The Bedtime Routine That Finally Worked For Me! (And Saved My Sanity)

After trying, trying, and trying AGAIN, I have finally found a bedtime routine that actually works!We all know parenting is hard. We read it in every form of print; watch it in every form of media. We live it. Every. Single. Day. But, admittedly, there is one particular time of day that has been especially challenging for me as a momma – finding a bedtime routine.

However- finally, finally, FINALLY, FINALLY, I have found a bedtime routine that has saved my sanity. And it is not even all that difficult! Can you sense my excitement? But let’s start at the beginning.


I Am Not An Expert

“How? How do you get them asleep?” My friend was pleading, her new-mother, sleep-deprived, desperate voice coming loud and clear through the phone.  It was after midnight and I was her final lifeline. Only, I  was the worst choice for a savior of sleep.

“Mine don’t sleep,” I meekly replied as my youngest girl peered silently around the corner at me. “You know they don’t!” I protested before yelling to my daughter to, once again, go to bed.

I was not exaggerating. My youngest girl is notorious for fighting sleep. We have tried everything. I have read books, listened to podcasts, begged, borrowed and stole every method I could possibly get my hands on. Yet, every night she was silently clawing her way back into my bed. And eventually, I stopped trying to fight it.

Even if I was a failure at establishing a bedtime routine, at least if she was sleeping in my bed- she was ASLEEP!

Bedtime routine not working? Read this to find out what finally worked for me!
Even after 5 kids, I couldn’t help my friend get her baby to sleep.
The Final Straw

It was a Monday morning, sunny and warm as most of our mornings are here in the South. I should have felt refreshed and rested after the weekend. Only, when my alarm went off, I had not even had four hours of sleep- less than two of which were consecutive. I was starting my week off even more exhausted than I had finished the previous week.

To compound matters- it was a big week. Unnegotiable meetings at work; multiple (necessary) doctor’s appointments for more than one family member; and family obligations that I could not wiggle out of.

And then…..right before I walked out the door, our middle daughter began vomiting. E-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. I couldn’t take it anymore and knew that needed to do something, and quick! There was no way that I could continue going on as a mommy zombie.

Don't be a mommy zombie! Check out the sleep routine that actually worked for me!
Being a mommy zombie doesn’t help during a busy week at all!
The Bedtime Routines That Were Not Working

After trying several methods, I decided to take a backwards approach. I started thinking about what was NOT working. Bath time immediately before bedtime? Not effective. Walking after dinner? Negative. Letting them choose a bedtime story? Ummmm….no.

But these things all had more than being a waste of time in common. These strategies were stimulating my child, instead of winding her down. Since she was one of five kids, this also meant my other children were galvanized. We all know that kids feed off of each other, and in large families that can lead to a very, very long night.

So, since I was not being effective in the “expert” ways of establishing a bedtime routine, I committed to making a list of opposites. I was going against the grain; going rogue.

Instead of finding your child playing after bedtime, read about the bedtime that worked for me!
Instead of being sleepy after our bedtime routine, they were wanting to play!
The Bedtime Routine That Saved My Sanity

That entire week I shook up our evening routines. We got home and completed homework and resumed normal play for the littlest kids. We finished whatever chores we had. But, before dinner was finished, we went for a walk instead of waiting until after we had eaten.

We are fortunate to live in a relatively slower neighborhood in the outskirts of town. We have empty fields full of wildlife, and virtually no traffic. The kids run up and down the block, socializing with whoever else is outside or chasing birds and bunnies, while I walk behind. They get plenty of exercise and have a blast while doing it.

After terrorizing the neighborhood, we went straight into our bath time rituals. They could smell dinner and were getting hungry which made bath time actually go more smoothly than the nights that we waited until right before bed. I didn’t have to beg or threaten to get anyone out of the tub!

Then came dinner. By now it was later than they were used to eating, but there was still plenty of time left until bedtime. (There are a ton of reasons that children shouldn’t eat right before going to sleep, but we have a child that has night terrors so we definitely try to avoid it.) Comfy in their pajamas, the kiddos ate and then scampered off to play quietly or watch TV (I know, shame on us!) until 30 minutes before bedtime.

Then came story time. Now notice, I did not say reading time. I will reiterate that I am a huge advocate of reading to your children. I still read books that interest even my older kids (such as The Lion, The Witch, and Wardrobe) so that they can hear how I use inflection, etc. However, now I am reading to them during homework time. When it is time to go to bed, I am telling a story. I am using my kiddos as the main characters and allow for suggestions. But while I am telling the story, we have already turned down the lights. It is dark and calm, with less stimulation. I tell them to close their eyes and imagine the story instead of them fighting to investigate the pictures in a book.

Pretty clever way to get their eyes closed right?

Then it is kisses and hugs, more kisses and hugs, and then time to go to sleep. And it has happened!!!! They have been going to sleep….and staying asleep!

Want to have a bedtime routine that finally works? Check out what worked for me!
They have actually been going to sleep!! And staying asleep!!
 How To Make A Bedtime Routine Work For You

Here is your action plan.

  • Jot down what your evening typically looks like. Do you have routines? Does your family eat at the same time every night, or are meals planned around extra curricular activities, errands, etc.? Do you have a set bedtime? Busy families have a lot going on, but there are ways that you can try to come up with a routine. Studies show that kids do better with a routine. If you need help coming up with one, email me or leave a comment below. We can figure this out!
  • Evaluate what you have tried that didn’t work. Have you tried reading books? This works for many families. I just found that it wasn’t working for me. Have you tried bath time right before bed? Again, many people swear by soothing lavender baths before bed. Just not a solution for my family.
  • Determine what you can change. Can you try establishing a new routine? Maybe try telling stories instead of reading a book. Not creative? Google short stories and retell them using your kids as the main characters. Or, even easier, retell one of their favorite shows or movies using your kids as the main characters. I usually have my stories last about 5 minutes and then leave with a cliffhanger.
  • Don’t give up! IF at first you don’t succeed, try again! But give it a few days to a week before switching things up. It is only tried it for one night and said forget it.

Do you have a bedtime routine that works for you? Let us know in the comments. You never know who you might help!

You might enjoy- Meal Planning For Busy Moms.

Meal planning can definitely help save time while you are trying to establish new routines.



Car Games And Activities For Kids Of All Ages- With Little Or No Prep!

As a large family, we do most of our traveling by car. It is more budget friendly for us and, since we typically stay within a few hour radius of our house, it works. However, Hurricane Irma ruined our well-tuned system and caused us to rethink how we do things. After several days in the car I have realized that while I remembered to pack most of our essentials (minus shirts for me haha!), the one thing that I forgot was entertainment for the kids! Now, as the long daunting trip home is coming near, I have been ferociously searching Pinterest for car games and  activities for the kids.

I need some sanity in order to deal with this traffic!

The best thing is that there are plenty of great ideas on the Internet. Some of them require some prep so I have pinned them for future trips. But there are plenty of activities that require no prep at all. And those, my friends, are how I am going to get home with the last shred of my sanity intact.

To make it more friendly, I organized the list of games by age groups. I included the links to the activities I found on Pinterest. I also made a Pinterest board that include even more ideas that I did not include in this post. Take a peek and if you have any car games that you swear by please leave them in the comments.

car games, family games, traveling, sanity
Car games for kids of all ages- with little or no prep!

Car Games For All Ages:

I Spy Shapes

Have your kids name different shapes and discuss places they may see them during the drive. What shape is the yield sign? Do you see any shapes in the clouds? Nature is a great place to find shapes and can even prompt more conversations (we found out that our oldest daughter knows many random facts about farm animals). This not only keeps your littles busy, but keeps their minds engaged.

Now you may notice that I put this under the “all ages” category. Before your older kids begin to roll their eyes, this game can be fun for all ages I promise! We just have to tweak it a little for older kiddos. One of my favorite school projects was actually a geometry project in high school. We had to go around our town and take pictures of the various angles that we were learning about. At the time, I lived in a small midwest town that had numerous old churches. The beautiful stained glass windows and elegant archways sparked a love for photography. If your kiddos have phones, they can take pictures of the different shapes that they see. They can turn it into a competition or create collages. I know one of the points of car games is to try to limit electronics, but this can be a constructive way to encourage them to play along. If your kids do not have phones, buy some cheap disposable cameras for them to play with. Yes, they still sell those! When you get them developed you may have more pictures of them sticking their tongues out at each other, but at least they had fun!

Restaurant I Spy

This is a game that I am definitely going to print before our next road trip since all of the kids (minus the baby of course) can participate. Despite the fact that we rarely eat out at fast food restaurants, our kids are constantly pointing them out to us in a not-so-subtle attempt to convince us to stop. Now they can have fun pointing them out to each other and possibly forget to beg! Hey, a momma can dream, right? Anyway, all you have to is go to 3 Boys and a Dog to score this free printable. Don’t just print the printable and run, though. She has some awesome ideas for more games and printables, and how to organize them on the trip.

car games, saving sanity, kids of all ages
Restaurant I Spy is a great car game to entertain kids of all ages.

A few tips:

  1. Scan the card first and make sure it could be useful to you. Some of the restaurants are not available in all areas.
  2. There are not varying versions of the game card so I am going to turn it into a team game. Once the kids find all of the signs we are going to stop for a treat.
  3. I am going to print it on cardstock and then laminate it. The kids can use dry erase marker to mark them off as we go and then erase it for later use.
Tell a Story

This is another perfect game to sneak some learning in. Take turns coming up with a character and a setting (don’t forget setting also includes time). Then one person starts the story. Such as- “Once upon a time there was a cat named Pete.” The next person has to continue on. “Pete lived in a shoe on Mars.” Each person continues with the story trying to make it as silly as possible.

Car Games for Younger Children

I Spy Printable

For kiddos who are unable to read, or are maybe beginning readers, Mom’s Minivan made the cutest I Spy printable. Print and clip to a clipboard and you are ready to go!

little kids, car games, saving sanity, road trip, traveling with large families
Even little kids can participate with I Spy car games with this adorable printable!
Magnetic Sheet Fun!

Playdate Crashers has the cutest ideas to make the car trip more enjoyable for the little kids, and they are all budget friendly! Take a magnetic cookie sheet and add magnets and voila! Instant fun. My favorite suggestion of hers is the matching cards that she cut up and glued magnetic strips on.

car games, traveling with large families, cheap fun
Cookie sheet + magnets = hours of inexpensive fun!

Car Games for Older Children

Printable Fun

Scouring Pinterest for ideas on what to do with my older kids I found the PERFECT website that lists numerous free printables. Trip Savvy has all kinds of ideas on one post to keep the big kids busy for hours. My plan for next time is to print them out and laminate them for future use, but if you do not have a laminator (I love mine!) you can just buy those protective sleeves for cheap. Your kids can use dry erase marker on those and race through the different printables. Clip all of the games on a clipboard and you are ready to go!

printables, car games, kids of all ages, traveling, large family
The license plate game is only one of the free printables on Trip Savvy.
Mad Libs

Mad libs are always fun and do not even require printing. You can just pull them up on your phone or other electronic device and plug in the words you come up with to fill in the blanks. I found tons after doing just a simple Google search. My favorites revolved around vacations.

Hopefully some of these activities will keep my kids occupied on the long trip home. Again, please let me know if you have any other fun car games or activities. For more ideas check out my Pinterest board.