Are you struggling to get your kids to sleep or stay in bed after you’ve put them there? It’s not uncommon! But there are thankfully some things you can do to help them fall asleep instantly, and not get out of bed again.

bedtime routine for kids

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Possible reasons your child isn’t going to bed or falling asleep

I have to pee. I’m thirsty. I have a booger on my finger. I had a bad dream (5 minutes after you put them to bed). I need to hug you. I wanted to ask you about the meaning of life. Where do babies come from? Why is the sky blue? How scary is the scariest animal?

These are all questions and comments I’ve received 5, 10, or sometimes 2 HOURS after I’ve attempted to get my child in bed.

And while those moments are sweet the first, and even the second time, after a while, you begin to realize that you quite possibly have fallen victim to your child’s endless game that most times leave you frustrated, and your kids tired the next day.

Sometimes it’s necessary to help your child with whatever they might need after you’ve put them to bed, especially if they are scared.

But it’s also beneficial for everyone that it doesn’t turn into a common habit that your child uses so that they don’t have to go to bed.

Here’s our bedtime routine that gets our kids to bed and keeps them there without bribing, manipulation, or threatening.

family playing game

1. Shut off the screens, and play THIS game right before bed

Children of younger years fall asleep and feel more content to be in bed if they are tired and not wired.

That means no screens at least an hour before bed. Screens cause their minds to turn on, instead of preparing them to shut down.

Also, make sure that sometime during the day they are getting enough physical activity. As an adult, I find that when I exercise, I get much more restful sleep than when I don’t.

So if you can, do your best to get them out of the house and staying active during the daytime hours, so their bodies will be physically ready to sleep when it comes time for bed.

You can also play THIS game together as a family that will help them process their more mental and emotional thoughts before bed.

It has such amazing questions that provoke meaningful conversation between parent and child. Whenever we play this game as a family, our son feels heard, important, and emotionally connected with us.

little girl journaling

2. Have them journal or color

Another way you can help their mind come to a more peaceful and restful state is to have them journal.

Check out my printable journals for both boys and girls here.

Journaling will help them process their day, writing out any struggles they had, while also prompting them to think about the things they are grateful for.

family playing together

3. Spend time with them that day doing something THEY love

Quality time with your child will help them feel emotionally satisfied, so they won’t come looking for more after the lights go out. I have noticed that if I don’t have a lot of time for my son on a certain day, he has a much harder time going to bed.

But if I do my best to give him intentional and devoted attention to him, like playing that game I mentioned above, then he is way more likely to go to bed and stay in bed.

child drinking water

4. Make sure all of the physical needs are met before sending them to bed

Before you send them to bed, make sure they have drunken water, used the toilet, eat a snack, etc. Eliminate all possible reasons for them to come out again.

5. Explain to them why sleeping is good for them

If they keep coming out after bedtime, remind them of how sleeping helps your body feel better, and give them all the reasons it does so. Say, “When you get a good night’s sleep, you won’t feel sad or angry the next day.” or “You will have much more energy so we can do fun stuff tomorrow.”

kids having fun

6. Give them something to look forward to the next day

My son can sometimes get stuck in thoughts he shouldn’t, which causes him to have a difficult time falling asleep, which therefore causes him to come out again and again after we’ve told him to go to bed.

When this happens, I encourage him to think about things he is looking forward to the next day. This might mean a weekend trip or a friend coming over. Help them look forward to something positive, which will be good practice for them for the rest of their lives.

bedtime routine with kids

7. Sing a song, pray, or read together

One thing we have always done to help our kids settle into bed is to pray, sing a song, and do a family devotion—this is a great kid’s devotional.

8. Keep things consistent

When children have a regular bedtime, with a regular bedtime routine, then you are preparing their minds for what comes next, which helps them feel stable. Our toddler goes to bed at 7, and our older son goes to bed at 7:30. This gives us some quality time to play Our Moments Game with our older son.

Growing up, our son has always loved our bedtime routine. I know there’s advice out there that says you shouldn’t put too much time into bedtime, but I couldn’t disagree more. For our family, bedtime has been full of sweet memories that have provoked meaningful and important conversations with our son. Had it not been for our intentional bedtime routine, when the chaos of the day is passed, we wouldn’t be able to have those moments.


Positive parenting tools for every parent 

Screen Time Protection and Teaching Moderation

I’ve recently partnered with Bark, a software to supervise, manage, and protect your child’s device use on the go. Use the code WORDBIRD at checkout to get an additional 1-month free trial after your first initial 7-day trial!

Screen Time Checklist Printable for Kids – FREE if you sign up for our weekly newsletter. Just fill out your info below. 

Book List for Kids and Parents

Check out my recommended books for parenting

Book list to teach kids about racial diversity. 

Journaling for Kids

When a child is old enough to start drawing, coloring, or writing, journaling is an incredible way to help your kids better express themselves in a free and comfortable way. Check out our Kid’s Printable Journals — created specifically to help children better express their feelings, encourage gratitude, and spark the imagination. 

Chores for Kids

Magnetized Chalk Chart for Fridge

Implementing chores and structure in your child’s daily life is a VERY helpful tool to teach them follow through, discipline, and respect. We use this chore chart in our family to help our kids keep track of their own progress, and keep you from having to constantly remind them of their daily tasks. 

If you’re looking for something a bit more simple, this is also a good option. 

Chore Chart Printable – Get it NOW from the convenience of your own printer

If you’re looking for something you can print out immediately and start implementing chores in your home today, check out this CHORE CHART PRINTABLE. With a Mandalorian theme, it makes for a lighthearted and fun way to encourage kids to do their daily and weekly “missions.”

Emotional Connectivity with Your Kids

Connecting on a deeper level emotionally with your child is CRUCIAL, and sometimes more difficult. We play THIS GAME often in our family to create a safe space for our kids to feel free to share their questions and emotions, all without judgment. 

We even offer an “Exemption Time” for the duration of this game, where anything he tells us is off the table for consequences. 

Check out these other posts on emotional connectivity on the blog!

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Author

Hillary Gruener is a wife, mother, writer, and musician. If she's not at her desk writing content on family life, she's adventuring the world with her husband and two boys.

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