Free Bedtime Routine Charts to Master All the Must-Dos

Published June 15, 2021
 fathers reading bedtime story to daughter

Ahhh, bedtime. For parents, there is no sweeter word in the human vocabulary. After a long day of playing, teaching, cooking, cleaning, working, and everything in between, bedtime comes each night as a welcome respite from the daily grind. A silent house at the day's end can feel like a little slice of heaven on Earth. Wouldn't it be nice if bedtime was simple and all you had to do was tell kids to shower, brush their teeth, and go to sleep? Now you really are dreaming. Bedtime can be anything but easy, but smart bedtime routine charts can take a daily nightmare and turn them into an evening dream.

Why a Bedtime Routine Is Important

Creating and maintaining a bedtime routine is essential to both children and parents alike. Having a solid bedtime routine helps everyone in the family get what they need during the evening hours. Reliable bedtime routines foster good sleep patterns.

Bedtime Routines Remove Some of the Stress

Bedtime can be a stressful time for everyone in the home. Kids and parents are tired, and everyone seems to melt down right before they hit the sheets. No one wants to end their day with a boatload of stress, so creating a bedtime routine specific to your children's needs and ages will help remove some stress associated with this part of the day.

Children Need Sleep

If you have ever seen an overly exhausted child, then you can attest to the fact that all kids need sleep. They need sleep like the desert needs the rain! As a parent, it's your job to make sure the kids are getting enough quality shut-eye. Lack of sleep in children can have serious effects on their health and well-being including:

  • Irritability
  • Challenges with motivation and learning
  • Attention problems and impulse control issues
  • Decreased immunity
  • Increased risk for anxiety and depression
  • Serious health woes such as obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease

Exactly how much sleep a child needs depends on their age. Generally speaking, younger kids need a bit more rest compared to older children.

  • Children under one year of age: 12-14 hours (including naps)
  • Toddlers between one and two years of age: 11-14 hours (including naps)
  • Preschool-age children between ages three and five: 10-13 hours (including naps)
  • School-age kids between age six and twelve: 9-12 hours
  • Teenagers between ages 13 and 18: 8-10 hours

YOU Need Me Time

Kids need sleep, but parents need downtime too! Putting the kids down at a decent time of night with the help of a solid bedtime routine chart will be a saving grace for tired parents. Taking the stress out of the evening and creating structure and predictability allows parents to carve out a bit of me time at the end of their day. Parents need to recharge their batteries each night so that they can hit the ground running by the following morning.

Setting the Bedtime Scene

Bedtime charts and routines might be more useful when paired with helpful tips and tricks for setting a bedtime scene. There are certain things that kids and adults alike can do before hitting the sheets that will help them reach slumberland faster.

  • Invest in a good mattress.
  • Buy room darkening curtains; it stays lighter out at night during the summer, making sleep more elusive.
  • Make sure kids get lots of exercise during the daytime, and cease physical activity several hours before bedtime.
  • Play calming music at bedtime.
  • Remove or turn clocks around.
  • Shorten daytime naps.
Mother reading to daughters at bedtime

Do's and Dont's of a Bedtime Routine

When it comes to creating a bedtime routine, you are the master of the chart. While you'll tailor bedtime charts to your kids' ages as well as other factors, there are some general do's and don'ts to keep in mind when creating your bedtime chart.

Things to Do During the Bedtime Routine

Bedtime routines and charts can vary from family to family, and even kid to kid, but try to keep these important factors for success in mind.

  • Stay consistent: Any chart or routine should be consistent, regardless of whether it is for bedtime, homework, mealtime, or otherwise.
  • Keep it short and simple: Get right to the point with bedtime charts.
  • Offer choices: Don't let kids run the show or replace items on your chart. Instead, give them choices about which one of their toothbrushes they use or which book they will read at night.
  • Give yourself time: Bedtime routines can take longer than many parents prefer. Know this and leave extra time in your schedule to accommodate bedtime routines, especially when you first use them.

Things to Avoid During the Bedtime Routine

There are some tried-and-true tips and tricks to making bedtime routines more seamless.

  • Don't allow wild play and heavy exercise right before bedtime.
  • Don't assume that kids will snap out of bad bedtime habits.
  • Don't allow kids to drag routines out forever.
  • Prohibit sugary foods and caffeinated beverages in the later part of the day.

Making Bedtime Routine Charts Work for All Ages

Like any task chart, bedtime charts need to be tailored to children's ages and more importantly, developmental stages. Use the following editable printables to create your own bedtime routines. If you need help with downloading, use the Guide for Adobe Printables.

Bedtime routine chart for very young kids
Bedtime routine chart for young kids
Bedtime routine chart for older kids

Make Sure Needs Are Addressed

Even carefully planned bedtime routine charts will crash and burn if children's needs are neglected. Shiny stickers and promises of rewards won't take away a genuine fear that hinders a child's sleep. Kids require time to work out what's bothering them, so you may need to talk to them about why bedtime is a challenge more than once. Common woes that cause children to fight sleep are:

  • Missing parents
  • Changes to the daily schedule
  • Fear of the dark
  • Anxiety about school, friends, or sports
  • Separation anxiety
  • Difficulty settling down

Determine Priorities

Before tailoring a chart to your children's needs, think about what you want to achieve. Do you want them to cover basic hygiene needs, become more independent, or hit the sheets in about half the time your current bedtime routine takes? Once you have your list of wants, you can add more items to your bedtime chart.

Make Sure Your Chart Is Developmentally Appropriate

Young children can likely handle only a few bedtime routine tasks, and they might need some help in achieving them. Even toddlers can use pictures on their charts instead of words to help them execute tasks. Older children can probably execute a lengthier bedtime chart with more elaborate tasks. They will also need less help than little ones. That said, make sure you check in on them. Older children should have the freedom and independence to follow their own bedtime charts, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't check in on them and hold them accountable.

Ways to Get Your Kids to Buy Into Bedtime Routines

Kids might balk at your bedtime routine chart, especially if they detest bedtime. Make it worth their time with a couple of tips and tricks.

Make It a Group Effort

Before working tasks into a chart, get your kids' thoughts and opinions. Discuss what you would like to see on the chart and then ask kids if they think they could handle those tasks. Have them offer their input on what they feel is important to have in a bedtime routine.

Rely on Positive Reinforcement

When kids are working on completing the tasks on their bedtime routine chart, stay positive. Reinforce all that they are doing, and compliment them for the things they do correctly. Positive reinforcement will motivate them to continue working on completing all the tasks on the chart.

Reward Good Behavior

Consider working a reward into the bedtime routine chart. If kids complete the tasks on their chart four out of five days, reward them with extra screen time during the day or a new book to read at bedtime. Give children some say in what they want to work towards as this can motivate them.

When Implementing a Bedtime Routine, Stick to Your Gut

If you're using a bedtime routine chart and feel it isn't working, change it up. Nowhere does it say you have to be wed to any chart or routine that you implement. Go with your gut, and change things if you think something different might work for your kids. You know them best!

Free Bedtime Routine Charts to Master All the Must-Dos