If you have kids across multiple ages, bedtime can be a little bit tricky. You might feel like you can’t possibly meet all of your kiddos’ needs in that short period of time. You know, for the millionth time that day. Discouraging, right? It doesn’t have to be!
Bedtime is truly my favorite time of the day – and not for the reason you think. Getting kids of different ages to bed on time takes creativity, but bedtime is a natural hard reset. No matter what happened during the day, you can cuddle in bed, ask questions, and apologize for that time you lost your temper earlier. I love bedtime.
Photo Credit: @dustedwithglitter
We have three kids in our family: currently aged 14, 8, and 4. Because I love to spend time with my kids at bedtime, the age gap poses a bit of an extra challenge. This is where tag-team parenting comes in VERY handy for getting kids of different ages to bed. If you are fortunate enough to have a partner home in the evenings, work together! One parent can put the youngest to bed, while the other puts the middle child to bed.
Then Parent #1 can circle back to your oldest kiddo to check-in. Our 14-year-old doesn’t necessarily want to be put to bed at this age. But, she DOES crave that moment of connection. Sometimes we just sit and talk before bed, grab a snack, or watch a show we both love before bed.
If you don’t have a second parent at home (or even if you do), we have often found a “family” bedtime worked the best at getting kids of different ages to bed! Everyone does the same things at the same time. Whether it’s bathing, pajamas, or having a bedtime snack. You can focus your attention on the youngest child – or the child that needs the most help.
We all read a story and pray together. Then the oldest kids read or look at books in their beds for 20-30 minutes while one parent puts the youngest child to bed. In our home, allowing reading before “lights out” had the added benefit of giving our children more positive feelings about reading. Reading became a privilege and a means of staying up later, rather than a chore to be completed. This technique also works great if you have kids sharing a room! Our older kids are often eager to read to the youngest.
Safe and Sound at Bedtime
If you do have younger children who you will be leaving to check on other kiddos in your family, it can be especially helpful to have a sleeping space for them that is safe for their age group. Of course, very young babies will be safe in their cribs, but slightly older toddlers and preschoolers can do very well with boundaries at the edges of their beds as they learn the freedoms of their new space. This is a helpful tool once they are settled into bed-- awake or asleep. It is a physical reminder that they will need to turn around to climb down. It can also help them to sleep longer once they have drifted off to slumber, and reduce the number of night wakings due to feelings of insecurity in their big kid bed. A discreet bed bumper or secure bed rail can not only be helpful for them but also helpful in giving you peace of mind that they will be safe even when you're not right there next to them during every second of bedtime. Be sure to select bed safety products that have been JPMA certified so you can be assured that the products have passed the highest safety standards for sleeping children.
The key to any bedtime routine is consistency, but this is especially true with kids of different ages. When everyone knows what to expect, bedtime goes a lot more smoothly. It is helpful for each kiddo to be responsible for their own tasks!
What bedtime tips and tricks work at your house??
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About the Author:
Stacy grew up in Minnesota but spent the next several years of her life traversing the globe, temporarily setting down roots anywhere and everywhere. Stacy is extremely passionate about the world of adoption and foster care, having spent a year in Uganda adopting her oldest daughter in 2008. Stacy married her husband Jesse in 2011, and they moved to Oklahoma City to grow their family. They currently have three children; a 12-year-old girl, a 6-year-old boy, and a 1-year-old boy. Though she will be parenting for the rest of her natural days, she deeply appreciates the age differences between her kids. Stacy obtained a Master’s degree in child psychology in 2007, but currently uses it only on her own children! A stay-at-home mama since Baby #3 was born, Stacy has stayed busy keeping her children alive and relatively entertained. She loves her little crazy crew fiercely and uses writing as her creative outlet. When she’s not chasing her kiddos, Stacy is likely traveling or daydreaming about traveling. She also enjoys coffee shops, copious amounts of “cop drama” shows, and perusing Pinterest for ideas that have little chance of ever getting done. But they’re good to have. Just in case.