Pathway to Care

Creating a Calm Bedtime Routine for Children

Establishing a consistent bedtime routine for children is more than just a nightly habit; it’s a foundation for healthy sleep habits that benefit a child’s physical, emotional, and cognitive development.

african american dad helps daughter with bedtime routine

Why Have a bedtime routine?

Across various age groups, the benefits of a structured approach to bedtime are numerous, including improved sleep quality, reduced nighttime awakenings, and a deeper understanding of expectations. This guide will explore the role of visual bedtime routines and provide age-specific advice to create a peaceful bedtime experience for children.

Age-Specific Bedtime Routine Guides

Creating a serene and structured bedtime routine is crucial for children’s development and well-being. As children grow, their needs change, and so should their bedtime routines. Let’s delve deeper into age-specific bedtime routines that cater to the unique needs of different developmental stages.

Infants (4, 7, 9, 10, and 18 months old)

For infants, establishing a calming bedtime routine is essential for promoting good sleep habits early on. A typical routine for infants might include:

  • Warm Bath: A gentle, soothing bath can help signal to your infant that bedtime is near. Use mild, baby-friendly soap to avoid skin irritation.
  • Gentle Massage: Using baby lotion or oil, gently massage your infant’s arms, legs, back, and stomach. This can relax muscle tension and soothe them into a state of calm.
  • Soft Music: Playing soft, lullaby music or white noise in the background can provide a soothing auditory backdrop for sleep.
  • Dim Lighting: Dim the lights in the room to help your infant’s eyes adjust to the idea of nighttime and sleep.
  • Bedtime Yoga: For older infants, gentle stretching or yoga poses designed for babies can be a bonding activity that helps them relax.
  • Bedtime Routine Checklist: Create a visual or written checklist to ensure consistency in your infant’s bedtime routine. This can include feeding, diaper changes, and cuddle time before being placed in the crib.

Toddlers and Preschoolers (1, 3, and 4 years old)

As children enter toddlerhood and preschool age, their curiosity and need for independence grow. A bedtime routine for this age group can include:

  • Visual Bedtime Routine Charts: Use charts with pictures depicting each step of the bedtime routine. This could include brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, and choosing a bedtime story.
  • Story Time: Reading a favorite book each night can help toddlers and preschoolers wind down mentally. It also strengthens language skills and imagination.
  • Gentle Play: Incorporate quiet play activities, like puzzles or coloring, that allow your child to transition from the day’s energy to a more relaxed state.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Teaching simple breathing exercises or gentle yoga poses designed for children can help calm their minds and bodies.

School-Aged Children (5, 10 years old)

For school-aged children, the focus shifts towards fostering independence while ensuring they have a comforting routine that prepares them for a good night’s sleep:

  • Winding Down Activities: Encourage activities that signal the end of the day, such as reading a book, drawing, or writing in a journal.
  • Limiting Screen Time: Set clear guidelines around screen time, ensuring devices are turned off at least an hour before bedtime to avoid overstimulation.
  • Visual Schedule: Continue to use a visual schedule if it helps your child, but allow them some autonomy to choose the order of activities or specific bedtime stories.
  • Bedtime Discussions: Spend a few minutes discussing the day or plans for tomorrow. This can help children process their day and feel more secure and understood.

Tailoring Bedtime Routines

Every child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Tailoring bedtime routines to fit your child’s individual needs, interests, and developmental stage is key. By implementing these age-specific routines, you’re not only promoting better sleep but also fostering a sense of security, independence, and well-being in your child. Keep the lines of communication open, and be willing to adjust routines as your child grows and their needs evolve.

Special Considerations for Bedtime Routines

Creating a calming bedtime routine for children with ADHD or other specific needs requires thoughtful adjustments to standard practices. The goal is to cater to their unique requirements, promoting a smooth transition to sleep despite the challenges they may face, such as the stimulating effects of medication or heightened sensitivity to sensory inputs.

Tailoring Bedtime Routines for Children with ADHD

Children with ADHD often find it challenging to wind down in the evening, particularly if they are taking stimulant medications, which can interfere with their ability to fall asleep. A bedtime routine that fosters focus and calm is essential for helping these children relax and prepare for sleep.

1. Consider Medication Timing

For children on stimulant medication, it’s crucial to consider the timing of their doses. Stimulants can remain active in the body for several hours, so administering them too late in the day can hinder your child’s ability to fall asleep. Consult with your child’s healthcare provider to adjust the timing of medication to minimize its impact on sleep.

2. Reduce Stimulation

Reducing stimulation before bedtime is vital for children with ADHD. This can include:

  • Limiting Screen Time: Screen use should be minimized at least an hour before bed, as the light from screens can suppress melatonin production and stimulate the brain, making it harder to fall asleep.
  • Creating a Quiet Environment: Lower the volume of TVs and music in the home and encourage quiet activities in the hour leading up to bedtime. This helps signal to your child’s brain that it’s time to start winding down.

3. Promote Relaxation

Integrating relaxation techniques into the bedtime routine can help counteract hyperactivity and impulsivity:

  • Bedtime Yoga Routine: Gentle yoga poses or stretching can relax the body and mind. Incorporating breathing exercises can also help calm your child.
  • Mindfulness or Meditation: Guided meditation or mindfulness activities designed for children can be a soothing part of the bedtime routine, helping them center their thoughts and ease into sleep.

4. Create a Visual Bedtime Routine

A visual bedtime routine is particularly beneficial for children with ADHD, as it provides clear, concrete steps to follow, reducing anxiety and confusion:

  • Use Simple Icons or Pictures: Design a bedtime routine chart with icons representing each activity, from brushing teeth to reading a bedtime story. This makes the routine easy to understand and follow.
  • Make It Interactive: Allow your child to interact with the chart by checking off or moving a marker as each activity is completed. This gives them a sense of control and accomplishment.

HCBS is a holistic care system that considers the distinct strengths, preferences, and requirements of each child. The goal of offering such a broad spectrum of services is to enable children to stay within their communities, avoiding the need for more intensive care levels or placements outside their homes.

Adjusting Routines for Other Specific Needs

Children with other specific needs, such as sensory processing issues or autism, may also require tailored bedtime routines:

  • Sensory Considerations: For children sensitive to certain textures or sounds, ensure pajamas are comfortable and the bedroom environment is suited to their sensory preferences, perhaps using white noise machines or blackout curtains.
  • Consistency and Predictability: A consistent routine is especially important for children with autism, who may find unpredictability stressful. A visual bedtime routine chart can help reinforce the predictability of the process.

Designing a bedtime routine for children with ADHD or other specific needs doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By understanding the unique challenges these children face and implementing strategies to address them, parents can create a calming, supportive environment that encourages restful sleep. Collaboration with healthcare providers, attention to medication timing, and the use of visual aids and relaxation techniques are all key components of a successful bedtime routine for these children.


When to Start and How to Adapt Bedtime Routines

The best time to establish a bedtime routine is as early as possible, with adjustments made as the child grows. Recognizing the signs of readiness for changes in the routine is key to adapting to your child’s developmental stages and evolving needs.

In Conclusion

A tailored bedtime routine is an invaluable component of a child’s overall well-being. By leveraging age-specific guides and editable charts, parents can create a bedtime experience that not only meets their child’s needs but also fosters a sense of security and readiness for sleep. By understanding and utilizing these guidelines and resources, parents can create a bedtime routine that not only supports their child’s sleep needs but also strengthens the parent-child bond through meaningful nightly rituals.


1. How can I create an effective visual bedtime routine for my child?

Creating an effective visual bedtime routine involves identifying the key steps in your child’s nighttime process and representing them with simple, recognizable images or icons. You can use an editable bedtime routine chart to customize this visual guide as your child grows or their needs change, ensuring it remains relevant and engaging.

2. Where can I find resources for a bedtime routine printable?

Many online resources offer free printable bedtime routines. Educational websites, parenting forums, and platforms like Etsy host a variety of printable charts and schedules. Look for one that’s age-appropriate and matches your child’s interests to make bedtime a more appealing process.

3. What activities should be included in a bedtime routine for toddlers?

A bedtime routine for toddlers can include activities such as taking a bath, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, story time, and gentle play. Incorporating a toddler bedtime routine chart can help visually guide your child through each step, making the process clear and enjoyable.

4. How can I adjust the bedtime routine for a child with ADHD?

Adjusting a bedtime routine for a child with ADHD involves incorporating activities that minimize stimulation and promote calmness. Consider activities like reading together, using a bedtime yoga routine to relax the body, and avoiding screens at least an hour before bed. A visual schedule or a bedtime routine checklist can also help keep the process smooth and predictable.

5. At what age should I start implementing a bedtime routine?

It’s beneficial to start a bedtime routine as early as infancy, around 6 to 8 weeks old. Early implementation helps develop healthy sleep habits from a young age. The routine can evolve over time to fit your child’s developmental needs and preferences.


6. How can I ensure my child follows their bedtime routine?

Ensuring your child follows their bedtime routine can be achieved by making the process enjoyable and engaging for them. Use a visual bedtime routine chart or schedule to outline each step, and involve your child in the process by letting them mark off completed activities. Consistency is key, so try to stick to the routine as closely as possible each night.

Tags :
Share This :