2 to 5 years - Bedtime routines for babies and young children

It's natural for children to test boundaries at bedtime (particularly between 3 to 6 years).

Many children do this at bedtime. Some children resist going to bed while others go to bed but get up repeatedly.

Follow the bedtime routine in the same way at the same time each night. Your child will then know what to expect. It will help your child feel secure and loved.

How long it should take

A bedtime routine including supper should take between 30 to 45 minutes.

Be consistent

The key to success is consistency. Keep going even if you meet resistance initially, it will get easier.

To help keep their bedtime routine consistent:

  • try to make sure your child goes to bed and gets up at about the same time every day
  • avoid screens like TVs, tables and phones in the hour before bed. Do some quiet activities such as jigsaws or colouring.
  • make sure your child has had a good supper, a drink and has been to the toilet. This will avoid requests to get out of bed
  • help them get into their pyjamas and brush their teeth
  • set clear limits and boundaries on story time – if you say you’ll read them 2 stories, then stick to this
  • say goodnight and tuck them into bed
  • turn off the lights
  • If your child is afraid of the dark, switch on a dim night light to help them settle. Or leave the bedroom door slightly open with the light on in the corridor or hall
  • if your child gets out of bed, return them to their bed
  • do not put your child to bed too early - they should fall asleep within 20 to 30 minutes of going to bed. 7pm to 8pm is a good time to start a bedtime routine

Reward them

Reward your child for staying in their own bed. Use a reward chart and give them a sticker for staying in bed. Have a ‘bigger’ reward if they get 3 stickers on their chart. The ‘bigger’ reward could be an activity like a trip to the park.

Important

Contact your GP or public health nurse for advice if you're worried that your child is not sleeping and you find it hard to cope.

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