Bedtime routines can be difficult to get started, but it’s important to make them a healthy habit for your family. We spoke with pediatrician, Dr. Michelle Schimelpfenig and some experts from Sanford Children's CHILD Services to find out why bedtime routines are important and what you can be doing to create a great bedtime routine for your kids.

So how much sleep should your kids be getting? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children between the ages of 3 and 5 years should be getting between 10-13 hours of sleep, including naps. Children between the ages of 6 and 12 years should be getting 9-12 hours of sleep.

Why are bedtime routines important? “Children thrive on routine, especially when it comes to sleep,” Dr. Schimelpfenig explains. “For a lot of children, the bedtime routine is a dreaded activity, and they’ll stall in every possible way. When consistency and routine are utilized, children typically delay less because they’re anticipating what’s to come.”

What benefits are there to keeping a consistent bedtime routine? According to Dr. Schimelpfenig, “A consistent bedtime routine not only results in less frustration for all parties involved but also contributes to improved sleep for your child.”

The experts at Sanford Children’s CHILD Services add that doing the same things, in the same order, at about the same time each night helps develop a sense of security and control for your child. The experts further explain that a bedtime routine is a great chance to spend time with your kids in a much calmer setting than you normally might. “Get creative with your child’s routine, but remember that doing the same thing every night is comforting for a child.” Taking the time to read a book (even if it’s the same one for a 10th time) or having a warm bath deepens the sense of trust and love that a child has with their parents. Ultimately, a consistent bedtime routine will aid in your child's growth and development. To help your child create their own consistent bedtime routine, check out this printable

At what age should we start a bedtime routine? According to Dr. Schimelpfenig, you can start bedtime routines as early as 6 months by implementing bath time and reading at a consistent time. She explains, “The routine will look a lot different with each age, but the consistency of a routine helps the infant or child to establish lifelong habits that will hopefully lead to quality sleep.” Good sleeping habits lead to positive physical, mental, and emotional results, and children who get enough sleep have healthier immune systems, increased focus, and are more able to regulate their emotions better than those who don’t get enough sleep. 

What advice do you have on sticking to a bedtime routine with kids? “Sticking to a routine is not only hard for the child, but for parents too! Try to incentivize the routine in some way. For example, if you stick to the routine Monday-Thursday, let Friday night be a movie night. However, don’t let all the hard work earlier in the week go to waste and try to stick within an hour of the sleep window,” Dr. Schimelpfenig explains. “The rewards of a bedtime routine and consistent sleep may not be evident right away but invest in the time in the beginning and you’ll see the benefits in the future!”

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