Lights Out: Helpful Hints for Bed Time


Sleep Deprivation: (noun) A form of psychological torture inflicted by depriving the victim of sleep.


Until I became a parent, I didn’t realize how much someone else’s sleep could influence mine!  Getting young children to sleep is critical not only to their own health and happiness, but often to the overall health and sanity of their parents as well!  Having a consistent bedtime routine helps, though that routine will contain different things for different families.  Here are a few tricks that have helped us get just a bit more sleep around these parts.

The Bed Time Basket

Children love their “stuff”.  As we would put our boys to bed, they would constantly call us back in for “just one more thing”.  They desperately needed that blue truck, or that pirate Lego figure, or that random piece of paper that came with their Happy Meal toys.  In addition to the fact that it seemed they had a knack for asking for the one toy we didn’t even know where to begin to look for, we found ourselves going in over and over to address these requests until our “serene” bed time routine turned into grumpy parents and crying children.

Enter the bed time basket.  One night, I grabbed two small baskets  and told the boys that these were their bed time baskets.  If there was anything they wanted to have in their beds, they needed to have it in the basket before we went into their room to put on pajamas.  Initially it was an event – 5-10 minutes to gather before bed time.  Now, they often leave the same items in, changing periodically as they see fit.  When, out of habit, they would call us in to ask for something else, we would simply reply, “You’ll have to remember to put that in your basket for tomorrow night.”

The Nightlight Timer

Have you ever felt like 10 or 20 bucks changed your life?  I have!  When I was pregnant with number 3, our second son developed a habit of waking with the sun – which meant about 5:30am.  As inconvenient as it was to be up so early feeling nauseated and fatigued, I knew that being up this early after being up all night with a newborn would only be worse.  Add to that the fact that sunrise was only getting earlier, and I was ready to lose my mind.  That’s when the dear hubby and I came up with a solution.  Home Depot has held the solution to many problems in our home, and this was another one.

We purchased an outlet timer like this one for less than $20.  You can find one at any home improvement store.  (I linked to Home Depot simply for illustrative purposes.  Aside from the fact that our purchases have probably funded the pensions of at least 4 employees, Home Depot doesn’t even know I exist.  So this is not an endorsement, and it makes no difference to me whether you buy one from them or from Mo’s Hardware down the street.)

We plugged in the timer along with our boys’ favorite nightlight and set the timer to go on at bed time and go off at a reasonable hour – for us, that was about 7am.  We explained to the boys that as long as the nightlight was still on, it was still night time and they needed to stay in bed.  If they felt they just couldn’t sleep any longer, they were welcome to play with the toys and books they had in their bed time baskets.

It only took a couple of mornings for them to get the hang of the new system.  If they woke up early and were uncertain as to whether or not it was “morning” or “obscenely early morning”, they simply had to look at the nightlight.  Sometimes I would hear them rustling around at 6:00 or so, and then fall back to sleep until after 7.  It was a beautiful, beautiful thing.  Then we had a newborn, and sleep deprivation began again.  But that is a story for another time….

The solutions to bed time dilemmas are as diverse as the children and families who come up with them.  So share yours here!  What has smoothed out bedtime at your house?  Maybe your solution will be the answer to someone else’s narcoleptic prayers.

Top photo by CPERONI.

Center photo by hoefi.

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Filed under Positive Guidance and Social Skills, Uncategorized

15 Responses to Lights Out: Helpful Hints for Bed Time

  1. I had to get blackout curtains last week for my boys’ room. With summer’s longer days it was difficult to get them to relax with the sunshine blasting through the room. They were tired but their bodies weren’t registering that it was time to rest. I made a dash to the store for the curtains and they were sleeping quickly and easy.

  2. Michele

    So I’m curious about pottying – do they wait until 7am to use it or do they come back to their rooms afterward? I have a nearly 4yo and he nearly always has a big big pee right after he wakes up.

    • notjustcute

      They are always allowed to use the bathroom when they need it. They just know that if it’s not morning, it’s time to head back to bed afterward.

  3. Trisha

    I seriously need to get that nightlight. Parker is always up at 7:00, I’d love for it to be even 7:30, it’d make such a difference. Amber & Aubrey always sleep until 8:00! Great tips!

  4. I have seen people use morning time routines to teach their kids to read a clock. They had a picture of 7:00 and the kids could not get up until it matched. I like the light on a timer though, especially for younger kids.
    I love the idea of a bedtime basket too! I can’t wait to make one in a year or two when my little one is old enough to understand.

  5. Jen

    I am so grateful to have read this article. My, oh my, it’s also nice to know that we’re not the only parents with a kid who doesn’t “need” sleep, like your middle child. It’s a tough thing when he or she is a nightowl & a morning bird, seriously 3am and 5am are his wake up times some days. But never, ever past 7am. I may have to make a trip to Home Depot or Lowe’s or somewhere today for a night light. Our oldest LOVES to sleep, so this is the first time we’ve had to deal with the sleep deprivation, going on about 3 years now, as I also had insomnia while pregnant with the baby. Hahaha! Now that I think about it maybe that stemmed from his nocturnal schedule as well.

    Anyway, the bedtime baskets are a great idea as well b/c the baby LOVES to sleep with 2.5 million toys in his bed, and books, clothes, etc. I’m glad he has a full size bed so he has room to sleep. :)


  6. sarah

    Hi Amanda,

    Thanks for the great advice. I’m wondering at what age did you start using the bedtime baskets and the nightlight timer? Our daughter is 21 months, and I feel like she’s probably a little young to understand, but I could be wrong. I’d love for her to at least stay in her room til 7am instead of crying out over the monitor, “Mama. Dada. Wake up!” We have another one on the way, and I’m definitely not looking forward to the 6am wake up call after being up all night.

    • notjustcute

      My younger son was probably 3 when we started this system, and it definitely changes and adapts with age. It really depends on your own child. Hopefully you kind find a version that works best for you!

  7. Ashley

    Since my little boy was about 5 months old I have put him back in bed after his morning nursing/bottle which was about 5am. He is now accustom to staying in bed, and being awake until 7:30 or so when we come and get him. Some times he still wakes up that early, sometimes he sleeps until 7:30 it really depends on how tired he is. He no longer gets the bottle at 5 , we give it to him when he gets out of bed. We do the same thing with nap time, in the mornings he is in his bed at least an hour and a half, and the afternoon at least 2 hours. My sister (mother of 3) told me that she started this when she had 2 because weather or not they are tired (and the usually are) “mommy needs rest time too” or at least a few minutes to catch up on housework while the kids are resting or playing quietly in their beds. My son will be 1 next week and I hope I can keep this up as he gets older. My sister has managed to keep it up with her 3 kids.

    • notjustcute

      Getting into that routine is very helpful. Not only for you, but babies and kids do some powerful learning in those quiet moments alone. Studies show that’s when some babies practice language skills. It’s clear others use that time to build pre-literacy skills as they page through books or tell themselves a story. And I think it’s good for every human to learn to be comfortable with a certain level of solitary quietness, particularly in this day and age.

  8. Alice Wonder

    For the child to stay in bed past 7 am all you have to do is to start putting them to bed later, as simple as that :)

    • notjustcute

      I wish it was that easy with my early risers, Alice! We actually experimented with that at one point and found that my 5:30 waker would still get up at 5:30. He would just end up being more grumpy! It was like he just had this internal alarm clock. But more power to you if you’re able to get a switch with a simple remedy!

    • Nichole

      I think that theory works depending on the child. I have tried to keep my little ones up until 10 sometimes and they will get up earlier than if I put them to bed at 9. Every child is different and maybe that method works for you, but it has never worked for me.

  9. Um, I think you may be a genius. :) Super curious to try this! We have been having problems where now our morning bird comes in and wakes up our night owl (not intentionally), so I can really see that timer working to keep him in his room. I like the idea that he can choose the items in his bedtime basket too!

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