Before I became a mom, I always imagined a picture-perfect bedtime routine. I’d rock my children sweetly while I read a story, they’d fall asleep in my arms and then I’d tiptoe out of the room as they drift off to dreamland.
But let’s be honest, parenting IRL is nothing like the movies. And if you have more than one child, then you know that rocking your children to sleep might not be on your to-do list anymore.
When one kid suddenly turned into three (yep twins), bedtime stories also got put on the bottom of the to-do list.
For a few years, we stopped being intentional about putting in those extra 5-10 minutes of our time and attention.
We were so exhausted with 3 kids under 2 that we were just happy to fall into bed as soon as possible.
But as our boys started growing, we noticed that getting them to sleep at night was much (MUCH MUCH) more difficult than it had been to get our daughter to sleep.
Every night we were spending hours trying to get the boys to sleep. We tried cuddling, back rubbing, cry-it-out, calling super nanny…
Okay maybe we didn’t call super nanny but we did watch A LOT of those episodes and tried to implement her techniques.
Nothing worked. When I stepped back to look at the differences between what we had done with my daughter and what we were doing with our boys, I noticed one HUGE difference.
Our current bedtime routine was the absolute bare minimum.
With our daughter, we had always spent a few VERY INTENTIONAL minutes reading a story to our daughter before bed.
This seemed to create that last connection point that she needed before she could say goodnight.
Could I actually save time by building a routine around reading bedtime stories?
After we put this theory to the test, we realized that there were actually 3 elements that went into building a successful bedtime routine.
Storytime itself was the central piece, but it wasn’t enough all by itself. What you do before and after the story is just as important.
These are the 3 MAJOR things we did to turn our kids into great sleepers.
#1 Create Sensory Sleep Cues with Essential Oils and low lights.
About 30 Minutes to an hour before you settle in for your family story, start turning down some of the lights to help set the right sensory mood.
We also found it beneficial to set up the diffuser with some calming oil (the same one every night).
These are sensory cues that your child’s brain will eventually begin subconciously associating with bedtime. This cueing should encourage the release of melatonin which will make your little one sleepy.
Quick Tip: Grab a timed outlet and put your diffuser on a timer so you don’t have to actively remember to turn it on each night!
#2 Sign up for StoryTyke and get Free Short Bedtime Stories every night to get the kids excited about storytime.
When the kids are looking forward to storytime, the whole hygiene side of the bedtime routine tends to move a lot smoother.
They are actually want to get to their room and find out what the bedtime story will be about tonight.
Unfortunately, getting kids excited about stories would mean coming up with something new and exciting every night. That would be incredibly exhausting.
In fact, I don’t know how the folks at StoryTyke do it.
The StoryTyke team sends out a brand new bedtime story every… single…night… straight to your email… and it’s COMPLETELY FREE.
It’s almost too good to be true!
No more fighting over whose turn it is to pick a book, no more re-reading that same exact story a thousand times. (Thank goodness!)
The stories are simple and sweet and they typically take about 5 minutes to read. You can jump over to StoryTyke website to sample a few of their stories before signing up..
My kids love waiting for our email to come in to find out what our story will be about tonight. They start asking about it early in the day!
Oh!!! And one of the really cool parts of the site is that kids can submit an idea for a story and the StoryTyke team looks at the submissions when creating new stories each week.
My daughter has an endless list of story ideas to share and she can’t wait till one of HER ideas gets delivered to the kids “around the whole world.” #loveher
It’s super easy to sign up. You just subscribe to their list with your name and email and you’ll start getting stories within a day or two!
#3 Let story time be a cue for self-soothing.
At ages 7, 7, & 8, my children are now very self-sufficient sleepers.
It took us a little while to get to them to this point, but we simply couldn’t handle spending hours each night putting them back into bed.
We knew we needed to set a cue for self-soothing time that would let them know when mom and dad were “off-duty.”
At bedtime, we do baths and brush our teeth, then it’s family storytime. We are intentional about really giving our kids the time, attention and snuggles they need at storytime. This way, there is really no guilt when it’s time for them to self-soothe.
After our story, the kids know that it’s time for them to settle in.
We give hugs and kisses and then it’s their responsibility to get themselves to sleep. They are not permitted to go anywhere except for the bathroom.
We all have a tough time getting to sleep at times. So, if they are really struggling to settle in, sometimes we also allow them to use a Christian meditation app along with a bluetooth headband.
Remember mama, they’re only little once… don’t let your nights be filled up with the business of getting everyone to bed. You might actually find yourself with more time and less guilt if you take 5 minutes and make storytime the focus of your bedtime routine.
These short bedtime stories make it so easy to create memories with your kids that there’s just no excuse!