Our personal situation is two boys, ages four and a half and two and a half, although I imagine answers to this question could be generalized.

Bedtime in our home is usually between 6:30 - 8:00, and often takes that entire time period. When we are going according to schedule, bedtime consists of reading several books, getting into pajamas, brushing teeth, and then reading more books.

Our challenge is, that often at around this point it is time for Mr. Dad to go, as he has evening obligations. This leaves Mrs. Mom with 2 children to put to sleep on her own. The biggest issue is figuring out what to do with one child while the other is being put to sleep, such that the other child does not prevent the first from going to sleep. They just recently moved into the same bedroom, in preparation for a new sibling (who we assumed would start off in his/her own room, although that is also negotiable if it would be the best solution to our bedtime dilemma). We do not have any strong feelings about which one should go to bed first - whatever works best is good with us. Putting them to bed together is also fine, if anyone has a magic way to make that work.

So basically, I am asking for strategies to manage bedtime for one parent putting two children, who will talk to each other and play together, to sleep. One important point - we do not own a television and are not interested in gluing either child to a video in order to occupy them during bedtime.

  • Do these children go to bed at the same time? If not, would it be a solution?
    – Erik
    Aug 5, 2015 at 14:03
  • @Erik that information is at the end of the second to last paragraph - they currently don't go to bed at the same time, but we would be happy to change that. Aug 6, 2015 at 3:03
  • I understand not wanting to glue them to the TV, but how about carefully-chosen computer games (a tablet is ideal) or children's audiobooks on CD?
    – A E
    Aug 9, 2015 at 10:27

3 Answers 3


I've got two children almost the same age (4 and 2.4), so I feel your pain. We also have them share a room. We have one parent take both to bed, though it varies which parent, as well.

What works for us is to take the children to bed at the same time, excepting unusual circumstances (where one child is tired early). We've been doing this since the first was 6 months old, so I'm not sure how easy it would be to start now, but most of our bedtimes at this point are reasonably manageable.

We use the two children to play off of each other to some extent to make bedtime more manageable. We have the standard routine (PJs, brush teeth, potty, stories, bed), with stories very specifically after the other stuff. If one child is having trouble doing the less fun parts, we encourage him to hurry up as the other will get an extra story if he's done well ahead of time. They also like to brush teeth together, and now that the younger is starting to potty, they like to potty together, so this can be helpful.

When they are ready to turn off the lights, we stay in the room with them until they fall asleep - this has always been necessary for our older one, he's very clingy. This helps keep the younger one from keeping him up (jumping on the bed, etc.). We play some music and/or sing songs, and sometimes the older one sings songs to the younger one. Then the parent putting them to bed usually just reads a book while they settle down. It's not always easy - the younger one sometimes can be quite a handful - but it seems easier than doing them separately.

One important point: we put our children to bed relatively late compared to other kids, I think; we realized long ago that our older one did much better going to bed starting at 8:30 (PJs at 8:30 asleep by 10 hopefully) than starting earlier. It might be worth moving bedtime back a little to make it easier, if that turns out to be the case for your children. Starting bedtime when they're not tired can make it much longer and more difficult.


Our kids (5 and 7) have their own rooms but dislike sleeping alone. Our recent solution has been to allow "sleepovers" that can be canceled if there are fights, or if one child keeps the other awake. Assuming the new sibling hasn't arrived yet, this is a solution you can try for at least a little while. For our kids, the desire to not sleep alone is a strong motivator for good behavior.

  • 1
    This is a creative idea - I am going to try it. I guess we will have to see if they want to be in the same room enough for it to be a motivator (they didn't ask to be, but they were excited when we offered). Thanks! Aug 6, 2015 at 15:48

Consistency is everything.

I have 3 children 10, 7, 5 and bedtime is still difficult. The youngest 2 really feed of each other and used to share a room. They no longer do - which has helped. I'm not really big on that point, I believe a family can adapt to any situation with consistent expectations that are enforced.

First you come up with your expectations for bed time. You will have to adapt some minor things you decide, but the basics should be set. Example for me is We never lay down with the kids at bed time. This caused problems and created inconsistency because it is not something we could do every night.

Second, teach them these expectations by not giving in to their wants. This takes time and much patience. Your kids are young and when mine were that age more than once we went through a phase of them crying and getting out of bed and me carrying them back to bed while they screamed. My middle was the worst and one night I did it for 2 hours straight until she passed out. I never spoke to her (tried not to) except to say this is bedtime and I will talk to you tomorrow morning. This is a breaking in period where you let them know you are in charge. They don't like it, but they will still love you afterwards.

Finally, always love them, even when you are enforcing your rules and expectations. Don't be angry that they want their way (cause you and I do too). Don't lose your cool because they haven't listened to you in the time frame you expect them to. Each child is unique but all need love and structure.

We have fallen away from our routine a couple times and paid the price. We're in a very structured format now and the children do GREAT! We parents do great too, we're all happier with clear expectations.

I'm sorry I cannot quote and give you the titles of the books I've read and the people I have spoken to with experience themselves, but my advice is not mere random thoughts, it is research and experience wrapped together. I don't claim it is perfect but it does have value.

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