21 Easy Steps for Putting Your Preschooler(s) to Bed

I don’t know about you, but sometimes putting all my sweet angels to bed seems to take forever! I get distracted, they get distracted, stuff happens. And then- BAM!- 2 hours later I fall onto the couch exhausted and frustrated.

Well, I finally got smart and put together a little step-by-step instruction manual for all of us. I think you’ll find it useful at the very least, relatable and entertaining at the most. Do let me know if I’ve left anything out. We don’t want to be missing any important steps on this one.

21 Easy Steps for Putting Your Preschooler(s) to Bed

Step 1. Alert child that impending bedtime will be upon us in five minutes. Child will be nonchalant. This is because he a) doesn’t believe this is true, b) didn’t actually hear you, or c) has an epic plan for the ultimate meltdown that is going to rock you to your very core and frankly, he kind of can’t wait. Get on your big girl panties, because it. is. ON.

Step 2. Five minutes later: inform child that it is now bedtime. Watch as child displays all signs of complete and utter meltdown (the correct answer for the above quiz was, obviously, “c”). After all, this is the first time he has ever heard of such a thing (in the last 24 hours) and he must mourn the upcoming loss of his wakefulness. Kicking, screaming, crying, limp noodling, and stiff planking followed by protests that he is simply not tired are to be expected. Stay the course, good soldier.

Step 3. Child will now inform you that she is so hungry and she will just DIE if she doesn’t eat right now. Wonder out loud for the one billionth time why she didn’t eat more dinner? Ultimately, give in. This is not a fight worth fighting. The kitchen is closed to everything except bananas, the ultimate snack food and the Lord’s gift to tired moms everywhere: peel, nosh, satiate. Boom.

Step 4. Now that the child is no longer starving, give him 2 choices, like the good Love and Logic parent that you are. Choice #1, which consists of walking to his room or choice #2, which involves being carried. Child will choose secret choice #3, which is crawling just slightly faster than a sloth. This is technically still choice #1 and you are also a fair parent, so you will just silently and literally pull your hair out as you shuffle behind him. One. Tiny. Step. At. A. Time.

Step 5. Ok. You’ve made it to his room. Great job! Small victories lead to big accomplishments. Keep the big picture at hand. Now comes the very tricky business of choosing jammies. Of course the child will choose the one pair that is actually in the washing machine right now as you are having this conversation. More mourning (a.k.a. tantrums). Agree upon the star jammies with a pinky promise that the truck jammies will be dry and ready for donning by sun-down tomorrow. Whatever, kid. I’m just trying to make it to cocktail hour.

Step 6. Don’t forget (like your kiddo would let you) that the child is in the “do-it-mySELF” phase. Therefore, you will now spend the next 12 minutes using every fiber in your being to resist helping her get that gosh-darn-ding-dong shirt sleeve off her arm. But you know what, Mama? Let’s use that meditation moment your therapist keeps talking about. Take yourself to a beach: Hawaii, Greece, Croatia, the Bahamas, what-have-you. Just get there. It’s warm, you are chiseled and tan, your suit is off the CHAIN, and you have a nice umbrella drink in your hand. See how we don’t care now? Take all the time you need, dear wee one. No rush.

Step 7. Glory be. Child is now fully unclothed and ready for the potty. Just remember: if ever there was a time for a prolonged poop, oh Sister, you know it’s now. Just….back to the beach. Call me when you’re ready for a wipe, kid. I’m totally cool. I’ll be over here enjoying a coconut beverage. Don’t be harshin’ my vibe.

Step 8. Friends, we are so close. Child has now been fed, emptied, and is primed for jammie-jams. Again, the do-it-myself mode is in full force. Be so breezy. You’re so close. Whatever you do, do NOT mention the fact that his undies are upside down, pants backwards, and shirt inside out. Perfect is the most awfullest enemy of good ‘nough. Do not fall prey to this situation. Lord, have mercy.

Step 9. On to brushing teeth. Hey, hey, HEY! I hear those groans. I know, it’s the worst, but do you really want to be shamed by the pediatric dentist next month? Ok, then. Deep breath. With the utmost patience and also ninja-like moves, you will effectively smear toothpaste on each of those pearly whites while happily singing the ABCs, Hair Up or Shiny, whichever song is in your soul in the moment (but don’t you love Moana so much? She’s so brave and strong, and undeterred by Maui and also the crab AND Te Ka. She’s badass. She gets it from her grandma, of course. Can relate. My grandma would be making “Heart of Te Fiti” quilts if she could’ve lived to see Moana. She would also be telling my daughters to question statements like, “because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” *tears* I digress.) Anyhow, your kids won’t even have a chance to demand to brush those teeth themselves. It’s been done, pumpkin doodle. Now, let’s go look outside and see if there’s a unicorn by your window!! Come on, I think I heard sparkle noises and hooves! (The subtle art of distraction: A parent’s quickest and most readily available tool in their belt.)

Step 10. This step is specifically for parents of children with “ethnic hair.” Yup. It’s all about hair care. Gah. Moisturize, oil, and cap, folks. The child will protest. She will cry. She will throw herself on the floor and kick and scream and deny everything, belligerently. Maybe you will give her a sucker, I don’t know. I’m not here to judge. But natural hair is in, and broken ends are OUT. And I don’t want anyone to be judged for that. Just get your shea butter and get it done.

Step 11. You guys. The light at the end of the tunnel is shining brightly! We are so close. Just books and snuggles now, right? Um, not so fast.

Step 12. Her favorite book, the one you read 17 times each day and could recite from memory, is back downstairs. And so, you are off on an expedition. Where is that forking book, anyway? You just saw it before dinner. You look in all the usual places: the couch, the playroom, the kitchen table, in the car even. It seems to have disappeared. But you are no dummy. Nope, you are a stealthy detective. Give up you will not. You eventually find it in the laundry room next to the kitty boy’s food dish, because, well, why wouldn’t he want to stimulate his mind while he nibbles his kibble?

Step 13. As you thunder up the stairs triumphantly, book in hand, you hear the child also request their favorite stuffy which they left…somewhere. Back down the stairs you go.

Step 14. Special stuffy found after a brief MIA situation in the storage compartment of the ride along princess car. As you puff up the stairs one more time, you take a moment to marvel at your keen ability to seamlessly put out fires left and right. No wonder your kids constantly ask you for the world. You deliver every time! If there was an Olympics for finding crap, you would get a gold medal.

Step 15. Hold the phone. As you approach the preschooler, you realize that apparently at some point in this day a marker or two was secretly smuggled out of its lidded box that only Mom knows how to open (???????). Note to self: create new plan for higher security marker storage. Preschooler has removed jammies and “decorated” herself with said markers, as well as the wall. She wanted to make you a pretty picture because she loves you so much. It’s just the best and the worst, all at once. Such is the mantra of parenting.

Step 16. You have 2 choices at this point: Option A is a full bath (which wouldn’t be half bad because, to be perfectly honest, that kid is a little stanky anyway) while simultaneously googling “how to remove permanent marker from the wall.” Option B is a once over with some baby wipes (that would be for both the child and the wall) and new jammies (repeat Step 8) with the knowledge that a little paint will go a long way. Tomorrow. Only you and your energy level can decide this. Go forth in wisdom, young grasshopper.

Step 17. Whatever path you chose above, you have undoubtedly dealt with like a champ and are now snuggled in bed with your little one. This is arguably the best part of bedtime. Stay here for a bit. Get under the covers. Recite these books from memory. Let your sweet and not-so-little baby find the same things on the same pages they’ve been looking at for months if not years. Let them recite the pages; they know them by heart just as well as you. It’s your little inside thing. Read the same words with fresh excitement. Make them giggle at the same thing they’ve heard a thousand times. Let them count all the ponies wearing silly sweaters or ask you why that boy is sad, even though they’ve done it countless times before. Relish it, my friends. Of all the things we rush our kids through every day, this should not be one of them.

Step 18. Story time is glorious, indeed, but it does have to come to an end at some point. (sad emoji face). And when it does, prepare yo’self. For the litany of requests that will spill forth from your little one. “Can I have a back rub?” “I’m hungry!” “I’m thirsty!” “I want to hug and kiss your face eight more times.” “Sing me my favorite song, Mama.” “Can we play a game?” Um, y’all. These kids aren’t amateurs. They know exactly how to workyou. But Post-Bed Time equals Grown-Up Time and you will be having none of it (ok, maybe you’ll have a little bit of it, but then that’s it).

Step 19. Say yes or no to whatever you want. I’m not your boss. But your choice will absolutely determine how much Grown-Up Time you get. I’m a prayers-snuggles-lights-out kind of mama. No water, no games. I love you like crazy, darling, but you have hijacked me for long enough today. Food and drink come for those who watch for the morning. Bye, Felicia!

Step 20. You did it! You put your kiddo(s) to bed. Congratulations, Mama. You did a really good job today. It wasn’t perfect, but you gave it your best and Jesus will do the rest. Isn’t grace so awesome?

You have also earned a well-deserved post-bedtime adult beverage. That is, if you’re still awake. Did you fall asleep with your kid again? It’s ok, muffin. You’ll get ’em tomorrow.

For the rest of you, here are two decent nightcaps that are sure to make you feel relaxed and fancy free while you watch your latest Netflix binge or just stare at the wall and feel so much gratitude for this moment of SILENCE.

Addie’s Favorite Hot Nightcap

Grown Up Lemon Ginger “Tea”

  • Place 2-3 cups of water in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Slice a lemon in half and squeeze all the juice into the pan; add the lemon halves as well.
  • Add an inch or 2 of sliced ginger (I like it spicy, so more is better in my book) and about 2 Tbsp of honey. You can always add more later if you like it a little sweeter.
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Strain.
  • Pour tea into 2 cups and add a shot or two (depending on how tough your day was) of your favorite bourbon or whiskey. May I recommend Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, or Maker’s Mark. Adjust for sweetness with more honey, if needed.

Addie’s Favorite Cold Nightcap

Regal Gold Rush

*adapted from Milk & Honey

Make the Honey Simple Syrup:

  • In a saucepan bring 1 cup of honey and 1 cup of water to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for a few minutes, then cool completely.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
  • *definitely complete this step earlier in the day. Also, if you don’t have the time to cool it completely, then just don’t. There’s going to be ice in second.

Make the cocktail:

  • In a shaker, add 2 oz of bourbon, 3/4 oz of the honey syrup, 3/4 oz of lemon juice, and 1 4-inch peel of grapefruit (just the peel, not the white pith part).
  • Add ice and shake.
  • Strain into an old-fashioned glass, preferably over a large square cocktail ice cube, which will make you feel so swanky.


Enjoy your cozy libations, whether steaming hot or icy cold, with your partner in crime as you toast to another magnificent day of living the dream!

Secret Step 21: Just before you settle into your own bed for the night, sneak up to each of your sweet offsprings’ rooms. Watch them breathe slowly, in and out. Feel peace. Feel so insanely tender toward them. Thank the sweet Lord for these living, breathing miracles. They are life. They are the future. They have fresh thoughts and ideas. They are work. So much work. But they hold the power to change the world. Don’t ever forget that it is your biggest responsibility and greatest honor to help them unlock that potential. You hold the key. Get some rest, sweet friend, because you have a big day tomorrow. And it involves making the world and the future better than it would be without you.

3 thoughts on “21 Easy Steps for Putting Your Preschooler(s) to Bed

  1. Twenty one steps is about twenty more than what we did with ours :/ I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing but my kids have grown and reached adulthood which is a bonus.


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