How we handle our 3 year old’s bedtime routine

So David is 3. And I’m definitely not here to tell you that we’re pros at the whole bedtime routine thing. But what I will say is that kids love routine.

I remember back when I was pregnant with David, reading all kinds of parenting books. So many of them were the “latest” thing in parenting and all said that you should not put your baby on a schedule and that you should be sensitive to and follow their cures.

So I guess I wouldn’t say they were wrong.

So before I had David, I totally came to terms with the thought of having absolutely no schedule and just feeding/letting him nap based on his cues which I imagined would be totally sporadic. Then, baby comes along and guess what we find out…

After all the newborn craziness which is 100% sporadic and random, kids actually LOVE routine. They LOVE schedules!

Josh and I never had a moment when we decided on David’s bedtime. But, when he started to turn into a grump meister every night around 8 pm like clockwork, we knew that we should probably beat him to it and get him in bed by then.

That being said, just because his body was ready for sleep, that doesn’t mean his little mind was ready for sleep. Moms and dads, I’m sure you know the feeling. So Josh and I have tweaked and worked on his bedtime routine over the past few years and we think we’ve found something that really has helped calm David’s mind at the end of the day to the point where we’re usually able to say goodnight, walk out of the room, and he stays in bed and falls asleep.

Now, as he’s gotten older, we’ve learned that he’s pretty much just the night-owl type and he really doesn’t need much sleep for a 3 year old. Nowadays, if we try putting David to bed at 8, he’ll probably come out and sit in the hallway until one of us sees him and puts him back in bed. So we’ve been letting him stay up until 8:30-9 more recently.

Here’s what we do:

After dinner (6ish): Play time outside and/or bathtime

We like to do this because David usually has a lot of energy around this time of day and because the next step in the bedtime process is TV time. Getting David and Evy a good, solid hour of playtime before letting him watch TV just helps me feel better as a mom as well as helps him feel less like he’s missing out come bed time. Ev usually goes down to bed around this time and then David stays up a little later.

7pm: 45 minutes – 1 hour of TV time

For most of the day, we try to really limit David’s TV time. Trust me, he’d watch most of the day if we let him. But if we say, “No TV right now, Bud,” he almost always finds some way to use him imagination. But at the end of the day, let’s face it. Mom and dad are tired (I usually have some work to get done for the next day) so we let David have some TV time.

8pm: The last snack of the night

Once your child turns 3, he or she will become a master of stall tactics. What do you do? Beat them to it. Oh you’re hungry? Here’s a snack. I already refilled the water bottle in your room. All your favorite stuffed animals are already in your bed. Oh, you have everything you could possibly need to go to sleep? Great! *sinister smile*

8:15pm: Finally, bedtime.

Here’s where we head upstairs, brush our teeth, get our diaper changed, and change into juuust the right pair of pajamas. Once that’s done, David knows that we read exactly 2 books (we never budge on this. Ever. If we did, we would always have to read more than 2 books from that day forward), and we cuddle for exactly 1 minute (ok, it’s really more than 1 minute but we tell him one minute because he knows that means a short time and if he expects that from the start, he won’t beg you to stay once you try to leave).

Out of the two books we read with David, one is any book of his choosing, and the other is a story from his toddler Bible. David’s newest favorite book is close to our hearts because it’s all about our little man!



What he loves most about his Hooray Heroes personalized book is that HE is the one who gets to go on the adventure! As we read, David sees himself diving with dolphins and being pursued by pirates and discovering a buried treasure.


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He also LOVES to get in on his sister’s book which is all about the things she could be when she grows up! From a soccer player, to a writer, to a computer programmer! We had a lot of fun explaining to David all the different paths his and Evy’s life could take and what they could do when they grow up (and actually get to picture what that looks like!).


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What we love about the Hooray Heroes personalized books is the memories we make while reading them together as a family and the keepsakes they’ll become over David and Evy’s lifetime! Seeing the possibilities for what they can become and the amazing adventures they can have is truly precious and special for everyone! I loved going through the unique customization process and even getting a little spotlight in Evy’s book as her mama!



If you’re looking for a special gift or just a precious keepsake for you and your kids to enjoy together, check out the Hooray Heroes online store and customize a book for your little ones today!


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    We follow a very similar routine to yours, although we don’t do one last snack most nights. Definitely going to check out those books- super cute!