Our 4-Year-Old’s Self-Reliant Nighttime Routine

| | Updated:

I've talked a lot about nighttime routines recently. Having a well-defined evening routine and reliant bedtime is one of the things that helps keep me sane as a parent. I think a lot of us start with the very best intentions, but wind up falling off the nighttime routine wagon and landing in one of two camps: the moms and dads who do everything for their kids at night or the moms and dads who do very little for their kids at night. I remember when I used to babysit, I'd go from a household where a 3-year-old was brushing his own teeth and tucking himself in to a household where a 10-year-old still expected the toothpaste to be smeared on by an adult.

I think a good nighttime routine balances loving support from parents with a strong sense of self-reliance for the child. It transitions as he or she grows up.

Here's what our nighttime routine looks like with our 4-year-old.

First up, shower time!

As much as I love bath time with my kids, it's a relief when they start at least being capable of giving themselves a shower. Particularly at this age where they're playing rough-and-tumble games outside all the time, it's nice for me to be able to send Sidekick into the bathroom for a quick rinse-off while I deal with his baby brother at the changing table.

4-year-old putting his clothes away

Next, clothes get put away

All of my kids have their own individual dirty clothes basket that's big enough for about a weeks' worth of dirty clothing. The 6-year-old is able to separate his dirty clothes from his clean ones and actually put the clean ones back away in their drawers, while the 4-year-old is just starting to get the dirty ones in place on a regular basis.

4-year-old spreading toothpaste on toothbrush

He brushes his own teeth – and I don't intervene

He has an electric toothbrush that alerts him when it's time to move to different quadrants of his mouth, and the dentist says he's actually doing a great job brushing! If you're nervous about making the switch from hovering over every toothbrush stroke to fully-independent brushing, there are quite a few high-tech kids' toothbrushes that will actually sync up to your phone and tell you how often and how well your kid is caring for his teeth.

Picking out his GoodNites for the night

He puts on nighttime undies

We keep GoodNites NightTime Underwear in an emptied-out drawer on top of his dresser, next to his younger brothers' diapers. We tried putting them in his underwear drawer for a bit, but he was confused about the difference between these and the cloth undies he wears during the day. We shifted them back up on top by the diapers and explained that going from diaper-to-underwear is a developmental process that includes nighttime undies as part of the transition now that he's done potty training. On the occasion that he pees in them at night, he knows to get up, throw them away and put on a new pair – all on his own and all without messing up his sheets.

GoodNites at Sam's Club

I love that GoodNites , the #1 NightTime Protection Brand*, have an extra small size now, too. Our 2-year-old is starting to potty train fairly early and has already been trying to put Sidekick's nighttime undies on. In the past I've had to keep my kids in diapers or training pants until they were big enough to fit nighttime undies. Now I can go ahead and bump them up into GoodNites NightTime Underwear whenever they're ready, meeting everyone's needs without backtracking or confusing them! We stock up at Sam's Club and when we're running low, we often order online (free shipping for the win!) or use drive through club pick up – it's so convenient and makes our life a little bit easier when shopping with little ones.

4-year-old getting his own drink of water

One last drink of water

I know that kids who are still managing nighttime wetting are sometimes encouraged to avoid drinks before sleeping, but experts say there's no need to restrict water and other fluids before bed. This dude is always thirsty at night and will inevitably wander out of bed begging for a drink if I don't make it part of his routine. So, I got him his own little set of cups that are kept in his bathroom and rotated through the dishwasher every night. Having this as part of his routine is enough to keep him happy until morning.

A self-reliant nighttime routine for LITTLE kids who are starting to become BIG kids

With showered hair, brushed teeth, put-away clothes and a nighttime-underwear-clad booty, my sweet middle child picks out a book and crawls into bed.

This is where I come in. We read a story together, say our prayers and I tuck him in.

He's all set until morning, when my mom skills will once again be needed for a hot breakfast.

For help with potty training, check out our post dedicated to potty training without pleading, potty training with siblings, the things nobody tells you about potty training and bedwetting while traveling.

What does your kids' nighttime routine look like?


14 Healthy Lunch Foods to Stock up On

What to Buy for Transitional Kindergarten or Pre-K