The Early Bedtime

(This is a good post on bedtime as well:

Many children seem to stay up as late as their parents stay up, and for some families this does seem to work well.  However, today I am asking you to consider an alternative:  the early bedtime. 

The early bedtime will change how you are with your family the next day, because you will have time to be an adult and to rest and recharge and find something of yourself.   Some mothers I know cannot believe there will ever be an end to their mothering, and don’t seem to realize (or have time!) for those dreams and the things they once had that were all their own, but I am going to suggest to you to really look inside yourself and see what is there.  Personally, there is nothing I enjoy more than being with my family and creating a home, but I also have things of my own that truly do not involve my children. Nighttime can be a time to work on those sorts of things!  This is important, because while being a mother is a very wonderful and important role to play, it is not the whole of who you are!

The early bedtime will also change the dynamics between you and your husband because you can be adults, you can talk and finish sentences, you can dream and plan together:   in other words you can create intimacy in your own home without small ears about! I see too many attached mothers replacing their intimate relationship with their husband with the relationship with their children. Children need to see a strong, functioning marriage in our society today.  I have a dear friend who says, “In 20 years your children may be gone and out of your house and you and your husband will be looking at each other.  Practice for that day.”  A very wise woman indeed.

As children grow, it is necessary to have a more boundaries as to what is heard and discussed in front of them.  A small child does not need to be privy to every adult matter going on in the household, and an early bedtime can provide you and your spouse a time to work on the more challenging issues without putting these adult burdens on our small children.  If you need help in this area, please do see this post:

Many mothers say that it can be difficult in the baby and early toddler years for co-sleeping children to fall asleep on their own without them falling asleep as well :). I myself have been there and done that,  but I can also assure you there are many, many attached families who have moved children into their own beds by the age of 3 – at least to start for part of the night there!  Co-sleeping can move into a place where it takes place for part of the night, a few nights during the week; however you want to work out the parameters that work for your family.

The hard part for many families is getting the earlier bedtime down.  This involves many times saying NO to things that happen too late in the evening.  It could also involve shortening your bedtime routine in order to make sleep the priority, as opposed to having a long and drawn out routine where perhaps the steps of the routine are the priority.

In our house, we often have dinner by 5:30,  we put the house to bed (all lights dimmed or off, the shades drawn, certainly no TV or radio or anything like that on – we do sing the house a lullaby together at times), we take baths or showers every other night unless we are covered with garden mud :), and the children are in bed with stories around 6:30 or 6:45.    A seven o-clock bedtime works well for children smaller than age 7, with a seven-year-old being able to stay up and perhaps read until 7:30, an eight year old could stay up until 7:45, etc., essentially moving up 15 minutes each year until they hit the bedtime of 9:00 where the bedtime would stay for quite awhile.

One book that helped me early on is this one: :   “The 7-o’ clock Bedtime: Early to bed, early to rise, makes a child healthy, playful and wise”   by Inda Schaenen.  She outlines many of the things we do as a society to over-stimulate children and not let them be children, and goes on to discuss ways to actually achieve an earlier bedtime.  Some of her nursing references may  not sit completely well with those of you who follow this blog and are attached parents, but I think there is still so much usable information in this book.  All the copies on Amazon are used and starting at only a few dollars, so there really is no excuse to NOT get this book and read it!

Change your child’s bedtime, change your life!


25 thoughts on “The Early Bedtime

    • I think several of the books such as “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher”, “Heaven On Earth” and “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge” are helpful for those with children under 7. I do think, however, people get “hung up” on the whole natural toys/no media/being outside and often fail to penetrate the essence of Waldorf which is the seven year cycles and why we seek protection and less stimulation for those under 7, how this changes in ages 7-14 and so on….This blog seeks to penetrate that, and I recommend Steiner’s lectures to dig into that. “THe Kingdom of Childhood” is pretty accessible as a place to start, “The Education of the Child” as well – although less to do with home and more with education….
      If you are looking specifically for suggestions regarding festivals, crafts, and the like for the early crowd “All Year Round” (more Christian based), “Celebrating Irish Festivals”, “Festivals, Families and Food” along with “A Child’s Seasonal Treasury” and “Earthways” are good places to start…
      What are the ages of your children and what parts of your home are you looking to transition? Maybe I could provide you with more specific recommendations based on that.
      A large part of this is doing your own inner, meditative work and seeing where your home and your family life is out of balance and working on those areas. I also humbly suggest you go through the posts on this blog regarding festivals, rhythm, etc and see what resonates most with you out of those posts – that might give the best idea of what to tackle first!
      Please do let me know how I can be of more specific help,
      Carrie 🙂

  1. We’ve been doing an earlier bedtime lately due to the kids waking up earlier since the sun rises earlier this time of year. Nights when they are asleep by 7:30 are really nice… I think with younger kids, especially babies and young toddlers, it is harder if they still take naps that might extend later in the day sometimes and if they don’t wake at the same time each morning. Some days my four year old will end up falling asleep during her rest time and then has a later bedtime since she’s not as tired in the early evening. With babies, if they have a rough night of sleeping and will sleep in until 9, I’d let them… and then they might have a later bedtime. For me, anyway, once my children only took one nap a day, they’d have to be awake from that nap for at least 4-5 hours before they’d really be tired enough to fall asleep in the evenings.

    I love the idea of early bedtimes and see that it would be very do-able with consistent wake times for kids. The consistent wake time is the hard part for me!! If I have been kicked half the night by a restless teething toddler, I don’t want to get my 4 year old up at 7, ha ha! I know the baby years will pass, though, and it will be more manageable at that point.

  2. I have three daughters-ages 7, 5 and 16 months.

    Honestly, I’m wanting to do a complete “change direction mid-stream” in our home. My husband and I were both raised in homes with spanking, and a very “I’m the parent, you’re the child, that’s why” view of raising children. I think we both let our upbringings dictate how we raise our children because it’s what we know. I have always felt that there was a better way, and with the ideas and information I’m finding, I KNOW there is. All the ideas you have presented (that I’ve read so far) resonate so deeply, and really hit the core of how I want to educate and parent my children. Until now schooling has been about how much information we can cram into a lesson, and the actual experience of learning as been lost-and I want so badly to change that.

    The good news is that my husband is completely on board with me,…we’re just a little lost as to where to really start.

    • Jamie – Good for you with being on the road to change! One place to start may be Barbara Coloroso’s “Kids Are Worth It!” because she really discusses the different types of families (Brickwall, Jellyfish and Backbone) and has great suggestions for getting to what you want based on your background. I did a review of her types of families here:
      Then you may want to look at some of the fundamentals in gentle discipline in “Adventures in Gentle Discipline” published by LLLI. If there is a local LLL group in your area, usually the group library carries it and you can take it out for free. Contact your local LLL group and find out if they will be having any Enrichment Meetings on Loving Guidance or your local Attachment Parenting group and see if they have any meetings on this topic planned. That can be a big help to hear other families in person. The other place I would think of is if the La Leche League of your state holds a state conference – we just had one here in Georgia and it was two full days of lots of sessions on gentle discipline. I also humbly suggest you look through this blog under the “no spanking” tag in that little tag box and see what resonates out of those posts with you. The posts under the “rhythm” tag may also be helpful to you.
      One other post I thought of if you have not read it already is here:
      Are you on any of the national Waldorf yahoo groups? Marsha Johnson has lots of free files on her Yahoo group and Melisa Nielsen also has a great list at
      I so want to help you , Welcome to this new and exciting journey!

      As far as homeschooling, Waldorf is a very different approach because it is more about lighting a fire than filling a child up to the brim, you know?

  3. We’ve tried to be firm with the 7 pm bedtime since our daughter was a preschooler (she’s 6 now) and it’s a challenge, because our house is so small that there’s no way to have any real privacy until our daughter goes to sleep. We need that evening quiet grownup time. I remember going over to friends’ houses where the kids stayed up until 9 pm, and then the friends turned to me to say, “Want to watch a movie?” After all the hub-bub, I had no energy to watch a movie!

    We’re fortunate that our daughter enjoys going to school (a local Waldorf school) so that we can point out the natural consequences– if she doesn’t get enough sleep, she won’t be rested enough to attend school the next day. Sometimes this works. Other times, I have had to keep myself from melting down and screeching, “I’m done for the day! Done, I say!”


    Yes, early bedtimes. I’m all in favor.

  4. This is one of the areas I struggle with the most. My daughter stays up much too late.I’ve tried and she just will not sleep. My husband and I are both night owls. After all it is 1 am right now. I have always been this way. Like you pointed out-we share a family bed. She will not go to sleep until one of us go to sleep with her. I think it would be nice to have that alone time…but then again I don’t want her to go to sleep early once I start working again. If she goes to bed early that is less time I get with her…This is a hard area for me.

  5. I am a HUGE believer in the early bedtime. I have a four year old, a two year old, and a ten week old- they’re all in bed by 6, asleep by 6:30 or 7 at the latest, sleep 11 or 12 hours a night (the littlest one wakes up to nurse of course, and the two year old usually joins us sometime in the night).

    I found that the earlier we put them to bed, the happier they are. When we were transitioning to not napping (we still rest during the day, but rarely sleep), we were putting them to bed at 5 or 5:30 in the afternoon. If you wait until they “seem tired” they will invariably have a harder time getting to sleep and not sleep as well during the night. You have to put them to bed before you think they need it. Way before!

  6. Oops, meant to add that we are very much family bed people. Our eldest just moved to her own bed on her 4th bday- she asked to. Our middle wanted to follow suit (because she wants to be just like big sister!) but always joins us at some point in the night. And of course the littlest one sleeps with us! I think early bedtimes are achievable even when you share sleep.

    Until our eldest was three, we lived in a 330 sq ft apartment with no room fully enclosed except the bathroom (with two little ones)! We loved it. It can be done!

    xox K

  7. I’ve had a post on my own experiences with this subject on the back burner for a while. If I get to it, I’ll definitely link here! I’m a firm believer in more and earlier sleep, from observing my own children. Now I just need to work on getting more sleep myself.

  8. Hey there I was wondering if you could give me a list of toys that would be proper for a 4yr old girl. I feel that my daughter has too many toys but I am not sure which ones to keep and which ones to give away. I hope that you can help. Thanks Kate

    • I would think play silks and baskets of natural materials, blocks, a doll with a blanket/cradle, outside toys such as a ball and a small bike, a few books…We also have a wooden dollhouse my almost 5 year old loves but she also has seen her big sister playing with it and imitates that, art supplies all come to mind. You can always rotate things in and out for interest, and set up play scenarios. Big boxes are great!
      And then do add some toys you make yourself to set up a little farm or area; there are wonderful ideas in Toymaking With Children of how to make simple knotted dolls, animals, etc… Check out some of the oldest posts on this blog, there was quite a bit on fostering play in those beginning posts for the child under 7, stages of play and what toys…Try using the tags to search.

  9. Inda Schaenen was off her rocker when she wroye the nook. Imagine a 9 pr 10 year old being forced to go to bed at 7pm when a 5 or 6 year old neighborhood child is outside playing or being unable to play Little League Baseball since me must be in bed at 7pm when his friends are playing in a game and the neighbor 5 or 6 year old has a T-ball game until close to 8pm. My heart aches for any children who suffered from this womans ideas. Shame on you, Inda Schaenen for suggesting all children pre-puberty need to ne in bed by 7pm whether it is a school night, weekend or a summer evening.

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  12. I have just seen this article and I agree with early bedtimes. My two age 8 and 5 are in bed by 7pm. At weekends it goes up to 7.30pm.

  13. Ahhhhh! My boy does not like to take naps, so he is very ready to go to sleep by 6:30. It is hard sometimes when we are out and about for he is tired yet we are out. My husband feels it okay and I get so anxious about sticking to the schedule. Any suggestions?

    • Awesome Beautiful LIfe!
      Not really – I think there always has to be a balance between the needs of the family and the need for a steady, consistent rhythm, especially when you are talking about small, tiny children. Your child will soon be grown out of this phase and it will not be such an issue!
      The biggest issue, I think, is to talk to your husband. If a child goes to bed late, but wakes up at the same time the next morning and you are dealing with a very cranky, out of sorts child all day, then that might give fuel for how to best meet your child’s needs…

  14. I remember 7pm bedtimes when I was a child. I had two brothers younger than me (one two years and the other 11 years younger) When our youngest brother was born our Mother said we would have to go to bed earlier at the same time as our baby brother Up till then we had an 8pm bedtime. This was moved back to 7pm, each night we would have to be bathed and in our pyjamas before 6pm. Sometimes if our parents were going out we would have to be in bed by 6-30pm before our babysitter arrived
    This used to bother my brother and myself because other kids younger than us were outside playing in the summer when we would be both in bed.
    I do now think that early bedtimes did help us at the time as neither of us had time off school or were ill in those early years.

    • I also had an early bedtime because I shared room with my younger sister. She’s 5 yrs younger. Until 9yrs I had a 6:30pm bedtime, at 10 and 11, it was 7pm. When I was 12, she was 7, and our bedtime was still 7:30pm. And at 15 (sister 10) our bedtime still was 8:30.
      I loved my sister, so I agreed with sharing rom and having the same bedtime, but sometimes I didn’t like to go to bed that early. Being in bed, we enjoyed the coziness, we talked and giggled before we slept. My sister always loved having the same bedtime.
      I didn’t tell my bedtime to my friends, because all of them could stay up much later. Some of them knew about it, they did a little giggly about it.
      Nowadays I think my parents enjoyed the quietness that both the girls were in bed so early 🙂

  15. Hi Carrie, Struggling with bringing a late bedtime (10pm) for my 2 and a half year old forward. It seems like a habit that is going to be impossible? to break 😦 Is napping for 2 hours (12.30-2.30) too much? Would you still recommend the book : The 7o’clock bedtime? Thank you so much.

    • Fran,
      The Seven O Clock bedtime book is a good book, but you may have to pick through the pieces of that book to find what resonates with you and your family. What time does your wee one get up? Getting up earlier is a way to get to go to bed earlier in my experience…So, I would try to stick to a reasonable awakening at a consistent time each day and then a nap time that you limit a bit to an hour or so – you will have to play with it and see how that impacts bedtime. I would stick to a firm bedtime and bedtime routine each night and try to see when your child is tired..sounds like your child may be hitting a “second wind” kind of situation. Most small children are primed to go to bed earlier than we think. 🙂
      Can’t wait to hear your progress, please do check back in!

    • Thanks Carrie, still struggling and this week seems to have gotten worse – napping is becoming difficult too but I won’t give up that easily. She wakes at the same time of 7 -7.30am majority of the days.

    • Hi Fran,
      Sorry to hear things are still hard. I think she really needs to be awake by 2 and getting ready for bed around 6:30 and just see if you aren’t missing an earlier window of sleepiness. Watch her carefully; does she slow down at any point between 4:30 and 7? Is she getting a lot of physical exercise? Long walks, swimming, playing, etc.?
      Please do keep me posted how things are going, I am sorry things are rough right now and I am thinking of you all.

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