine either. There were six of us so I don’t think my parents could have sustained it anyway! We brushed our teeth, washed our feet if it was summertime, and got into bed. My dad would pray with us and sing a few songs (the same ones every night!) and we went to sleep.

    • Melanie says...

      My bedtime routine was the exact same. Brush teeth. Rinse the feet in summer then Dad would come in and maybe read us some Beanstein Bears then say a prayer then Mom would come in and sing 2 songs with us (my sister and I shared a room) then bed. Unless my sister would keep me up for hours which I hated….

  16. Our bedtime routine is simple. Baths for the boys, brush teeth, prayers, sing “Sunshine, you are my Sunshine,” and lights out.

  17. Our bedtime routine is simple. Baths for the boys, brush teeth, prayers, sing “Sunshine, you are my Sunshine,” and lights out.

  18. PS – the video was hilarious. I know it was all in good fun. :)

  19. We do the basic bedtime for today’s generation…much what Seinfeld talks about. Though I think it’s sometimes excessive (we totally have the stuffed animal thing going), I also notice it really helps my kids transition and calm down. Interestingly, I have a lengthy bedtime routine as an adult…bath, lotions, set coffee, take medicine, brush teeth, get in bed, read, lights out. This helps me transition from active time to quiet/sleep time, and for someone with insomnia, it is so helpful. Why do I expect any different from my kids?

  20. Our bedtime routine is one of my favorite parts of the day. Bath, massage, books, nurse, sleep. That is sacred time between my daughter and I.
    I also didn’t notice Joanna asking for any advice!

  21. We’re pretty lucky with our (almost) one year old. He loves his alone time in his crib. He has dinner then it’s either a bath night or straight to lotion and jammies, one last nursing with me, then into bed. I say, “It’s time for bed. Sleep well. Have good dreams. I love you.” Sound machine on and out the door. I keep thinking I should be reading him a bedtime story, but when it’s bedtime, he’s all business. Maybe when he’s older and no longer nursing.

  22. jammies, nurse, bed book! He is 7 months. As soon as the nursing is done its jammies maybe 1-2 books lights out. I will not let me self get into a long routine. No way!!

  23. Feeling like the mean mom compared to everyone else. My bedtime routine for my kids is not unlike the joke. I have two kids, I put them each in their beds, say night night sleep tight, and turn off the light. I put my youngest to bed a half hour earlier than the oldest. Sometimes I read a story to the oldest or let her play quietly in her room before lights out.

  24. i loved the “vivan maier” documentary so much i want to see it again! enchanting and disturbing at the same time. there is more there than meets the eye.
    and “fed up” is s must though it will be hard to munch on popcorn followed by a swig of coke. guilt trip for sure!

  25. Our bedtime routine has been very much the same since the kids were about 3 (they are 10 and 12 now) 8:00 BRUSH TEETH AND GO TO BED. One story when they were little.Now they can read for 10-20 min or so. Only get up to go to the bathroom or to get ready for school/the day. We just made it the rule. No playing games.

  26. I definitely started with a super short bedtime routine with my daughter. It’s grown a little bit – teeth, pee, pjs, story, two songs, three ‘important things’ that she can tell me, and a prayer. Then out I go! But by the time we get to that point of day, it feels like the routine takes forrreeeevvvverrrrr…..
    With my son, it’s 10-15 min of nursing and bam, done ;)

  27. Wow – I don’t have time at night for a 2 hour bedtime routine! We’ve had essentially the same routine since my son was born (he’s 2), and it works for us. Jams, book (just 1 though!), bed. The end. When he was still nursing, it was nurse, jams, book, bed. He doesn’t always fall right asleep, but there’s no drama about it. He just chats with is stuffed animals.

  28. I am not a mother yet, but I laughed at Seinfield’s quote. That was my bedtime! My mom sometimes read to us when we were young or we read to each other once we could, but reading happened regularly enough through the day it wasn’t a big deal to us.

    Generally, my mom and dad would kiss us goodnight, turn off the light and that would be it!

    However, my dad sometimes worked late into the evening, and if he came home after bedtime and we heard him in the kitchen, all bets were off. We were up and eating his very late dinner with him.

    As a nanny during college, however, I learned that some routines were much more elaborate than my own. I liked some of them, but some I just could not manage to do exactly right! It left the child frustrated (and awake) and exhausted me. So I’m not sure how I feel about them, exactly.

  29. Your bedtime with Toby sound similar to ours. It is sweet. Might as well give the kids a little extra snuggles and stories now. Childhood is short :)

  30. I don’t have kids but I vividly remember my own bedtime routine when I was a kid. My older brother and I brushed our teeth and changed into pajamas, then it was time to decide who got the goodnight from dad first. My dad kept a penny above the door of the bathroom and would flip for who got the goodnight first. After that it was just a simple kiss and a tuck in and lights out, but that penny thing I will never forget. Sometimes I wonder if that penny is still up there, even though we haven’t lived in that house for years.

  31. Simplicity is best for everyone involved (parents and kids). My little one is 18 months old and we do bath time, pajamas on, nurse and then she is put in her crib. She falls asleep on her own and I’m usually out of her room by 7:15. No bedtime reading (not necessary yet, she is read to lots during the day and one book is NEVER enough). After dinner the whole house quiets down, no tv etc, just quiet play and after her bath we talk softly to her and the lights are dimmed. I think its all about setting a calm and peaceful environment. Also, I’m never chatty after bath-time; I keep it to a minimum.

  32. Our nighttime routine starts with a bath, then nursing (I have a 5 month old), then I read a couple books, then put her in her crib awake. Sometimes she goes right out, other times she looks around and rolls around till she finds the right spot. I love our routine. Some days I do a baby massage after the bath!

  33. Ha! Loved the Seinfield clip! We are at a bit of a turning point with our 3yo boy. I read Nigel Latta’s book “before your kids send you crazy read this book”. He said that if Toddlers were allowed on the TV show Survivor, they would win every series because Toddlers know how to get what they want!! So so true!! This was a real eye opener to me about how much I let our little one get away with! He then told a story about a little girl who wouldn’t go to sleep without a spoon & a few other idiosyncrasies (and how he subsequently helped the parents with that!)
    He writes in such a funny & straightforward way & since reading it I have been a bit more strict with bedtime. Bath, 2 stories. A kiss and a cuddle, then it’s lights out & in bed. All in a loving and fun way, but sometimes I have to put my foot down for things to happen. I’ll sit quietly in his room for 10mins (usually reading blogs on my iPad) then he knows I’ll leave whether he’s asleep or not. This has been a huge adjustment from him falling alseep in his bed with me while I cuddle him. I’m so happy with the freedom of time that this now gives me! But at the end of the day, each day is a bit different and I am totally reminded that they’re only little for such a short & sweet time and those (often hilarious) bedtime routines will be lovely memories all too soon. Bec x

  34. aaah so glad to see this.. tonight i can be more patient with my daughter’s bedtime routine after reading this.. now it doesn’t look so bad. Love your blog!!

  35. First off (I read a few folks who gave milk at night), please make sure your kids brush or at least rinse after drinking milk. The milk residue left in the mouth will turn to sugar and can cause cavities (used to work chair side for a dentist, grandpa was a dentist).

    My daughter is now 9. Her routine now is simple: when it’s 8pm she stops what she’s doing, goes to the bathroom and does her thing -use the toilet, wash up, brush up (showering happens usually before dinner). Then she sits on my lap while I brush her hair out and we relax for about five minutes (this is the time she gets to watch an “adult” show on TV, usually some reality singing show). Then we walk her to her bedroom, tuck her in, sometimes she asks to snuggle for a few minutes, other times we kiss her goodnight and lights out. As long as she stays in bed, keeps in the dark room, and isn’t playing around she’s good. It takes her anywhere from 5-40 minutes to fall asleep.

  36. Wow, I’m surprised how many people are so critical of Toby’s bedtime routine. Living with little kids is chaotic regardless of how structured our days and routines may be. Their little bodies and brains are constantly changing and most parents are trying to navigate those changes with grace and balance. Toby probably falls asleep most nights feeling loved and happy and that’s wonderful.

    I have a 3 and 5 year old and I could easily sum up their routine as teeth brushing, stories, and bed except that that’s not the reality. My kids are whole people who have bad days that need processing sometimes or who just can’t get comfortable other times or who feel particularly afraid of the dark other nights. I try my hardest to be kind to them and meet their needs and also to be kind to myself and meet my own needs. The reality is that some nights that is a graceful, peaceful bedtime and other nights it’s a little crazy. But I feel pretty damn lucky for all of it.

  37. My husband and I intentionally set up a simple bedtime with our two boys. Teeth, pjs, hug and kiss, and lights out. I’m thankful for the simplicity. As a SAHM of two littles I’m exhausted by bedtime. But I can see that if I was working or once they go to school I wouldn’t mind dragging it out more so we could have additional quiet time to talk. As for now I’m still the person they tell everything too — all day long — so I’m ready to see them off to bed! :)

  38. It’s summer time people! 1. They don’t need a bath because that’s what the swimming pool is for, and 2. Catch some fireflies, have a fire and carry them to bed when they passed out from summer exhaustion!
    Stop controlling and live wildly, tis the season

  39. We had a nightmare bedtime situation for a few years, involving walking around the neighbourhood endlessly until our son fell asleep, and then crossing our fingers and transferring him still asleep into his bed… and then we paid a sleep consultant to sort it out because I was losing my mind.

    Now, it’s 20-30 minutes:
    1. 2 minutes of bed wrestling
    2. Pee
    3. 5 times chasing him from the bathroom to his bedroom pretending to be zombies, but ‘not too real’
    4. Gets into pyjamas
    5. Eats an apple (don’t ask) whilst…
    6. 2 books read
    7. Second pee trip, teeth brushed
    8. Last book
    9. Hugs, kisses, lights out and then we sing twinkle twinkle just outside the door.

    All the chasing and wrestling really helps him settle down, which seems counter-intuitive but the sleep consultant suggested it and it’s totally worked for us. Stays in his room all night, gets up when his Okay to Wake clock turns green.

  40. I occasionally babysit for a darling 2 year old girl on the Upper West Side and her bedtime routine is short and sweet: jammies, milk, a story, brush teeth, prayer, then lights out. Her prayers are my favorite – “Bless mommy, daddy, [me], [herself], and everyone in the Tri-State area.”

    The first time I heard her say this, it was all I could do to stifle my laughter. Apparently she learned it from her dad :)

  41. It’s hard enough just putting MYSELF to bed! I can’t imagine it with kids!!

    x Lily

  42. That is hilarious! And so true. My daughter’s bedtime routine USED to take an hour, but she’s 5 now and knows she the rule is “You don’t have to sleep, but you do have to stay in there.” She gets one or two stories and sometimes one of us will lie down with her and cuddle awhile.

  43. My boys are 7 and 11–we did the same routine with both of them since birth and the routine continues to this day:
    1) quick bath (now they shower by themselves under 5 mins)
    2) brush teeth
    3) use the bathroom
    4) storytime–no more than 10 mins (older one reads by himself, little one reads to me now)
    5) Hug and a kiss from mom and dad
    6) lights out!!

    Please consider cutting Toby’s routine WAY down–especially as Anton gets older. You will kill yourself trying to maintain that routine for two kids! My hubby and I treasure the time we have together after the kids are in bed!

  44. The bedtime routine for my 2.5 year old boy:

    1. brush teeth
    2. bath (wash hair every 3rd night)
    3. pajamas and diaper and lotion
    4. Books in the rocking chair (1-3 books)
    5. In bed, I sing him Wheels on the Bus
    6. Hug, kiss, goodnight!

    He is asleep by 7:30

  45. Oh and she is also put to bed right around 7:00 and wake up about 8:30am So much nicer than our old routine – late late late to bed and late late late to rise. :( Now I have an actual evening to myself and it’s changed my life, HA! seriously, though. :)

  46. Our bedtime routine used to last about an hour too. I finally realized I was reading TOO many books to my 3.5 year old. I also start saying it’s almost bedtime about an hour before bedtime so it didn’t come as a total shock. We have a hearty snack (so she doesn’t wake up hungry in two hours), get pajamas on, brush teeth, take a potty break, choose TWO books (instead of the five or sixI used to allow) and she nurses right to sleep. Now our bedtime routine takes less than 30 minutes and she is out like a light after just two stories. It’s amazing. :)

  47. That’s too funny! I so agree that bedtime has gotten a little out of control! I’ve really tried to simplify and pare down the bedtime routine. We’ve got it down to teeth brushing, bath or wipe down (every other day), lotion up, choose pajamas, story time. On a good night, we can get it all done in 30 minutes. On a tough day, or when my husband does it, it can take as long as an hour and a half.

  48. Our twins are in a good place right now for bedtime routines. They are almost 4 and we start our routine about an hour before bed. First they put on their own jammies, ALWAYS Batman and Superman, teeth get brushed (they LOVE this — thank goodness!), then story time – always two stories, followed by turning on the star turtle night light and they request me to sing some songs. Some of their favorites right now are Maresy Dotes, Deep in the Heart of Texas, You are My Sunshine and Yellow Submarine. Then they always come downstairs at least 6 times each for hugs and kisses. We simply can’t resist. :) I love bedtime right now.

  49. I appreciate the comment from the former Nanny (girlnamedallyn).

    Our routine is simple: Dinner at 6, daughter (20mo) plays around on own as dishes are put away, Bath everyother night. Then PJs and teeth brushed, bedtime stories x1 or 3, the put in crib/turn out light, and walk out at 7pm.

    It’s so nice having the evenings to ourselves.

    we’ll see if this remains easy when we transition to a big bed, and new baby arrives in a few months.

  50. Wow, it’s exhausting just reading some of these routines. First, as several others have posted, overcomplicating these routines has many negative effects. Second, if it’s feeling excessive or out of control, cut it back. As parents, you have that control.

    One of the very first executive functioning skills children learn is the ability to soothe themselves to sleep. Let them learn how.

  51. I love this. So interesting to read about everyone’s routines. For our almost three year old, we do two books downstairs with Mommy (I get home maybe an hour before this, and most of that time is spent having dinner,) upstairs with Daddy to brush teeth and put on pj’s, one more book, then talk about the day, sip of water, and in bed. He tries to stall but knows that the limits are the limits. Now that he wants longer books, the total of three can seem a bit long at times, but I am not one to discourage reading. The entire routine (downstairs to bed) takes at most an hour and for us is a really nice way to end the day.

  52. Joanna, just curious about the reason why you do all of these things at Toby’s bedtime? Do you feel he needs them, or did you and Alex just want to create a series of evening rituals for him at this age?

    Our kids are similarly little, and we have always just put them to bed! In their pajamas of course, with their teeth brushed (usually :)

    They do say goodnight to other parent and siblings, but they simply go to bed! It’s dark, and that’s it.

  53. At around 6:30, it is bath time for all three girls. Then the youngest two (20 months and 7 months)each get a bottle. I put calming oil on them and read a book on the floor. Then the youngest two got sleep around 7 or 7:15. My four year old then goes downstairs (the perks of being older!)and has a snack and we talk about her day, watch cartoons, and/ or read until it is bedtime at 7:45. She must have her Hello Kitty sleeping mask on, or she will not fall asleep (as she says, “It helps me fall asleep!”) Then it is MOMMY time :) :)

  54. 1 story or chapter in a book, prayers, hugs and kisses then lights out good night!

  55. Bedtime is out of control in our house. Brush teeth, floss, put on pajamas, read 2-3 books, Daddy tells a story and does “questions” with kid (kid asks about anything and everything in an attempt to avoid ever going to sleep), Mommy tells a story and does “questions”, one last trip to the potty, one last drink of water, administer fluoride chewable, negotiate if stories and/or questions were sufficiently long enough, hugs with Mommy, Daddy called back in to give more hugs, finally kid goes to sleep. It takes nearly 2 hours.

  56. for our 2.5 year old it’s dinner, bathtime, toothbrushing, and pajamas followed by an episode of pee wee’s playhouse on youtube (our favorite) on my laptop on my bed. then we take him to his room, ask him what tunes he wants on his ipod (usually mother hips, los lobos, the band or the beatles), then we dance for a couple minutes with the lights off, and then tuck him in for the night.

  57. As a kid, I had this whole verbal routine I would make my mother go through at bedtime that involved all these promises and somehow ended with us wishing each other a “turtle goodnight.”

  58. Our bedtime routine has definitely been tweaked over the last few years and we have finally got it down. I run the bath at 8pm. My 4yr old son is expected to brush his teeth, undress himself and get in the bath, this is usually 8:15. Outta the bath at 8:30, I help him with pajamas and brushing his hair. He picks out 3 books. I let him read by himself for 15 min. I join him in bed and read 1 story to him and then turn off the light and cuddle with him for a few minutes. I have found this routine to be foolproof 90% of the time. :)

  59. this is so timely! Our daughter…who’s almost 3 normally goes down really well with the routine of bath, lil cartoon while we get her in jammies, milk, brush the teeth, 2 books and lights out. This past week she’s become a monster….demand crazy and wants one of us in bed with her and tells us she isn’t sleepy at 9 pm! i hope this is another phase.

  60. This was sooooo funny!! We do dinner, bath, jammies, nurse, 2-3 short bible stories out of his toddler bible, prayer, one lullaby and cuddle and it’s into the crib. My son is 9 months old. I’m sure when he starts to talk we will adapt it and probably add more stories.

  61. Just wanted to add that I really liked what Mari D says here above me about nighttime being important. I can just now begin to see it with the older now that he’s talking more. Sharing about your day when going to bed is a great way to end it.

  62. omg, I agree you might want to shorten it.

    Ours is: using the bathroom, changing into PJs, getting the room ready (this is the special part — she gets out a little cloth to put the toothbrush on and to use for wiping her mouth, closes the curtains, turns on nightlight, gets out a little guy/a lovey for the night, picks out a book,) then I brush and floss her teeth, brush her hair, read her a book while she sits on my lap. Then into bed, I put on a little aquaphor around her mouth to protect her mouth while she chews on her lovey, and then we turn off the light and have “talk time,” where I lie next to her and we can talk about whatever she wants for about 5 minutes. Then Daddy comes in to bring her a sip of water and say a quick goodnight, then we say our I love yous, I turn on her quiet classical music CD (it lasts 30 min) and that’s it. It takes about 20-25 min for the whole routine. We do a bath sometimes but not every day, and I usually do it in the late afternoon so that it’s relaxing, but not right at bedtime because she loves the bath and could totally use it to keep staying up!!

    Of course — ANYTIME you change anything with kiddos it requires consistency and holding the line for many days but they WILL get it and in the long run I think that a short routine is better for everyone – just think about the service you will be doing for him by teaching him that he doesn’t need much to fall asleep!

    Every time I change something it is tough for a week or more – just fyi. That doesn’t mean you should give up! I used to bring snacks to school for the kids to eat in the car on the way home from preschool/school (home is only 8 minutes away, but I was ‘worried’ they were hungry.) They got sooooo used to it. Then one day I decided I did not want to do that anymore – they could wait the 8 minutes to have their snack once we were home and washed up for real (I used hand sanitizer in the car, but not as good as the sink! Plus I didn’t want to pack the snacks – a lot easier to make them at home.) Boy, my kiddos were so ornery about this for at least a couple weeks. The whining in the car about why there wasn’t a snack immediately was CRAZY. But after a few wks they finally got it and now there is no complaining whatsoever and they can have a snack right when they get home – which makes much more sense for everyone!
    Hang in there, Jo!

  63. For my 2 1/2-year-old:
    -Put on pajamas.
    -Brush teeth (or fight about brushing teeth and then brush teeth).
    -Use toilet.
    -Get her blanket and doll of choice and put them in our bed.
    -Climb into our bed and turn out light.
    -Sing her a song (if she’s having trouble falling asleep, usually if she’s taken a nap during the day).
    -Stay with her until she falls asleep.
    We used to read a book, but ever since she stopped napping and we made bedtime a little later (so my husband who works late can see her before she goes to sleep), she’s usually too tired for it.

  64. I thought Toby was sleep-trained?

    We’re bath, books, boob and out ;).

  65. My kids are 1 and 3 and they both go to bed at 7.

    The younger one has evening meal (sandwiches or warm cereal), is changed/washed, brushes teeth, says goodnight to his brother and other mom and then I nurse him. He is put down in his crib with pacifier and teddy and I say goodnight and leave the room, light off and door shut.
    Older had the same routine when he was younger, and it’s still similar, but now includes reading books instead of nursing. :-)

    Keeping bedtime simple was important to me from the start. I need those hours alone/with wife in the evening, and I felt that avoiding conflicts during bed time when they’re tired and we’re finishing up our day was important. So the more habits and specific requests, the bigger the chance of failing or doing something “wrong”. We very rarely have conflicts after they’re in their beds. No stalling techniques. If my older one requests food or water, I know it’s because he’s actually hungry or thirsty and not some plot to stay up.

    My kids are never left to cry at night, we always go in and pick them up, comfort and cuddle, but that’s “all” we do. We don’t stay with them and stroke their backs just because it’s nice. Plenty of time for cuddling before they’re in their beds. (I say never, but of course, if they’re sick or scared or ask us to, we stay.) And they both like their beds, they never don’t want to go to bed. Of course we fight over nappy changes and brushing teeth, but they’re quite content going to bed. I’m very happy about it – I want them to be comfortabel in their own company and in their beds.

  66. I babysat two children for a few years and the bedtime routine was somewhat like Seinfeld described, which made me laugh out loud too.

    Also, as a child my father would always create and tell my brother and me a story. It was so magical, I can remember the stories to this day. It was kind of silly sometimes, because he would create something with events that had happened to us during the day. For instance, once my brother (my twin) swapped shoes by mistake with his colleague at school, and my father created this funniest tale of flying shoes. We still laugh at that to this day!

    I’m just telling this story because I think bedtime routine is important. It’s a bonding time and kids will be able to remember these moments very vividly when they grow up. But it must be kept short, though. But by all means, don’t just switch it straight to ‘darkness’ and ‘goodnight’. :)

  67. I LOVE this segment with Jerry…it is really funny & completely accurate! LOL

    My 6 year old son first flosses and brushes his teeth, whilst he’s that I’ll lay out his clothes for the next day and arrange his pillows etc. Some nights we read or watch a short cartoon on the iPad…but every night ends with a back rub and a short lullaby…he cannot go without his back rub….it’s essential to his routine. It was fun ready everyone’s contributions.

    Best, Lisa

  68. Mine are grown now. The routine was a bath, prescrption lotion (bigtime dermatitis) and pajamas, one story (either a book or a parental adlib), and a kiss goodnight.
    The one exception was a five year old who went through a phase of worry about possible monsters under the bed: I would sweep the room (under the bed, in the closet, 30 seconds for the whole room) and that seemed to convince him he was protected for the night.
    Bigger kids read to themselves.

  69. Our children, aged 5 and 8, brush their teeth, get a bedtime story (read by me mostly), then get a kiss and a hug. The older one reads books and magazines till she dozes off (between nine and ten thirty), the younger one gets to keep his light on (according to him, he never sleeps before midnight, according to me, he fall asleep around 9-9.30 :).

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  71. I keep it short! Pajamas, 1 book, and then hugs and kisses. When they ask for another book I tell them I will read to them ALL they want to during the day, but they usually don’t take me up on it because they are just stalling :) The kids have my full attention all day long, but when it comes to bedtime, I am very happy to keep it under control so I can have some couples relaxation time before I go to bed myself.

  72. My 4 year old son’s routine nightly. Almost the exact same each night:

    1. get 2 small toys for bed. toys change each night.
    2. say prayers.
    3. Mom sings and improvised song that she makes up on the spot. The subject is one of Liam’s choosing, or one pulled out of thin air.
    4. Get a different book for him to keep in bed.
    5. Kisses and hugs from mom, then dad.
    6. He asks us each what we are going to dream about that night, and we ask him.
    7. He reminds us to leave the hall light on “even until the morning”.
    8. FINALLY we say goodnight.

    If any one of these things are forgotten, it’s the apocalypse. If we forget to say what we are going to dream about, or he forgets to tell us to leave the hall light on, he calls us back into the bedroom to rectify.


  73. We have 2 girls, Jane is 4 and Maggie is 1.

    We have dinner as a family at 6. At 6.45 we stick them in the bath together. By 7 or 7.10 we are on the sofa together reading. Each child gets to pick a story. My husband reads Jane’s pick while I nurse Maggie. Then I read Maggie’s pick (which is always the same, Goodnight Moon). Then we stick Maggie in her crib, Jane gets in her bed, we give each one a kiss and shut the door.

    They share a room so they often kibbitz for a few minutes (and by kibbitz I mean Jane will play peekaboo with Maggie to make her laugh). Jane is allowed to read in bed with her head torch (a hiking flashlight you wear on your head), but they’re usually asleep within 15min of us saying goodnight.

    It wasn’t always this way, up until Maggie was 6 months old and she moved into the bedroom with Jane, they had separate routines and it was EXHAUSTING. Now it’s quite efficient and we all really enjoy it.

    My girls have the same age gap as Toby and Anton – it’s perfect don’t you think? I’m dying to have another one but I really think the 3 year gap is perfect.

  74. Before they could read we would let each child pick out one book (three total with three kids) and we’d read them all together after brushing teeth. Now they they all can read on their own we brush teeth, let them read with their lights for 30 minutes alone, then lights out. So EASY!

    Every time I hear of a friends hour long bedtime routine I pity, of course the kids are going to stretch it out if you let them, don’t cave ;) I seriously NEED that quiet time with my husband at night to recharge for the next day.

  75. We put on pj’s, read a story, listen to Lyle Lovett’s “If I Had a Boat”, sing “Twinkle Twinkle” and then it’s lights out. Our son will usually talk or sing to himself for another hour, but he’s happy and we’re happy to have him do it. He has a lovey and a supply cup of water in bed w him. It works well for us :)

  76. My husband and I do different things when we put our 18-month-old down, so luckily she’s not set on one routine. Here’s mine:
    – Quick bath
    – Two books max
    – Say goodnight to Nina’s room in “Goodnight Moon” fashion (i.e., the framed woodland baby animals from The Animal Print Shop!)
    – Sing a lullaby (our tradition is “Bridges and Balloons” by Joanna Newsom–so sweet and imaginative!)
    – Say a quick prayer of thanks (i.e., “Thanks for this day, for all the birds safe in their nests, for whatever this is, for life” by Barbara Kingsolver)

    The Shaded Acorn

  77. We read some great advice from Dr. Kevin Leman around bedtimes-he said you should be careful with bedtimes and what routine you set up because it’s very hard to change it with little kids. He suggested keeping it simple (ie. brush teeth, couple of stories, say goodnight and leave). And we have found it to be so true, the more you give in (okay just one more song! 3 more minutes of cuddles!) the longer it gets and it’s too much. Our kids totally know how to work that! So we try to be firm and do a small routine (brush teeth, jammies, 3 stories, tuck them in and leave) and if they get out of bed, just say “go back to bed” and barely acknowledge them so that it’s not a big deal and they aren’t getting something out of it (like getting us in their room for one more snuggle). it’s worked great and I recommend Leman’s book, “Have a New Kid by Friday” for great advice on parenting. :)

  78. Toby’s bedtime routine seems a tad indulgent. My bedtime routine was a shower at 7:30pm (after Jeopardy), some tv time, teeth brushing, then I was allowed to read by myself till 8:30 and then absolute lights out before 9.

  79. I totally agree with girnamedallyn’s comment about keeping it simple – for all kinds of reasons. As for my two girls its basically a quick bath, a couple of chapters of whichever current book I’m reading them (ie The BFG) whilst we snuggle on our bed and they drink a small cup of warm milk, and then straight to bed! Weekends we mix it up a bit as there’s no school in the morning and they get to stay up a bit later and maybe watch TV or play a bit, or we just hang out and chat on our bed, but weekdays, anymore than the usual shorter routine and they ineviatably end up getting overtired and grumpy which spells disaster all round!! :)

  80. I don’t have kids, so I can’t really judge parents, but I always did a pretty simple routine for kids I babysat for. Baths (depending on the family), pajamas, one or two books, and then lights out. Sometimes the parents would come home in disbelief that their kid was asleep. There was one kid (who is now 20; so bizarre) who always wanted me to sit on his bed until he fell asleep. He usually didn’t talk or anything, so I indulged.

  81. From start to finish, probably about 1.5-2 hours. Our son just turned 2. He mostly takes showers with one of us in the evening, then brushing and flossing teeth, then since we cosleep we all get into bed for stories (usually one in English and one in Spanish, but sometimes more), then we talk about our day and then lights out, I lay down with him and nurse him/stay with him until he falls asleep. This last part is what takes the most time, usually 45 mins to an hour. Somedays it feels overwhelming, by the time he’s asleep it’s usually already 9 but then I remind myself he’s only little this once and he won’t need such a long bedtime routine forever. It works for us and I do treasure this quite time together as a family when he’s cuddled up in between us, still for what seems like the first time all day (aside from his nap) and he smells like yummy baby soap. :)

  82. I’m with Jerry. I mean, we do brush teeth, showers, and PJs of course. But then it’s a story, a hug, and lights out! Even when they were babies…a story or two, maybe a song, I love you, good night!

  83. Pajamas, brush teeth, give parent who is not reading a hug and a kiss goodnight, read for about 15-20 minutes (five to ten if it has been the longest day ever) have him tell me the one thing that made him happy and the one thing that made him sad that day, a few hugs and kisses and goodnight. Usually start at 7.00, shutting door by 7.30 and he turns his light out at 8.00. He is five and 1/2 and that has been our routine for years now.

  84. waow, you are really patient. The evening routine is the following: light dinner, brush teeth, story by mummy, kisses and sometimes stories by herself!

  85. When we’re home and not running about doing stuff. We do baths every other night as the start of our routine.

    For my 6 month old it’s supposed to be books, nurse, song, crib, but usually since she waits up for me to come home she’s too tired for books before bed and it’s just PJ’s, Nurse, Song, crib.

    For my almost 3 year old it’s brush teeth (when he’ll let us) and use the potty, maybe put on PJ’s maybe be naked, books (2-3 depending on the time), songs (recently he’s been demanding “new” songs which means like 4 songs), lights out. Usually he’ll have lots of excuses or need more water or want us to lay down with him.

    I always do bed time with both kids since I come home from work about half an hour before we start and my husband is with them all day. It’s my special time with them. Each of them always get a song I made up specific to them as the last song of the night before bedtime kiss.

  86. Ha! Love Seinfeld! My bedtime routine as a kid was similar to his. Pajamas and lights out. My sisters and I shared a room so sometimes we’d stay up, chatting and laughing. If we got too noisy, my mom would bang on the door and say ‘BEDTIME GIRLS! YOU CAN TALK ALL YOU WANT TOMORROW!’
    I have an almost two year old boy and his routine is pretty simple: bath, pajamas and three books. We have to hide most of his books and only present three at a time because if he sees them all, he wants to hear all of them!

  87. We keep it pretty short, and my husband and I switch off nights: go upstairs, brush teeth, diaper change and into the PJs, one book, then off to be tucked in with a song and kisses. Then the white noise gets turned on and the light gets turned off, and we’re done.

    I think too that though we spend all day encouraging our daughter to run around and do things herself, it’s nice for us to take over a bit at bedtime — I carry her from her changing table to the chair to read and then carry her to her crib. It’s partly so that we can keep her from dawdling, but also to signify that we’re entering a low-activity, low-energy time, that ends with being still and falling asleep. Sometimes, if I think she’s a bit wound-up, I read her the story in a whisper, so she has to get very close to my mouth to hear me, which is obviously adorable and cozy, but also, again denotes that it’s quiet time now.

    I’d say the whole thing — from going upstairs to when we come back down — is 20-25 minutes.

  88. Bedtime is our downfall I’m afraid, we try so hard. Bath, book, milk and darkness but it doesn’t always work. If it’s taking an insane amount of time to get them to settle we move them into our bed until they fall asleep which is what they ultimately want of course… Co-sleeping by default, although we move them back into their beds once they’re asleep. Dr. Ferber I’m afraid wouldn’t approve.

    Having two boys so close in age (3 and 1 1/2) we put them to bed at the same time (they share a room) and if we can get one to sleep the other isn’t far behind but if both are awake it can take them a while to settle down, this I fear is only going to get worse as they get older.

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  90. I love bedtime. I get home from work around 5:30 and my daughter’s bedtime is 7/7:30, so we play, do bathtime, vitamins, teethbrushing, book, breastfeeding (I rub her feet while I breastfeed and if I forget she sticks her little foot in my face! LOL) and then snuggles and when she is ready for bed she points at her crib. I love it but sometimes I am so tired by the time she goes down that I go to bed soon after!

  91. Just finished sleep training my 2 yr old. Ah! Bliss! Everyone is happier.
    He can be full on hyper mode, but by the time we start his routine – he’s O-U-T.
    Bath, teeth brush, jammies, 2 books, song, mom’s gone!He doesn’t see me again until 6am.
    It’s the best. So easy/ stress free. No one leaves crying ;)

  92. This makes me feel so much better about the fight against “scope creep” in our 3 year-old son’s bedtime routine!

    We have it at bath, 1 book, 1 song, ups and downs of the day (we throw out the bad things with a throwing motion), prayer (thanks for today’s good things, grace for tomorrow’s bad things) and a little snuggle time. Ups & downs and snuggle time have been added since he entered the tantrum-y threes. I love short and sweet, but sometimes you have to address the needs, you know?

    That said, there’s always something I have to say no to. I consider it part of fighting the good fight. :-)

  93. i don’t recall much of a routine for bedtime for me.

    for my sisters, there was no tucking in or bedtime stories, or singing. as babies, they were put in bed and then ignored. as they got older and able to put themselves to sleep, they were told to go to bed and that was that. it wasn’t until i started reading mommy blogs and such that i realized there’s rituals and routines etc.

  94. Bath, pj’s, brush teeth, read a book (one each), then a hug and kiss goodnight. They can look at books quietly in bed until they go to sleep. I keep it short and sweet, and they know that once I leave the room that they won’t get any more attention from me unless it’s a real emergency (illness, nightmares, etc.)

  95. I try and wrestle-brush my 17 month old’s teeth (since he wants to do it) and then read him 2 books around 8:30pm. I snuggle with him for a couple of minutes and then put him in his crib. I cut the light off and shut the door. If he’s not completely tired or angry that I’ve wrestled the toothbrush away from him, he screams for about 10-15 minutes. Then I’m off to my 3 year old around 9pm. We brush his teeth and we make our way to his room to read a couple of books. Lately he’s been making up his bed and getting into it on his own free will. Occasionally, he’ll jump up to go hug and kiss his father. We read our books and he snuggles up with his lovey. It’s taken a very long time for us to get to this magical place (that I’m sure won’t last long). There were months when it would take 2 hours to put him to bed (and I would fall asleep with him on the floor)….

  96. I try to keep it short. For my 8 month old, I change him and put on his pjs. I give him a bottle while I hold him. When he is done, we pray. I put him in his bed and he falls asleep. If he is still antsy after his bottle, I will sing him a song and/or read him a story, but if he doesn’t need it, I don’t do it.

  97. Our son will be two in August and had this routine since e was 5 months old

  98. My kids are 9 and 12, but we never did anything elaborate…baths, a story, and bed when they were younger. Now they take their own showers, get to bed and yes, like Jerry Seinfeld, bedtime is DARKNESS.

  99. My husband leaves for work daily at 6am, so since we’ve had a baby, I’ve really come to covet time with him at night. We have really trained our son to love his crib and know that when he goes in it means he goes to sleep, though oftentimes he plays in there by himself for up to an hr. We sing ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to him and kiss him and hug him and put him down. It takes less than five minutes and I have a solid 5 interrupted hours with my man before we go to bed ourselves!

  100. We try to keep ours simple. Bath every other night. Jammies. He has his evening bottle, we brush his teeth, then it’s two (short) books, a song, a nursery rhyme (if I’m putting him to bed, not if my husband is), kiss, and lights out. (Our son is thirteen months old.) As he gets older, the milk will move earlier in the evening, and I’d like to eliminate one of the stories (especially since bigger kid books are not so simple as Brown Bear, Brown Bear)

  101. For starters, we like to joke that the “bedtime” routine actually starts with dinner since we go straight from dinner to bathtime to bedtime. Bathtime involves a 10-15 soak (with soap and washing depending on the day of the week – we shoot for 3/week – and level of groodiness), followed by drying/lotioning/repeated requests to “please put your pajamas on” to the 3yo.

    The 3yo then gets 3 stories (most often from daddy), 3 songs if she wants them (lately it’s hit or miss), hugs and kisses if she wants them (also hit or miss), and then the gate goes up (~7:00) and she’s on her own. So there’s usually anywhere from an hr to 2 hrs of “reading” and playing with the lights off at 8 (if one was left on) which is usually accompanied by a potty request. We’re lucky if she’s asleep by 9.

    The 1yo…. she’s easy. dinner and bath as above. Then one last feeding and into the crib. 95% of the time she’s out by 6:45.

  102. As a former nanny (who loved it dearly!), can I just say, PLEASE don’t overcomplicate bedtime routines if you ever hope to be away from your child at bedtime. It can make it so hard on both the caregiver and the child. Things get confused, things aren’t done the “right” way, sometimes children take advantage of the confusion and drag it out, sometimes the caregiver just thinks the child is trying to take advantage… it can be a real mess. Plus, if there’s more than one child in the home, it can leave a LOT of unsupervised time for the other children to get into mischief.
    My husband and I haven’t started having kids yet, but I’m a big fan of one story, short prayer, and a kiss. My mom’s little prayer was always “Angels watch over you, God be with you, and pleasant dreams.” Short and sweet. Then lights out!

  103. I feel very fortunate that our baby loves sleep as much as I do and requires very little in the way of routine. Essentially, we give him a bath, apply lotion, put on his PJs, read him a book, and stick him in the crib. We’re expecting our second in September, and I am under no delusions that it will be this easy the second time around… :)