Create a "bedtime routine book" for smoother, happier bedtimes!

Photobook example of a custom-made bedtime routine book

Photobook example of a custom-made bedtime routine book

You’ve heard it said, “A picture paints a thousand words.” That’s especially true when communicating with young children. Which is why when providing sleep support to families with toddlers and preschoolers we often recommend creating a simple, straightforward “bedtime routine book.” 

Why use a visual tool like a bedtime routine book? 

Look at your own day to day activities. Do you have calendars, checklists, post-it notes and other reminders to help you remember what you need to do? Think of a bedtime routine book as a kid-friendly version of all that. A simple booklet acts as a visual tool to communicate expectations and help young children understand the routines. It also helps keep parents from having to repeat themselves over and over again.

Children feel more secure and less anxious when they know what comes next. Having a visual schedule reminds them and clearly shows what the tasks and steps are to prepare and wind down for bedtime.  And, the visual images give children time to process and plan for the upcoming transition.

Time to brush teeth!

Time to brush teeth!

As in all aspects of parenting, consistency and follow-through are key ingredients for success. Without them, you can't expect your child to learn or change their behavior. Having their own bedtime routines booklet helps both parents and children practice consistent, appropriate activities for preparing for sleep. 

Another benefit of a visual tool like this is that the book helps remind children if they forget. And, when the going gets tough, the schedule can take the heat instead of the parent. You might say, “I know you don’t want to put on your pajamas but the schedule says it’s time.”

Goodnight kisses are an important part of a bedtime routine!

Goodnight kisses are an important part of a bedtime routine!

There are many ways to go about creating a booklet for (and with) your child. It can be hand-drawn and taped together or much more elaborate. Because young children respond especially well to pictures of real faces, using pictures of themselves or other children works great. I’m including an example of a customized photo book (like you can order from an online photo service) that a client made for their child. You can also use pictures cut out from magazines or printed off the internet and paste them into a spiral notebook. Or, you can order schedules from Schedule Power, which uses images of real children with clean and simple designs. As you’ll see, the steps should be broken down to be easy to follow and understand.

Here’s what Brooke and Alyson, the creators of Schedule Power, have to say about the benefits of using a visual schedule with children:

Use your schedule to bring a peaceful flow and happy smiles to your day and evening.

1. Give Clear Directions

Instead of “no! stop!” and “don’t”, schedules show children what they should be doing and in what order.

When adults tell children what NOT to do, they assume children can make the logical leap to what they should be doing. But children often don’t and continue to make similar choices. When children are given clear instructions about what they should be doing, they become more confident and cooperative.

2. Focus on the Task

Instead of negotiating, schedules keep children on task with no option to change the plan.

Kids are natural negotiators. Schedules take away the option for other ideas and keep children focused on the task at hand. Adults no longer take the blame for the activity because the schedule is telling the child the plan. “The schedule says it’s nap time.”

3. Encourage Independence

Instead of feeling ordered, schedules empower children to take charge of their day.

We all love to feel in charge of something and let’s face it, for young children there are few opportunities to be in control. Schedule Power gives a child the confidence to understand and manage their routine without adult prompting or nagging. A child boosts their self-esteem each time they complete a step or master an entire routine. They are encouraged to repeat the activity again and try other tasks in the future.

4. Create Consistency

Instead of guessing, schedules allow new adults to successfully help with routines.

Whether it’s a new babysitter or grandparent, adults who use Schedule Power will immediately know the steps in the routine, how far the child has progressed and what activities remain to be completed. New adults can enter the routine confidently and compliment the child from the beginning. “Wow! You already got your pajamas on! Let’s brush your teeth and then I see it’s story time! Yea! I love reading stories with you!”

5. Transition Easily

Instead of redirecting, schedules show children the routine so they can follow it without adult support.

Moving to a new activity can be difficult for young children. Schedules show children which activity they are working on and what activities are next. When children understand their routine, they are more likely to begin the next activity without adult reminders, managing themselves and their emotions.

Do you have a bedtime routine book you’d like to share? Email it and I’ll post it on our Instagram and Facebook pages.

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