Creating a Simple Bedtime Routine for Babies and Toddlers

Trying to sleep train (or retrain) your baby? Has your toddler mastered the art of stalling? Establishing a bedtime routine is tough, plain and simple. Add in hectic work schedules, unexpected naps, and sleep regressions and it can feel downright impossible to get your little ones down for the night. Experts agree that it’s never too early to start reinforcing a bedtime routine and ritual with your children. If you haven’t settled into a nighttime routine yet, try the “Four Bs:” Bath, Books, Blessing, Bedtime.

Baby Sleeping in Sleeper

No class of humans on the planet have greater FOMO (fear of missing out) than toddlers – part of the stall tactics that you encounter at bedtime, like asking for more books, or another glass (or four) of water, or having to use the potty repeatedly, are really part of your child’s way of squeezing an extra few minutes of time with you out of the day. When you build a simple bedtime routine, it’s easy to adapt on the go for vacations or offschedule nights when a parent is working late or the kids are with a sitter. Plus you can carry the simple elements of the four Bs over as your child matures.

Use the buttons below to find some recommendations for soothing bedtime reads for babies and toddlers as well as a traditional Jewish blessing, the Sh’ma. You can also sing along with different Jewish lullabies using our playlist. And PJ Library Radio plays a lullabies set every night as well!

BATH

Mom with Baby

Snuggles acquired.

Experts agree that it’s best to allow yourself 40 minutes to an hour to complete the full bedtime routine. As you start bath time, you can go over the routine with your little one. While infants will just enjoy hearing the sound of your voice, for toddlers, knowing what to expect can help alleviate some of that angst about settling down. Whether you load up the tub with bubbles and toys to let your child get their last burst of playful energy out, or treat them to a baby spa experience complete with chamomile bath bombs, this first part of the routine is really just about the one on one time and setting kids up to know that the wind-down from the day has begun.

TIP: If you’re not a family who does bath time every day – because let’s face it, not everyone has time for that – you can build in a water-free component of “bath time” like putting on lotion, brushing teeth, or wiping a face with a warm wash cloth, as an every day key finishing or starting element of the routine.

BOOKS

Mom Reading with Sons

Just about any book can be a good bedtime read if it means cuddles and quiet time. If you’d like to read a special bedtime-focused book with your kids, try Goodnight Sh’ma by Jacqueline Jules or The Bedtime Sh’ma by Sarah Gershman. Both stories feature gentle verse and soft, serene illustrations which follow a young child as he/she prepares for bed. While Goodnight Sh’ma focuses on the actions that one small boy takes before going to bed (i.e. reading a book, hugging a bear, reciting a prayer), The Bedtime Sh’ma contains child-friendly verses, adapted from various psalms and prayers, which a parent and child recite as a young girl prepares for bed. Each book concludes with the timeless words of the Sh’ma prayer.

Here are a few more soothing, rhyming, books perfect for bedtime routines with kids up to three years old.

A Kiss on the Keppie

A Kiss on the Keppie by Leslea Newman

A little boy is kissed on the head by loving parents and grandparents as he makes his way through a happy day in the life of a toddler. Often a sweet little pup named Dreidel watches as the day progresses.


Good night, laila tov

Good Night, Laila Tov by Laurel Snyder

A family car trip turns into an exploration of the natural wonders of the seashore, woods, and fields, In gratitude and to make the world a better place, the parents plant trees. As the day progresses, the family adventure is marked by the recurringrefrain: "good night, laila tov.”


Welcome Song for Baby

Welcome Song for Baby by Richard Van Camp

With delightful photos and engaging text, this book offers a Jewish perspective on the many joys of welcoming a little one into the family.


When I First Held You

When I First Held You by Mirik Snir

The unique and immediate connections between parents and newborns come to life in this sweet Israeli lullaby.


BLESSING


Learn how to say the blessing with this Sh’ma singalong from BimBam

The Sh’ma, is a traditional Jewish prayer that’s recited often—you may have heard it growing up, or during services at Yom Kippur, or during your own childhood bedtime routines. The Sh’ma is about believing in one God. Sometimes before, going to bed, people like to talk to God and say “Thank you, God, for all of the special things that you gave me today.” Saying Sh’ma is a way of talking to God and saying thank you. You can tuck your child in before you say the Sh’ma or right afterwards – you’ll find a rhythm that works for your family.

Here are the words to the blessing:
English: Hear, O Israel! Adonai is our God! Adonai is One!
Hebrew: Sh’ma Yisra’el Adoni Eloheinu Adoni Eḥad.

BEDTIME

Boy Sleeping with Teddy Bear

Victory!

After you’ve finished the blessing, tuck your child in, give him or her a final kiss, and leave the room. Don’t forget to get yourself a bowl of ice-cream and five minutes to have a break. You survived bed-time-you deserve it!

MORE:

6 Steps to a Bedtime Routine That Works for Your Toddler via Motherly
Goodnight, Sleep Tight! Booklet via Interfaithfamily.com
Jewish Bedtime Rituals via kveller