Getting Multiple Kids Off to Bed
Getting more than one kid down for bed can be challenging depending on what your situation is. If you are a two-parent household with two kids, then it can be relatively easy to divide and conquer. However if you have more than 2 kids or you are solo parenting at bedtime or even nap times, it can be much more complicated.
Everyone’s situation is a bit different. Depending on how many kids, when bedtimes are, and how many parents/adults are around at bedtime can really change how bedtime looks family to family. Here are a few tips on how to handle multiple children when it’s time to go to sleep.
Make Bedtime Family Time
This will look different for every family. But if you are trying to get several kids to bed at once or parents are working outside of the home and don’t get much family time in during the day, I find this is super helpful.
Do parts of the bedtime routine together as a family, if possible. Even if the only part of the routine that works together is brushing teeth. Brush teeth, get PJs on, then try to read at least one book together. Then split up and finish bedtimes as needed.
You would want to avoid this “family time” if it becomes too stimulating for the kids. If they fight over who sits on Mom’s lap or they won’t stop flicking toothpaste at their sibling, then you might want to skip this. You want them to be winding down not amping up.
Have something to do for the other siblings
Sometimes you will be putting kids to bed at the same time, but often you will be putting one down and a little later be putting the next down. For young infants that might have to sit through a sibling’s bedtime before their own, having a bouncy chair or swing to hang out in is great. If possible, just always keep the chair in the sibling’s room (until they outgrow it).
If the child is a bit older, find an age-appropriate game, toy, or book for them to quietly play with either in the room or in a nearby room while you finish with bedtime.
Close or Same Bedtimes
If you have kids that go to bed at say 6 pm, and they are in different bedrooms (and even technically if they are in the same room), someone needs to go to bed first. The best way to figure out how to handle this is to decide who is more flexible. You might have 2 kids that really need to be in bed at their exact bedtimes but MOST of the time one kid is the flexible one. You might be able to put them in bed a little early or a little late and they still sleep perfectly fine. If you have a child that is okay with going to bed a smidge early, make sure you are putting that one to bed at say 5:50 pm so you can finish with your less flexible child and make sure that they are IN bed at 6 pm.
If sleep schedules allow for bedtimes to be staggered like one goes to bed at 6 pm and the next bedtime is 630pm, do what you can together and if the child with the later bedtime is old enough, send them to their room or another close quiet space to read or play quietly for a few minutes. Personally, I do this so I can turn the lights out and sing a song for the one going to bed. It helps cut down on the stimulation caused by having the other sibling in the room up until bed. Then go finish bedtime with your other child(ren).
Quiet Activities are Essential
Even if bedtimes are an hour or more apart, or you have enough adults in the home for each kid, or you have 3+ kids that you have to get calm and into bed, whatever your situation, it is so important to have quiet, calming activities before bed.
You want to avoid using devices that emit blue light 1-2 hours before bedtime. You want to avoid activities that are overstimulating like roughhousing and running around. These can be too stimulating and make bedtime even more difficult.
Having some toys like a stuffed animal for infants, puzzles, or books for toddlers, or even playing (audio only) a guided meditation will help relax your child before bedtime and give you a little bit of time to get your other child(ren) settled in their bed.
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If one child is older, it may be more appropriate to have staggered bedtimes, even if it is only by 15 minutes. If the younger siblings complain of unfairness, you can say something along the lines of, “well, your sibling is older than you, and as you get older, you need less sleep. Would it be fair if you were tired, and she wasn’t?” You can even add, “when you are older, you will get to stay up later too, and when your sister was younger, she had to go to bed earlier too.”