Are you looking for a bedtime routine for toddlers and babies? Would you like this routine to last through each age? Discover how you can create a simple and meaningful bedtime routine for your toddler or baby, and continue it throughout their childhood.
Some people find routines to be suffocating. I find it to be just the opposite. Our bedtime routine actually gives us a lot of freedom. With our well-established bedtime routine, I can get all three kids to bed quickly and easily.
Because our routine is so established, I can do the routine in any child’s bedroom, in the living room, or even outside! Our bedtime routine helps get the kids to bed quickly if we had a later night out. It even allows our kids to nap somewhere else, fairly easily.
We have cluster babies, that is, our children are very close in age to each other. They are 3 years old, 1.5 years old, and 0.5 years old. Because we have a house full of tiny people, naptime is an essential part of our day, I take it as seriously as bedtime. I want those kids to nap at naptime, so our naptime routine is identical to our bedtime routine.
There are five parts to our bedtime routine: jammies, books, songs, prayers, and cuddles.
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Bedtime Routine Part One: Jammies
This is an obvious step: get the pjs on. We will sometimes do bathtime before bedtime, but I really prefer to do it earlier in the day, when they aren’t so tired.
No matter the age, pajamas on is the first step. I dress the toddler and the baby, and my oldest dresses herself.
Bedtime Routine Part Two: Books
I read three books at each bedtime and naptime with my toddlers. I do this for several reasons. It builds reading into our day, every single day. This is crucial for them to become lifelong readers. It is essential to help them to love to read, build reading confidence and just to be interested in reading as they get older.
Beginning at eighteen months, my children will have read 7,665 books by their fifth birthday, just from naptime and bedtime. What an advantage this is for them! That is being exposed to speech patterns, vocabulary, stories, characters, and informational text 7,665 times!
As a kindergarten teacher, parents were always asking me what they could do to help their children to read, and to learn to love to read. The obvious answer, of course, was to read with their kids. The more they are read to, the better off they will be in the long term.
Here’s a great article reviewing the benefits of reading to babies. The benefits include allowing your baby to be exposed to speech and strengthening their own language skills.
Reading with children is a crucial precursor for successful readers. When you read with your toddler, they are beginning to understand that the marks on the page have meaning. This concept is strengthened when you reread the same books. Your toddler is being exposed to a wide variety of vocabulary. A large vocabulary can be an indicator for success with reading later on. Your child is listening to different speech patterns and what reading sounds like.
By reading with my children a minimum of six times a day, they are really getting some great benefits!
I just do one book, for now, with my eight month old when I put him down for nap and bed. But because he’s still napping three times a day, plus bedtime, he’s still listening to four books a day!
Bedtime Routine Part Three: Songs
Similar to books, we do three songs before bedtime and nap. Most of our songs are traditional nursery songs, like Baa Baa Black Sheep and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. You can find a list of songs below. We’ll also do Christmas songs around Christmas, or I’ll try and find some Halloween songs around Halloween.
Singing with children has some huge benefits. It is amazing for strengthening their language skills. They are learning new words and beginning to understand rhyme and rhythm.
For a lot of the songs, I’ll include finger play. You probably know what this is, even if you don’t know the term “finger play.” Finger play is the motions you make with your hands to a specific song. For example, when you move your hands like the spider climbing up the water spout in “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” this is a finger play.
Finger play has some amazing benefits! First of all, it keeps squirmy toddlers engaged in the songs. It allows children to practice their eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. It gives children a better opportunity to picture the story that is happening within a song.
Bedtime Routine Part Four: Prayers
Again, this is pretty straightforward. Originally, we only did prayers before bedtime, and not nap. However, because we keep naptime and bedtime identical, prayers worked its way into naptime routine, too. And who couldn’t use more prayers during their day?
Right now our prayers are pretty simple. We will sometimes elaborate if a family member is sick, or something else is on our minds.
Bedtime Routine Part Five: Cuddles
This, too, is pretty obvious. We do a big hug, some kisses, I tuck those babies into bed, and turn on the beloved sound machine.
Bedtime and naptime routines are a big part of our day. Between my three kids, I am currently doing our routine seven times a day! By being consistent, it helps our children to get to bed quickly and peacefully (most of the time)! I include the three books and three songs each time to ensure that my kids are constantly being exposed to opportunities for language growth. And above all, this time together strengthens our bond with one another. Bedtime can really be a sweet time!