Whether you’re a Nanny or parent; Bedtime, or witching hour as I like to call it, can be a nightmare. Children try every trick in the book to divert bedtime, and as a Nanny, I’ve heard them all!  Whether they are ‘hungry’, ‘missing Mummy’, ‘needing a wee’, the list goes on and it’s usually always an excuse to not go to bed!

Children need routine, especially on weeknights if they have school the next day. A good evening routine to follow would be; some outdoor play early evening or some indoor play/ limited television/screen time before supper, supper, a calming bath, story time and bed. Obviously, we all know that it never goes as smoothly as that… Especially with toddlers who have just been transferred from a cot to a ‘big girls’ bed.

So here is an outline of a simple bedtime routine you should follow, being consistent and staying calm is the key!

  1. After the child has had their bath, you should take them into their bedroom, where the curtains have already been drawn and the bedside lamp/’Gro Lamp’ is on, creating a calming environment for the child to start getting them ready for bed. All excuses have been covered; teeth brushed, toilet trip covered, beaker of water is next to the bed, their comforter is in the bed. Anything you think they might ask for, try to cover it before they get into the bed.
  2. Once they are all in their pyjamas and if they are old enough, let them choose two or three short stories they would like you to read. If you have more than one child, maybe let them choose two each?
  3. If your child like having some warmed milk at bedtime, let them snuggle into bed with it whilst you start reading them their stories. Once the final story is over, you make it clear that it is bedtime now and that they need to shut their eyes and dream of whatever it is they love doing. A lot of children I babysit for have a ‘Gro company Gro Clock’ for Sleep training. This is a really good way of trying to make them understand that it is now bedtime and when the sun comes up, they can get out of bed. It’s amazing how well it can work.

With toddlers who are just starting to get used to being in a bed, it is expected that they will keep getting in and out! They see it as a game, but you must not let a game be created.

Here is how:

  1. The first time they get out, explain to them it’s bedtime and lead them back to their bed, make them comfy and make sure you and they remain calm, then leave after giving them a kiss/cuddle good night.
  2. The second time, do the same as the above but a little firmer. Don’t sit down on the bed with them, just tuck them back in and leave.
  3. The third time, which will most likely not be the last time. Lead them straight back into bed and tuck them up without saying anything. (You may end up being sat outside the door for a while!) Keep repeating this until they learn they must stay in bed. Don’t lose your temper, or start conversations with them, as they will keep getting out and create a game from it. I had the experience of looking after a little boy who loved getting out of bed, sometimes 10 times before he would finally go to sleep, and I learnt that the less attention you gave him when he popped his little head out, the fewer times he started getting back out of bed. The transition from bed to cot is a real novelty for them, so it is natural for them to want to explore, but you have to persevere with your routine! Don’t let them start sleeping in your bed!!

If all of these routines don’t work, you can’t beat a good old awards chart! Especially if they are siblings, as they love to compete with each other. I have seen these charts work really well for families with children who won’t stay in bed. There are templates on line, or you can make your own.

There are lots of forums online to also help, so keep up to date with blogs such as ‘MumsNet’ which always has lots of helpful advice and discussions.


Here is a link for the Gro Clock: