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Ask Malia: How Long Should Bedtime Take?


I’m curious about how long it takes you to get your kids to bed at night. My son’s bedtime routine takes at least an hour, every night. I’ve tried many times to get the routine under control, but he doesn’t cooperate. I’m starting to lose hope. Help!


Two-year-old Mia at a pumpkin patch corn boxWhen it comes to bedtime, my two girls are as different as night and day. My almost-three-year-old’s routine takes about 15 or 20 minutes (not including bath). She puts on her pajamas, we read two or three short books, brush her teeth, she turns off the light, I help her climb into bed with her blankie, and it’s off to dreamland.

Until she was about 18 months old, she didn’t have patience for books before bedtime, and her routine took about five minutes (pj’s, hug, kiss, and lights out). She asked to be plopped in her bed before I was done snuggling her—some nights, I was miffed!

My spunky five-year-old has always needed a bit more wind-down time than her sister. Her routine takes about 30-35 minutes, because we read longer stories, and because she has a more involved nighttime tooth-brushing/skincare routine. She would gladly drag the routine out longer if sheFive-year-old Bianca could, so we gently redirect her back to the routine when she starts to stall. But I appreciate the longer routine—and she actually lets me sing her a lullaby, something my youngest stanchly forbids (“No, mommy! NO SINGING!”) I love spending a few minutes before bed listening to her talk about her day, too.

Bedtime shouldn’t be excruciating—it should be a peaceful end to your child’s day. Anywhere from 15-45 minutes is a good routine length to shoot for, but as my experience proves, it will vary from child to child and may flex as your child grows. If your bedtime routine isn’t working, it’s time to change things up. Check out past posts Building a Better Bedtime, Eight Tips for Bedtime Success, and Great Expectations: Thinking Your Way to Bedtime Success for tactics to help you get back on track.

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