A Visual Schedule Helps Kids Get Ready for Bed at Night. Put children in charge of getting ready for bed with a nighttime routine chart. Use pictures to create a visual schedule of a child’s bedtime routine.

Decide the Schedule for a Child’s Bedtime Routine

Create a bedtime schedule with your child. Ask your child what things he or she needs to do each night to get ready for bed. Invite your child to think about what things need to be done first in the bedtime routine and what things need to be done later in the bedtime routine.

Find or Make Pictures for a Bedtime Routine Chart

There are many ways to create a visual schedule for a child’s routine chart. Choose any of the suggestions below or think of your own.

  • Children can draw their own pictures.
  • Adults can draw pictures. Even simple stick figures work well for children’s routine charts.
  • Take photographs of children completing the bedtime routine.
  • Cut pictures out of magazines or catalogs.
  • Print clipart from computer software.
  • Print free clipart on the free clip art page of Do2learn.com, a computer software program made especially for creating picture routine charts.

BedtimeRoutineChartBrushTeethMake a Bedtime Picture Routine Chart with Your Child

Get your child involved in making the picture routine chart. Children can cut pictures out of magazines and paste pictures onto their bedtime routine chart. Children will have more ownership in their visual nighttime schedule and will be more likely to cooperate with their bedtime routine chart if they have been involved in making the chart.

Decide on a Beginning Time and Ending Time for the Bedtime Routine

It’s important to have a starting and ending time for the bedtime routine. Estimate how long the bedtime routine might take and add five more minutes. Start the bedtime routine so that your child will be in bed at their bedtime. The ending time will be the time you decide is your child’s bedtime. Try out the bedtime routine and see how it works, then make adjustments if needed.


If you want your child in bed at 8:30 pm and the bedtime routine takes 20 minutes, the start time for the bedtime routine will be 8:10 pm.

  • 8:10 Start Bedtime Routine
  • Brush Teeth
  • Wash Face
  • Put on Pajamas
  • Read 2 Books
  • Hugs and Kisses
  • Lights out
  • 8:30 pm End Bedtime Routine

Make sure your child knows that the bedtime routine has an ending time. Create your child’s bedtime routine so that the important steps such as brushing teeth and putting on pajamas are early in the bedtime routine and extras such as reading books are at the end of the bedtime routine. In the example above, the bedtime routine ends at 8:30 pm and bedtime is at 8:30 pm. So if a child has only brushed his teeth, washed his face and put on his pajamas by 8:30 pm, then the bedtime routine is over and it is now the child’s bedtime. Of course, it is the parent’s or caregiver’s job to make sure that the routine starts on time. Be flexible when you need to with bedtime routine charts. Use them as a guide and not a rulebook.

Practice the Bedtime Routine Chart Each Night

In order for children to learn a bedtime routine and be in charge of a picture routine chart, children must use the chart. Although it can be boring for adults to follow the bedtime routine chart each time, having a bedtime routine provides comfort and structure for young children.

The book Positive Discipline for Preschoolers [Harmony, 2007] recommends the following tips for creating bedtime routine with children.

  • Keep the bedtime routine list short; It should have no more than six or seven tasks on it.
  • Make the routine chart together with your child. Include your child in the task of drawing pictures or cutting and pasting pictures from magazines.
  • Let the routine chart be the boss instead of the parent. Ask your child, “What’s next on your chart?”
  • Do not try to establish more than one routine at a time.

Remember, a routine chart isn’t a reward chart; it’s a way for children and adults to learn what comes next and to work together without argument.


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