How To Win The Bedtime Stalling Game


May 9, 2024


Is your child’s bedtime routine taking an hour or more each night? “One more book!” “Potty!” “More hugs!” “One more ____!”

The bedtime stalling game is just that…a game!! Today I’m giving you a plan of how to use a timer for each portion of the bedtime routine, and details on WHY this timer works! (No longer YOU saying, “Time for bed!”) 

So, if you have a toddler, preschooler, or young child who likes to stall bedtime (and yes, this was my family’s experience, too!!), we’re going to spare you from an entire hour of saying goodnight to every tiny little piece of your child’s room and get them into bed and down for sleep at night in a timely manner. 

Ready to jump in?



My favorite way to get your child through the motion of the bedtime routine (that should be 30 min, start to finish!) is a TIMER. Yes, it is a very expensive timer (I can already hear you being like Becca WHY in the world do I need a $30 timer?!) called the Time Timer.

The Time Timer is a visual aid that helps your child understand time! Your 13-month old, your 3 year old, they don’t understand what 10 more minutes means. You can say it all day long, but they just don’t get it. But what they CAN understand is a tiny little slice of a pie that gets smaller and smaller and smaller until it goes away and beeps. 

While the Time Timer is definitely not the only thing that’s going to work (and honestly any timer can be helpful) the reason I want to focus on the Time Timer and timers in general is because it’s teaching your child some responsibility.



Here’s the setup. I want you to get the Time Timer and give it to your child as a gift. It is their timer. It is not your timer! It is theirs. 

So when you get it in the mail, play with it, let them experiment, let them move the dial, let them look at the color and have fun making that beeping go off like 1000 times… it does get annoying, but you know what, they love it! It’s theirs! 

So let them have ownership of it. 

After they’ve played with it and gotten it out of their system. I want you to set up a rule. 

The rule about the timer is when it shows red, don’t touch. 

You cannot touch the timer when it’s red because of course then you’re messing with the clock, right? So set a rule that when it shows red, you don’t touch. 

And now we’re going to use this for our bedtime routine. You can also match the time on the clock with the actual time on your watch, just so you can stay on track with getting into bed at the right time.



When it’s time for bedtime, I want you to use this timer for every part of the bedtime routine.

So when it’s time to hop into the bath: “Hey, would you put the timer on the number 5? Okay, great. We’re gonna take a bath for five minutes and when the timer goes off, that means we are all done. It’s time to get out of the bathtub!”

“Now we’re going to brush our teeth. Again, let’s time this!” (I feel like my best friend who’s a dentist is going to love this part of the podcast!) 

“When the timer goes off, we’re done and we’ll move into our next activity for bedtime routine.”

I love incorporating reading time or play time, whatever that connection piece is for your family, but it’s really hard to move on from that, isn’t it? So as soon as they’re done brushing their teeth, we put a timer on for 15 minutes. In this 15 minutes (there’s a miniature time management lesson here!) they need to get their PJs on and that’s also as much time as we have to read books or play before we get into bed and turn off the light. 

However you want to use the timer for this portion of the bedtime routine, when it goes off, that will be our cue for getting into bed, giving hugs, kisses, saying prayers and turning out the light.

Even our 22 month old gets it! We have been so diligent on using this timer and using the same language every single night that she really has started to understand how to do it and it gives her ownership!



Let’s look at some logistics here. 

First of all, I said I have two kids and one timer. Right now our youngest isn’t super into it, but our oldest knows the numbers (and she’s the one who could actually manipulate it!) 

If you have multiple kids who can all use this timer, then let’s look at alternating the nights.

Maybe it’s every other night, or maybe it’s splitting it up Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and then Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday, and on Sunday, you run the timer. 

Honestly, you can definitely get creative because what we don’t want is this timer to be an issue. We don’t want the timer to become something that they don’t look forward to or something that they see as a punishment. 

We want everyone to be involved with this!!



The reason this timer is so powerful is it puts the power off of them and off of you. It’s all on the timer. 

So really what we’re doing here is looking at the fact that it’s not mommy and daddy saying it’s time for bed, it’s the timer!

Since it’s an inanimate object, they can’t talk back to it, and they set the timer in the first place. 

So it’s extremely helpful!! From start to finish, we’re looking at a 30-minute bedtime routine that can be timed the entire duration.



I am really pumped for you to try this, whether you use the Time Timer or you have a kitchen timer. The only thing I would like to avoid would be your phone timer, which has probably crossed your mind. Why buy a timer when you can use your phone? 

But let’s think about using your phone as something that can also be used during the day for games, pictures, all these other additional things that your phone is used for – I don’t want to mix a phone into the bedtime. 

The other reason I don’t want to mix it in is because it also produces blue light, and we don’t want any type of blue light disturbing your child’s sleep. 

So this is exactly why I’m recommending a separate timer that, again, is owned by your child. It’s their timer and they’re in control of it.



If your child is a master at stalling, whatever their favorite way to do that is, I am excited for you to give the Time Timer a go.

Once you put some boundaries and expectations on what bedtime routine is, it can really start to change. Here are some of my tips for using the Time Timer:

  • Use a Time Timer (or similar) as a visual representation of time for even young toddlers since they don’t have a concept of time!
  • Let the timer be theirs so they have ownership of it all.
  • Use it for each step of your bedtime routine to help them learn time management and so that a 3rd party, inanimate object is in charge of time.
  • If you have multiple kids, no sweat! Just take turns with who gets to be in charge on different nights.

It’s amazing that a simple small tool can completely change the bedtime routine. I hope this helps you WIN the bedtime stalling game. Sweet dreams!!




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