8 Ideas for Festive Holiday Bedtime Routines for Kids

Brighten the season with light strolls, songs, and other ideas for new traditions.

A mother and son reading a book together under the covers during their holiday bedtime routine.
Aleksandar Nakic / Getty Images

While the holiday season sparks a lot of anticipation and joy for parents, it can also cause concern over disruptions to bedtimes and family schedules. To celebrate the magic of the holiday season without compromising quality sleep, we’ve rounded up some creative and festive ideas to incorporate into your child’s bedtime routine.

To keep spirits bright on these short days, we’ve also included a few of our favorite morning holiday rituals that are worth getting out of bed for. Who knows, these tips might help inspire a new family tradition.

1. Share gratitude

The holidays are about giving thanks and sharing time with friends and family, so what better way to celebrate the season than to have your kids share what they are grateful for? It could be as simple as having your child say one thing aloud before getting tucked into bed or writing it on a slip of paper and adding it to a gratitude jar. The practice helps them visualize their abundance of things to be grateful for.

Pro tip: Making a gratitude jar is a fun DIY craft. Try re-using a mason or pickle jar and decorating it with ribbon, glitter, or stickers.

2. Light a candle 

We love the coziness of candles throughout the year, but there’s something especially celebratory about lighting candles when daylight hours are shorter. Try setting the dinner table with candles and letting your child make a wish and blow them out when the meal is over. Older kids might enjoy taking a bath by candlelight (come to think of it, wouldn’t you enjoy adding this to your adult bedtime routine?).

Pro tip: If the thought of introducing any kind of flame around your children makes you panic, opt for an electric candle instead.

3. Sip a nightcap 

After-dinner drinks aren’t just for grown-ups. Toast the season by making a kid-friendly beverage for your child to sip, such as warm milk with a dash of cinnamon or pumpkin spice, or warmed cider with an orange garnish. Be sure to avoid serving anything with chocolate, since it contains caffeine and can disrupt sleep. And if your kids are potty training or frequent bed-wetters, dial back the quantity.

Pro tip: Serve the drink in a festive holiday mug for extra flair.

4. Wear holiday PJ’s 

Three young children sleep peacefully in a holiday-themed bedroom. Three Christmas stockings hang over the headboard. Two of the kids wear Santa hats.
Mint Images / Getty Images

Get your kids extra excited about cozying up under the covers with a new set of joyful jammies. From classic holiday tartans to sustainably made sets, we’ve curated a few favorites holiday pajamas that are perfect to dream in over the holidays.

Pro tip: Make it a family tradition and get a matching set for your whole crew — it’ll make for a fun photo opportunity, too.

5. Welcome a holiday lovie  

Your child likely has a tried-and-true plush pal, but introducing a new stuffed sidekick to bedtime can feel extra special this time of year. A new lovie can also be helpful when traveling and sleeping in unfamiliar rooms, or making the big kid bed transition.

Pro tip: If your kids are past the stuffed animal phase, opt for a new puzzle book or drawing pad for their bedtime basket.

6. Make bath time merry  

A warm bath before bed can help provide a calming, relaxing environment for kids (provided there aren’t too many toys or sources of stimulation).

Pro tip: To make bath time extra merry, try dropping a holiday-themed bath bomb or bubble bath into the tub (just ensure that it’s safe for babies’ and kids’ sensitive skin).

7. Enjoy holiday-themed stories and music before bed 

Calming, dream-like stories are a great way to anchor your child’s routine. That can include books, audio books, and even lullabies.

Most experts suggest sticking to three books, so try swapping in a new seasonal tome to keep things fresh. You can take turns reading a different seasonal story each night or read chapters from a longer text. Just be sure it’s an actual book; using an e-reader or device that emits blue light can inhibit sleep. If your kids are old enough to read themselves, offer them a holiday-themed young adult book, drawing pad, or mind puzzle book. You can also gather your family by the fire or on the sofa under the glow of holiday lights and listen to an audio book of a holiday tale.

You may already incorporate singing into your child’s bedtime routine, but why not trade in your usual tune for a holiday carol or a song that’s culturally significant to your family? Not only do lullabies offer a comforting and soothing way to help babies fall asleep, but they also provide connection for parent and baby alike.

Pro tip: We rounded up a few of our favorite holiday songs and stories, which include tales the whole family can enjoy.

8. Take in the holiday lights  

Gather the family for a pre-dinner neighborhood stroll to admire the holiday lights and decorations, or if your kids stay up a little later, go for a post-dinner walk to take in the evening stars, too. Stepping out into nature and getting your dose of fresh air can help relieve stress before bedtime, which can be a barrier to falling asleep.

Morning rituals worth waking up on time for

A grandfather and grandson cuddle up in a chair to read a holiday story together before bed.
Jose Luis Pelaez, Inc. / Getty Images

Another way to make sure the holidays aren’t too disruptive to your child’s sleep schedule is to incorporate a few festive elements into their morning routine, giving them something to look forward to throughout the holidays. Here are a few tips for making mornings a little more magical this season:   

Open an advent calendar

Countdown to a holiday or date that’s significant to you and your family with an advent calendar. It could be one that has a sweet treat behind each door, a popcorn-themed number, or a 12-days-of-winter craft kit. Who knows, having a daily surprise to look forward to just might help kids stick to their bed- and wake-up times!

Customize a cup of cheer

While you fix your morning beverage, set up a hot chocolate bar for your kids. Set out toppings such as marshmallows, whipped cream, mini chocolate chips and sprinkles, as well as stirrers such as cinnamon sticks, rolled wafer cookies, or chocolate sticks.

Watch a holiday movie

Start the weekend off with a post-breakfast holiday movie, like a feel-good classic or animated special. Carving out time to relax in front of a movie is also the perfect opportunity to cozy up together and share snuggles.

Look for Elf on the Shelf

The Elf on the Shelf, a book and toy that shares the naughty-and-nice rational behind Santa’s list, has become a holiday tradition for many families. Half the fun is seeing your kids’ excitement when they discover the elf’s new hiding place the next morning (provided you don’t lose sleep over finding clever spots the night before).

The holidays can be an exciting time, especially for families with young children ready to indulge in the magic of the season. Making the moments special without overstimulating their senses before bed is a great way for kids to enjoy the holidays and maintain a healthy sleep schedule, helping everyone stay their most merry and bright.