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Tips & Advice

Bedtime Routines From the Brightly Community

by the Brightly Editors

bedtime rountines
Image credit: Halfpoint Images / Getty Images

Everyone’s nighttime routine is different! Thanks to our wonderful community, we’ve rounded up a few different ways our readers prepare their little ones for bed. From a lively pajama parade to making books a fun indicator of bedtime, you just might be inspired to add something new to your routine!

Toothbrushing Carrot
“We used to have my son brush his teeth after reading and right before bed, but it was such a struggle with lots of stalling. Now, we stop reading about 10 minutes before he has to get into bed for him to brush his teeth, and then we read with whatever time is left of the 10 minutes. So, he has the incentive to do it very quickly so he can get maximum reading time.” —Erica C.

Layer in Learning
“We use bedtime reading as a sneaky learning session. My daughter is developing her language skills and what better way to hone those vowel sounds than by imitating animal noises? Lately, we’ve been selecting books that center on four-legged friends. Not only does she love looking at the pictures, but she loves repeating her favorite single-syllable sounds and cultivating her speech skills simultaneously.” —Taylor B.

Take Your Time
“Bedtime should always be fun and not rushed. My 2-year-old picks out three books, sometimes four, from her little library. We found that if we don’t limit the quantity, we might be there all night because she just loves books and stories. The selection process is a fun moment, and we make sure we are always excited about the choices made — even though not all kids’ books are created equal!” —Adam R.

Focused Family Fun
“Playtime comes after dinner and is the start of our bedtime routine. The entire family participates, and we parents are fully focused on it, meaning we put our phones, smart watches, and any work or chore distraction away. Most of the time, my son will pick the activity which can include coloring, playing with Magnatiles, blocks, action figures, or re-enacting movies (my favorite!). We put music on and it’s the perfect 20-30 minutes to have fun before heading to bed.” —Andrea L.

1-Minute Meditation
“I recently decided to add a meditation technique to our bedtime routine. It helps calm the mind and body, which is exactly what my three-year-old needs before bed. For one minute, we close our eyes, put our hands on our bellies — to feel the action of breathing — and breathe. This is a moment for quiet, and I find it helpful to dim the lights and play binaural beats or ambient music. My son doesn’t stay quiet the full minute, in fact, there are a lot of jiggles because we have our eyes closed or he will breathe super-fast and move away from the practice. My partner and I will complete the full minute — with a toddler trying to open our eyes — modeling what we want to teach him without forcing him. This practice is very helpful for both us and him because meditation is good for everyone.” —Sergio V.

Collaborative Reading
“My 8-year-old son is at the stage of reading independently, but none of us are ready to let go of the bedtime routine of reading aloud together. So, we snuggle in close, and my husband and I take turns reading the narrator and my son reads all the characters’ voices. It’s great practice for reading fluency and keeps us all tuned in and engaged. Plus, my son does great voices!” —Erica C.

Right-Sized Routines
“Since they were babies, I made sure reading was part of bedtime for my kids. Now that they are older, they’ve established their own routines to wind down from the day — and it starts with them picking up a book and turning on their reading lights when I turn off the overhead light in their room. They’ll read for a bit before using their smart speaker to listen to a kids-oriented history or mediation podcast before falling to sleep.” —Suzie S.

“Little Things” for Littles
“Find little ways your toddler can help you move through bedtime and ‘own’ part of the process. We have a smart light in the bedroom and my little one presses the button on the remote to cycle through the light settings until they reach the ‘night light’ before bed. Whether it’s flipping a switch or helping to put a book on a nightstand before or after story time, it’s a piece that just belongs to them.” —April F.

Find Time for Talk
“Our kiddos are older — 11 and 9 — and we have found that bedtime is when they feel most cozy, relaxed, and willing to open up and share thoughts and feelings. For a while, this disrupted our bedtime routine — we didn’t want to go without giving them room to talk and share, but a 30-minute convo added to the usual bedtime put us at a much later time than we’d like (and resulted in tired, grumpy kiddos the next morning). The solution was super simple: We just moved bedtime prep to 30 minutes earlier, which gives us ample time to share once teeth are brushed and bed burritos have been achieved. Our youngest calls these bedtime chats ‘talkabouts’ (as in ‘this is what I want to talk about today…’) and they’re a favorite part of everyone’s day.” —Anne B.

End With a Group Hug
“Kids floss and brush teeth, wash faces and change into pajamas. Then we read one to two chapters to the kids from a book and close with a “puppy pile hug,” which is just a group hug with everyone in the family.” —Henri C.

Timer Time
“Instead of me saying ‘It’s time for bed!’ — I let our smart speaker do it. My child hears me set the timer each night, and when it goes off it’s time for bed. There’s less pleading to stay up later when the bedtime directive comes from an authoritative speaker!” —Stephanie B.

Gratitude for Bed
“Never send them to bed or to their room as discipline. Their bed and room should be a place of relaxation and peace. I used to tell them ‘We’re so lucky to have these nice, warm beds where we get to be so cozy!’ We would read a book or two and they loved going to bed.” —Ann F.

Pajama Parade
“My youngest has always put up a fight for bedtime. When he was 2, we started doing the Pajama Parade. After bath time, we all lined up in our pajamas and marched through the house with our own chant. He was the leader. We would make an announcement like ‘Doot do doo: Here comes the Parade. Marchers are ready for bed.’ Then we chanted something like ‘Pajama Parade, Hey Hey,’ and then we’d march and slow down to a whisper.” —Amanda S.

Books First
“I put reading bedtime stories at the start of our routine instead of at the end. It creates a more positive reaction when I say, ‘time for stories!’ instead of ‘time for bed.’ After we’ve read, they are more likely to do the other steps without a fight.” —Allison M.

Audiobook Distraction
“For my very busy little, audiobooks have really helped. She can hear a story while the lights are off and can relax … whereas, in our previous routine, she was very distracted by everything in her room and the transitions of finding a book or the next book.” —Lexi B.