Children's Bedtime Routine

Two secret ingredients for a flexible (and super authentic) children’s bedtime routine

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The two secret ingredients? 

Three stories and a song.

If you’re feeling cheated that those are lame secret ingredients, stick with me and I’ll elaborate 🙂 

A bedtime routine is important for children

There are a gazillion resources out there that explain the benefits of a bedtime routine for kids and while the ideas vary, the basic premise is the same; it’s important to have a routine to help set the stage for sleep.

But even a bedtime routine can (and should) be customized for more authenticity.

When the kids are young, you definitely get to call the shots, and there are many hundreds (or thousands, if you have more than one kid!) of bedtime routine opportunities.

A basic routine usually includes a bath, a snack, and maybe a massage with lavender lotion for babies. Reading a book, talking about your day, telling a story, etc. As a parent of three children, the oldest being mid-teen, I’ve had my fair share of tuck-ins throughout all ages and stages.

I wholeheartedly agree that a routine is a great idea and very helpful, but I’ve also learned that there are two secret ingredients that make it more joyful, memorable, fun and easy.

First; three stories.

The key here is that they’re the same three books, and very short books. And cute. Because if you’re going to be reading them two thousand times it’s a good idea to actually like the books. 

Our three slightly varied for each of my three kids, but Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown was consistent for each (the board book, not the paperback. It was smaller, more portable, and super durable)

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This book is just a very sweet, simple tool to set the stage for sleeping. Not much action in it, super basic. Goodnight Moon was a staple for all my children 🙂

I Love You Through and Through and The Black Cat were the other go-to’s.

   Click here to Buy on Amazon

  Click here to Buy on Amazon

So the real magic here is to read them the exact same way, every. single. time. Use the same voice(s), the same pauses, inflection, expression, timing, everything.

This serves multiple purposes:

  • You get to be so accustomed to reading it that it becomes automatic – if you’re worn out after a long day your brain can switch to autopilot if you need it to.
  • If you are doing bedtime away from home and accidentally forget the books, you’ll be able to recite them from memory. It keeps the feeling of home, even when away from home.
  • As time passes and older siblings occasionally put the younger ones to bed, you may discover that they read the books the exact same way you do; same tones, pauses, expression, etc. The very first time I overheard this and realized how much my kids absorb what I do, it brought tears to my eyes. And there again, it gives the stability and comfort of routine for my youngest even when it isn’t the same person putting her to bed. 
  • It’s just fun. It makes the story special, very personalized, and a memory that sticks with kids for a long time, if not forever. 

The beauty of the three short books is that it’s flexible. If you’re strapped for time you can cut it down to one story, or two short ones, or the longest, or the favourite, or whatever. It still keeps the general routine the same but gives you some leeway. And if you want to switch one of the books out after a while there are still a couple of mainstays.

The second secret ingredient is a song.

Not just any old lullaby, but a real song. Yep that’s right, a real song.

Something fun, something you might hear on the radio, something you actually like to sing. You don’t have to be a great singer because kids don’t really care and it’s the act of doing it that matters.

My go-to is Wagon Wheel, by Old Crow Medicine Show (there’s a newer country version but it’s not nearly as good in my opinion, and when it runs through my head I want to hear my favourite version.) For a time I sang My Church by Maren Moris (how many lullabies start with “I’ve cussed on a Sunday” ?? LOL) and The Gambler by Kenny Rogers (some good words to live by in that chorus!)

No need to sing an entire song – just a verse and a chorus are fine enough. And when you’re crunched for time you can even drop one of the two. 

Singing a (fun) song to your child creates a bond. It’s something you do with them that makes them feel cherished, and one of a kind.

Routines change, they’re dynamic as needs and circumstances change, and as your children grow.

When they become school aged they start to bring home reading that they have to do, and that typically ends the three short books stage. But the song can still remain, keeping that special tradition that you’ve had together.

Traditions are like cement for a family.

They help weave the bond together, something that gets shared between each member that they’ll probably continue on for their kids. 

It’s these beautiful things that help make life memorable and personalized, and that’s kinda the point of life I think. To live it on your own terms, express yourself, put your stamp on it, do it your way, live it authentically. 

Your child may not remember how you did their laundry or wiped their noses but they will remember how you made them feel at the end of every day.

Simply spending those few minutes each night reading our special books and singing a special song always gave me gratitude and perspective. No matter what went on during the day, it was a gentle reminder that my little one was still learning, that life can be big and scary and that I only get to be in charge of them for a very short time. 

I encourage you to start a memorable bedtime routine with your children if they’re still young. If you’ve missed the boat on your own kids don’t worry! You can always start with the next generation and make it something special you do with your grandchildren.

It’s never too late to choose joy and create unique moments and memories.

(Just a note: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I may receive commission from purchases you make using my affiliate links, at no extra cost to you.)

2 thoughts on “Two secret ingredients for a flexible (and super authentic) children’s bedtime routine”

  1. Bedtimes are such a special time with kids! I still lay down and cuddle my 5-year-old to sleep whenever I’m not putting my baby girl to sleep at the same time. It really does make for some special moments 🙂

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