Many parents have a love-hate relationship with bedtime. It’s nice to have those quiet evenings to relax once everyone is asleep – BUT it can feel impossible trying to get two or more kids to bed at the same time!
I get a lot of inquiries from parents who feel like they are trapped in a never-ending pattern of long and stressful bedtimes, stuck spending hours trying to funnel multiple kids off to bed. By the time they hit the couch for some “me time”, they’re exhausted and irritable.
And I SO get this! As a twin parent, I never really had the chance to practice bedtime with just one child. I was forced into a two child sleep routine from day one. And I hate to say it, but bedtime IS hard, and there is no magic formula for getting two (or more) littles off to sleep at the same time. Sorry!
This is why helping your child (or children) become more comfortable falling asleep alone can be such a game changer! (check out my Hello Bedtime program if this is your goal)
For now, I’m going to walk you through some of the logistical things to think about, like their individual sleep needs, and whether you should have your kids share a room? Then I’ll share some tips and tricks to help streamline your evenings and make those double bedtimes a lot less stressful.
Should I put my children to bed at the same time?
Putting both kids to bed at the same time can help simplify the routine and *hopefully* stop the night from getting away from you so that you can maximize your downtime. However, it ultimately depends on their individual sleep needs, and your family’s lifestyle. If your children don’t sleep the same number of hours overnight, then achieving a shared schedule will be really tricky.
Someone will likely end up overtired, or undertired! If this happens, you’ll want to put one child to bed before the other.
(wondering what time to put your child to bed? I’ve got a blog on that!)
To stagger their bedtimes, you’ll probably want to put the child who needs the most sleep to bed first. However, sometimes it makes more sense to put whoever falls asleep the quickest or the easiest to bed first to help free up more time for children who have a harder time settling.
A good guideline is to stagger their sleep by about an hour to allow the first child to fall into a deep sleep so that they will be less likely to wake up and need your support.
Should my children share a room?
There is no right answer to this question, as it ultimately depends on your family’s unique circumstances and preferences. However, some families find that having children share a room can promote bonding and makes bedtime easier.
I’ve always loved having my kids share a room. For us, it made sense, since my twins both had the same bedtime. I also found that it was way easier to read stories and settle both kids in the same room. If your littles are older, you could even try having them share a bed! This way you can snuggle both kids at the same time so there are no fights over who gets tucked in first.
The downside is that they are more likely to wake each other up in the morning when they share a bedroom. Sharing a bedroom can also pose challenges when one child takes longer to settle or wakes up at night, and so sometimes having separate bedrooms is needed to help improve sleep quality.
Top Tips for Coordinating Bedtime for Two Kids
Bedtime can suck up a lot of time and energy in your evening which can leave parents zoning out and avoiding the inevitable, or rushing to get it over and done with. Which is why…
My biggest tip is to prepare YOURSELF for bedtime!
Are you hungry? Do you need to go to the bathroom? What about those pajamas that are still in the dryer? Do they alwaaaays ask for a glass of water? Go grab everything that you need, and prepare yourself ahead of time. Bedtime is so much harder when you’re scrambling at the last minute, and running after bedtime resistant kids.
Once you’re feeling ready, gather everyone up and get them ready for bed at the same time, as a family. Think snacks, brushing teeth, pajamas, even stories. If you’ve got a partner, even better! The divide and conquer approach definitely has some advantages here.
Tips for Double Bedtimes
If you’re putting your children to bed together, try to:
- Schedule in some play time before lights out – so that they can get their sillies out in a low-stress way (you can use this time to grab everything you need)
- Utilize your environment, such as closing doors, using baby gates, and positioning yourself in a way to help prevent anyone from fleeing down the hall.
- Allow each child to some choice (i.e. flavor of toothpaste, a book each, a comfort item to sleep with) to help them feel less controlled
- Try aiming for a later bedtime to help get them good and tired so they (hopefully) fall asleep quicker (this doesn’t work for all kids!)
- If sharing a room, move their beds close together so that you can physically comfort both at the same time
- Play a game where you have everyone pretend to be asleep, as if they were being filmed in a movie.
How to Stagger Bedtime
Of course, if you are staggering their bedtimes, you’ll need to come up with a plan for what to do with the awake child so that they are safe and entertained while you’re busy putting the other(s) to sleep.
What if your toddler needs an earlier bedtime than your baby?
When putting an older child to bed first before your baby:
Here’s a quick peek at what some of my families have found helpful:
- Put your youngest in a baby carrier (so they can’t run away!) while you’re doing teeth etc
- You can try feeding your baby while reading your child their stories. Or
- Utilize a safe place for them to play in, and set them up with a bedtime basket. This is a collection of quiet play items that only come out at bedtime. You’ll want to deliberately change the basket from time to time, to keep this novel and fun for them.
How to put your baby to bed when you have a toddler?
When putting a younger child to bed first.
- Remember that babies are super resilient and tend to be able to sleep anywhere! Could you make a cozy corner for them in the living room to sleep in, and bring them to bed later?
- If they share a room you can offer your older child a flashlight to read under the covers. (What kid doesn’t love a flashlight?) or
- You can do the initial bedtime routine together, and then set your eldest up with a bedtime basket or a snack, then bring them back into the bedroom for a quick tuck in after the youngest is settled.
- Planning for some special one-on-one time after can also sometimes inspire cooperation!
Unfortunately, some kids just cannot be in a separate room from you without getting into trouble and some kids interrupt you constantly making it impossible to put the other down. If this is you, then you can bring out the big guns – electronics!
A quick caution though… I wouldn’t start here. Because tablets, TV’s, and screens emit blue light which isn’t great for sleep (learn why here).
Plus, it’s really hard to backtrack and try to move away from a phone or tablet to something like a snack or bedtime basket.
A great alternative is the Yoto Box. It’s kinda like a modern day CD player for kids, and my twins love theirs! They can listen to child-focused podcasts, or movies, and you can even record yourself reading them a bedtime story!
Right now, we are loving the Koko Sleep podcast, for their bedtime stories!
Troubleshooting Bedtime Problems
Unfortunately these tips won’t work for everyone. But hopefully reading this has inspired you with some ideas. I suggest picking one or two things that you can try and implement tonight. Give it a solid go for a couple weeks, and then reassess.
My last tip for you is to stop overthinking this!
For the most part, the tools and strategies you would use to support two children to sleep are no different than you would use with one child.
So don’t forget the basics, like putting them to bed when they are sleepy (not over-tired or under-tired) and helping them to feel connected and calm so that they can fall easily into rest mode.
And, if you’re tired of googling quick fixes and want a proven framework to take the stress out of sleep for good, then I can help!
My online sleep program, Hello Bedtime, can help you get your children falling asleep – by themselves – in under an hour, all the way from the start of the bedtime routine to falling fast asleep… all without yelling, threats – or bribes! Sounds good right?