5 Steps to a Positive Bedtime Routine with Kids

5 Steps to a Positive Bedtime Routine with Kids


For most families, bedtime is a struggle. Our children’s desires--a drink of water, one more story--compete with our attempts to get them to bed (and stay there).

In the evening, I'm winding down but my children are just getting started. Simple tasks like brushing their teeth, getting pajamas on and a glass of water can turn into a drama that leaves us all frustrated and annoyed.  Not exactly ideal conditions for sleep!

 Sleep problems are one of the most common concerns reported to pediatricians. The solution they most frequently recommend? A consistent nightly bedtime routine.

But what if bedtime routines could do more than just help children sleep? In a few simple steps, evening routines can actually provide us with a deep connection to ourselves and our children, and even strengthen a growth mindset.

Here are 5 ways to create a peaceful and positive bedtime experience, one that nurtures both you and your children.

5 steps positive bedtime routine - big life journal

Cultivate a connection with our new My Bedtime Routine printable.  This colorful and easy-to-assemble activity is perfect for creating calmness at bedtime.  You and your child can design a bedtime routine that works for your family.  Sign up here to get your free printable today. 

My Bedtime Routine printable for kids

1. Start with Yourself

Before you tackle the bedtime routine, hit pause. This might be the first time you’ve slowed down today. If so, the transition from day to night is the perfect opportunity!

When I pause, I often notice a sense of urgency to get bedtime over with so I can finally relax and have some me time. Once I realise this, I can consciously choose to begin the evening routine with a different mindset, one of calm presence instead of rushing.

A simple way to practice pausing is the “3 Centre Check-In.” Developed by mindfulness teacher and leadership coach Pamela Weiss, this process is about developing a relationship with your “whole self” (mind, feelings and body).

To begin, Weiss suggests closing your eyes and taking a few deep, full breaths. Next, simply turn your attention inward like a beam of light and focus on each of these 3 areas:

  • Head-What am I thinking? What am I aware of in my mind? Notice the words or chatter and just allow whatever is there.
  • Heart-What am I feeling? What am I aware of in my heart? Imagine you can breathe in and out of your heart.
  • Body-What am I sensing? What sensations am I aware of in my body? Notice what’s happening in your body now.

Once you’ve finished checking in, let your eyes open and reorient to the room. Congratulations! You’ve just taken some much-deserved me time and likely shifted your mindset too.

3 Center Check In - Big Life Journal

2. Create a Soothing Atmosphere

This step involves preparing your environment for sleeping.

Environmental rituals generally change the ambience of the home to give the child conscious or unconscious cues that sleep time is coming.

- Matthew Utley, parenting writer

Consider physical signals you can easily send, like lowering the lights, putting away electronics for the night or lighting candles. In fact, anything you can do to decrease artificial lighting will help.

While our sense of sight is the most important environmental factor affecting sleep, consider engaging all five of your child’s senses for a greater impact:

  • Sight: dimmed lights, candles, reading Growth Mindset illustrated story
  • Touch: warm bath, rubbing back, cuddling
  • Smell: creams, diffusers, essential oil, lavender shampoo
  • Sound: soothing music, white noise, speaking in quiet voices, lullabies
  • Taste: mindful sip of cool water, notice the taste and sensation of toothpaste

Together, these environmental changes send a powerful message that it’s time for rest.

Looking for the perfect music playlists? We’ve got you covered! Check out our

Love Yourself Mix and our Relax Your Mind Mix on our Spotify channel.

Shopify Playlist

3. Connect through Rituals

We already know the incredible benefits associated with family routines and rituals--improved relationships, reduced stress and even social skills. Routines also provide predictability, key for making children feel safe and ready for bed.

Everyone needs a series of predictable steps they take every night to help them sleep.

- Jill Spivack, sleep specialist

Like many homes, our ritual starts with bathtime, toothbrushing and a few stories. We finish up with the Gratitude Body Scan, a favourite activity that combines mindfulness and gratitude. As I tuck the girls in, we focus on each body part from feet to head, bringing attention and thankfulness to our bodies for the hard work they do for us.

Here are some other ideas to sprinkle in:

  • Say 3 things you love about each other (“What I love about you is…”) and name a specific quality.
  • Reflect on what went well today (“What is one good thing that happened today?”) or choose 1-2 Cards from Three Seas Conversation Cards to discuss.
  • Say goodnight to each other, the moon and stars and those you both love. We like to list a few friends and family members who are also safe and cosy in their beds.
  • Gratitude Body Scan (see above)

Conversation Cards- big life journal

Following a consistent series of rituals at bedtime will send those “go to sleep” signals children rely on, while strengthening your bond.

4. Focus on Positives

As parents, how we think and talk about our kiddos at bedtime impacts their behaviours. What kind of mindset do we want to reflect? Check out How to Teach Growth Mindset to Kids for a detailed explanation of growth and fixed mindsets.

BLJ - the 4 week guide

Parenting coach Avital Schreiber Levy describes how her unconscious beliefs negatively impacted her son’s sleep. Describing him (and herself) as a “difficult sleeper” made it hard to see his abilities.

When Schreiber Levy “began to think of him as someone who knows his own body and who will rest it when it needs rest,” both of their evenings improved.

To shift toward a growth mindset, make a list of positive bedtime affirmations with your children. They might include:

  • “My body knows just how to get comfortable and rest.”
  • “The light is low and perfect, just how I like it.”
  • “I feel relaxed in my body”
  • “I have my sleeping music on.”
  • “I sleep well and wake up feeling rested and ready for my day.”
  • “I grow my brain every time I sleep!”

Children can even make a Treasure Box full of sleepytime affirmations. For this activity, have a look at My Mighty Treasure Coins in the Self-Esteem and Confidence Kit. Simply buy (or build) a small wooden treasure box to paint or decorate. Then make coins out of thick cardstock or cardboard that are big enough to write on. Have them write their favourite affirmations and simply choose one before bed to read and reflect on.

My Mighty Treasure Coins - Big Life Journal

5. Let Them “Own” the Routine

There’s no prescription for the perfect bedtime routine. And in all likelihood, your family already some good practices in place.

Together, talk about what already works well and encourage your children's buy-in by explaining that “quality time” with each kiddo happens only when everyone follows the routine. When children take ownership over this step, the likelihood of their resisting bedtime (and you) greatly decreases.

Here are some ways children can take control:

  • Create a “checklist” of things that help them sleep--cuddly toy, comfortable room temperature, a nightlight
  • Make choices from limited options (which pajamas, who would like to bath first, select 3 books to read)
  • Give specifics, like the exact number of books/songs/kisses they want (this will also discourage those “one more story” requests)
  • Turn on soothing music and choose track
  • “Pick a dream” to have tonight or discuss their favourite ways to feel calm

A final recommendation is as simple as it is effective: a “sleep card” good for one free pass out of bed.

Bedtime resistance is about escaping that experience of bedtime that is essentially like a giant time out—the day is over, we're done playing and we're hanging out in a dark room. With the pass, children have a way to escape that in a way that's acceptable.

- Connie Schnoes, psychologist

With the pass, children know they can leave their room if they truly need to and parents can relax knowing the struggle is over.

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