6 Tips for Creating a Soothing Bedtime Routine


By now you’re probably well aware of the fact that kids need sleep.  You’ve probably read at least one article warning you that insufficient sleep can cause growth and hormone disturbances, learning issues, behavioral problems, and poor school performance. 

In reading the articles and studies that keep urging parents everywhere to just put your kids to bed on time, you’ve probably even wondered if you’re doing that. But what the studies fail to tell us is how make this magical consistent bedtime thing work.

For many parents, a soothing bedtime routines gets lost somewhere in between potential monsters under the bed and the sixth request for water in a twenty-minute window of time.

While you can’t force your child to fall asleep, you can create a soothing bedtime routine.

Tips for creating a soothing bedtime routine:

Image via Flickr/seanomatopoeia

Have a soak:

When the clock is ticking and you’re worried about getting enough hours of sleep before school, it can be tempting to skip the bath.  But a bath can be a very soothing part of the bedtime routine.  You don’t need fancy soaps and a tub full of toys to make a bath relaxing for a child.  A few measuring cups and a calming conversation about the day is a great way to start the bedtime process.

Image via Flickr/Robynlou8

Engage in soothing activities:

One hour before bedtime is a great time to dim the lights and focus on soothing activities to help cue the body that sleep is coming.  Turn off all electronics (even your own!) and engage in quiet activities such as reading, puzzles, drawing, and board games.  


 child looking through the glass


Got a kid who needs 15 sips of water at night?  Put a water bottle next to his bed.  Got another who hears absolutely every sound ever?  Invest in a white noise machine or a soothing bedtime music playlist to cancel out the noise.

Keep a list of your child’s most frequent nighttime requests so that you can problem solve in advance.

Image via Flickr/jeremewong

Darkness counts:

A dark room promotes sleep because it cues the body to finally shut down for the night, but many kids are fearful of being alone in a dark room (even their own). 

Rely on filtered light and nightlights to create a dark, but soothing, sleeping environment for your child.  Allow your child to choose nightlights and figure out where to place them so that he can gain some control over the situation.  Play shadow tag by going around the room and identifying the source of each shadow.  Better yet, keep the room free from clutter to avoid excess shadows that might seem scary during the night.

Image via Flickr/wickenden

Guided relaxation:

A relaxing story told in a low voice can help your child ease into restful sleep full of positive images.  A three-minute imaginary walk through a happy forest full of butterflies and fairies can be very calming for a child who tends to worry at night.

Not feeling particularly creative at the end of the day?  Grab a copy of Ready, Set, RELAX and read from one of many positive and calming scripts.

Image via Flickr/MissMessie

Checks and balances:

Some kids simply need to know that they are not alone at night.  Create a system of check-ins with your child.  Agree to come back in five minutes and then again ten minutes later and make sure that you follow through.  Feeling safe and secure at night just might be the key to creating that consistent, and soothing, routine.  


What is your bedtime routine?

  Read More

What do you think?

6 Tips for Creating a Soothing Bedtime Routine

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

Tell us what you think!


  1. LIZ says:

    bath time with lavender is reay nice time for me and baby and helps her to sleep better

  2. My 6 month old was sleeping through the night and going to sleep easily. Now its like a switch got flipped . She is refusing to go down now. Nothing works. When she does fall asleep, usually after an hour of crying and fussing, she then wakes up every 2 hours. I hate giving her a bottle again after she was sleeping fine without it but it seems to be the only thing that will get her back to sleep. I am desperate! I am sooooo tired! We do the bath and dim lights and soothing music. I have noticed she likes her tummy more. She rolls on her own and it worries me. I am almost ready to start putting her down on her tummy just so she will sleep. HELP!

    • Amber says:

      Hi Erin,
      My daughter is also 6 months old and recently went through this (she has been sleeping through the night since 6 weeks and it was also like a switch just flipped). For her, I found a couple of things helped.
      She started sleeping on her tummy as soon as she learned to roll over at 3 months, and it scared.me.to.DEATH, especially because she liked to sleep face-down for a while. After many sleepless nights of rolling her back over again and again, I finally decided to just let her sleep on her tummy. It took me a long time to be okay with that, but she’s been fine, and my doctor said I don’t need to keep rolling her over, so you may try letting her sleep on her tummy if she’s more comfortable that way (I know it’s scary).
      A couple of other things that I finally figured out recently was 1. she was teething. I did a lot more rocking her to sleep and soothing her (normally she just goes to sleep in her crib by herself). A couple of nights it was so bad that I gave her some infant tylenol (although I gave her less than the dosage for her weight), but I try to do that only if absolutely nothing else works and she seems to be in pain. I just don’t want her to be getting too much medication for no reason.
      The second thing, and this was the big one, was I increased the amount of baby cereal she is eating during the day. I don’t know if your daughter has started solids yet, but I had read that not getting enough solids to eat during the day can cause sleep regressions in babies that usually sleep during the night. I was desperate, so I added just a tablespoon at each meal, and my daughter immediately started sleeping through the night again.
      I hope that helps and that you can get some rest soon!

    • Bernadett says:

      HI Erin.
      I used to co-sleep with my little boy as there was no sleep for either of us with me trying to put him in his cot. The most he would sleep was 10 minutes, then he would scream up.
      After a while I noticed that even though he fell asleep in the side lying position on the boob, when I woke up he was scoffed underneath my armpit with his head and on his tummy.
      Last week I had a really bad cold with fever and was so knackered that I decided that for his sake it was safer if I put him in the cot rather than me being so tired not being so aware. By now I knew that he liked his tummy and during the day I had him lie down in the cot on his tummy, with a rolled up blanket to put one of his arm and leg over so he can reach his thumb to suck,
      He has slept through the night!
      Once or twice he wakes up whining and I quickly get him out of the cot, onto the boob to dreamfeed him, then back in the cot he goes. Just a dream!

      Sometimes when he wakes and is quite loud I see that he rolled on his back and can’t roll back to his front so I gently roll him back to his preferred position, he lividly sucks on thumb and goes back to sleep.

      Try putting her on her tummy during the days first until you feel confident that she can turn her head over in case of sick and so she doesn’t bury her face straight into the bed. (that’s why I have the rolled up blanket along his side to encourage him to turn his head to the side as he was burying his head a lot.

      Hope it helps, and good luck!

  3. Very helpful tips, will definitely be using these.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Great tips. It’s easy to loose track of time especially in the summer when it stays light later. Need to stick to a consistent time.

  5. Kim says:

    These are great… some I knew and some new ones.

  6. SJ says:

    Great tips! Love the soak and reading tips. We are trying those now.

  7. Tara says:

    really good tips. They are so simple yet helpful. Cant wait to use them.

  8. Greeat tips. I love how I can do stuff and read stuff on her so that I could do my baby’S ROOM look better

  9. Diana says:

    Thanks for the tips!!

  10. jesster131 says:

    Some of that would work with my little man but NOT the bath. We fight through every bath. He hates tub times. I am still working on bath strategies to turn at least some of the tears & howls into giggles & grins. He isn’t quite 18 months yet so I know we will get there. The bed time routine isn’t a big problem for us so far. He already gets several timed warnings that come with calm down cues as well. As we get closer he gets told how much time & we do the next step even with some play time still left. The play has to begin slowing & calming as well. It works well & he usually goes down well with minimal fussing.

  11. Grace says:

    it only showed me 2 tips….

  12. Phammom says:

    I only got four. But very good tips.


EverydayFamily.com Week-by-Week Newsletter

Receive weekly updates on your pregnancy or new baby’s development as well as Free Stuff, Special Offers, Product Samples, Coupons, Checklists and Tools you can use today, and more from EverydayFamily! Plus all new members are entered to win FREE diapers for a year! Receive weekly updates on your pregnancy or new baby’s development as well as Free Stuff, Special Offers, Product Samples, Coupons, Checklists and Tools you can use today, and more from EverydayFamily! Plus all new members are entered to win FREE diapers for a year!

Due Date or Baby's Birth Date

By clicking the "Join Now" button you are agreeing to the terms of use and privacy policy.

Send this to a friend