Whether you’re a single parent, or just find yourself flying solo at bedtime, having more kids than parents can make bedtime a challenge.  If bedtime is chaotic in your home, chances are your family isn’t resting easy.  Follow our tips for bedtime when you have more kids than parents for a smoother evening that will send you little ones off to sleep more peacefully.

Adjust nap schedules If you have a child who takes a daytime nap and others who don’t, capping a nap early can be a great strategy to find a bedtime that works for all your children.  For example, if your two-year-old normally naps from 1-3:30 and goes to bed well at 7:30, yet your older children need a bedtime closer to 7, cap your two-year-old’s nap at 3.  This means you will wake him up so he’s also ready for bed at the same times as older siblings.

Combine bedtime routines- Bathing kids together and combining their bedtime routines saves a lot of time at bedtime.  So long as you can do it safely, try to combine baths for your little ones, then have everyone get dressed for sleep.  Choose one book to read each night instead of reading multiple books and sing one song prior to saying good night.

Introduce big brother/big sister time- If you have older children and a baby, you can put your baby to bed while your older children have big brother/big sister time. This time happens after the bath, once older kids are dressed and ready for bed. This time provides an opportunity for some quiet play before bedtime.  Similar to quiet time, older siblings will do something quietly in their room as you finish off the baby’s bedtime routine and put the baby down for the night.  Activities that work well include colouring, Lego or looking at books. Discuss the importance of this time with your older children and thank them for doing a great job when you come back to complete their bedtime routine.

Teach older children to follow a bedtime routine chart- As children grow we can give them more independence at bedtime.  If you hang a bedtime routine chart in a visible location, older children can continue to move through the steps of a bedtime routine if you need to step away to quickly change a diaper or grab a bottle.  Once out of the bath, older children can begin to take some responsibility by brushing their teeth, getting themselves dressed, choosing their big brother/big sister activity and getting their bedtime book ready while you are occupied with the baby.

Give yourself extra time- We usually advise a bedtime routine lasts 20-30 minutes from start to finish.  However, if you’re putting more than one child to bed this can be difficult to do.  Give yourself some additional time to move through the bedtime routine, especially if you’re feeding a baby prior to bed.


Alysa Dobson is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant with SleepWell Baby. She works with families to help them get the sleep they need. Alysa offers support to parents with children ages 4 months- 8 years old through both in home and remote consultations. She can be contacted at alysa@sleepwellbaby.ca.
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